Featured Golf News
Big Break V – For Ladies Only
Will Kathy Grant get her big break on The Big Break V – the reality-golf show sponsored by the Golf Channel?
Over 200 talented women golfers have their fingers crossed that they are one of the final dozen who will appear on Big Break V and ultimately win a spot on a professional tour event. Kathy should hear sometime in September whether or not she makes it. The show will be taped in Hawaii at the end of October.
The Golf Channel’s Big Break series began last year riding the wave of reality shows. Big Break III – the previous ladies-only competition – drew a strong audience. This coming week, the season premier of Big Break IV airs – a competition between U.S. and European male golfers. There is sure to be more publicity about the coming women’s competition as the season progresses. (See www.thegolfchannel.com for more information about the Big Break series.)
I met Kathy several years ago while I was conducting research for my first book about marketing to women golfers. Kathy Grant is an LPGA Class A professional, an outstanding instructor and a good competitor. I quote Kathy often because she knows how to teach golf to women and how to make it fun. When she told me she was trying out for a spot on the Big Break show, I knew we had to do an interview.
Kathy graduated from Florida State University in 1990 after a great career on the FSU women’s golf team. She has been the teaching professional at Jacksonville Beach GC, Oak Bridge Golf Club, Jacksonville Golf and Country Club and is currently the marketing and instruction director at Panther Creek Golf Club, a new public course in Jacksonville, Fla. (www.panthercreekgolf.com). She has competed on the Futures Tour (a developmental tour that prepares women for the LPGA Tour) and recently placed 10th in the LPGA South East Section tournament with scores of 78 and 75. Kathy is short by golf standards – only 5 feet 2 inches – so she has to have an efficient and effective swing to compete with taller and bigger players. Kathy has a loyal following of students and has contributed her teaching skills to juniors in The First Tee program.
Following is my interview with Kathy. Stay tuned to Cybergolf to learn if Kathy makes the cut. Kathy’s been told that sometime in mid-September she will hear whether or not she makes it.
NB What appealed to you most about trying out for BBV?
KG I watched the show last season and was really inspired by many of the girls on the show. I think that I would have a lot to offer as far as inspiration for someone who may not hit the ball a long way, but has the game to compete.
NB How did you learn about the try-out process?
KG It was a happy accident. I saw Cindy Miller, a finalist on the Big Break III series and also an LPGA instructor, at a golf event in July and told her how much I enjoyed watching her on the show and that everyone I knew was pulling for her. I mentioned that I hoped they would have another ladies-only show. She said they were currently auditioning for Big Break V. I didn’t waste any time. I went home and looked online to get an application and submitted it quickly because there was only one try-out date remaining. The application was eight pages long and involved questions about my golf experience and then a few essays on my greatest obstacles, greatest triumph, and motivation for trying out. And then I received a call setting up my try-out appointment for 4:15 on August 21st in Orlando.
NB What did you wear for the try-out?
KG I wore an Ashworth golf skirt and a rather tight-fitting polo shirt – both from my closet. I wanted to wear pink because I think it is a good color on me, but went with the blue polo. I did buy a new pair of FootJoy golf shoes. The new golf shoes really made me feel the best.
NB How did you practice for the try-out?
KG My younger sister has been acting since high school and she asked me the questions I had answered on the application. We figured those are what they would ask at the try-out as well. Spending time with her really relaxed me. The main question I practiced was why they should choose me to be on the show. I said it over and over in the car on the way to Orlando, but of course, when the camera was rolling, I added something I didn’t expect.
I practiced some golf shots also. I hit some balls with my driver to work on hitting a fade and a draw. Normally, I try to just hit the ball straight and not really work the ball. I felt pretty good and just hoped that all my years of practice would pay off.
NB Would you explain more about the try-out process?
KG When I got to the course, I went to the range and checked in. They said they were running a little ahead of schedule. So, I started to warm up. It was REALLY hot outside. My shirt was soaked in about 10 minutes. By the time they called my name, I was beyond trying to stay cool and dry.
The first thing I did was hold my name up and smile in the camera.
Then the interviewer asked me to hit three drives, one straight, one draw and then one fade. I hit the straight one okay, but on my fade and draw, I got too quick with my takeaway. I was nervous. I am always nervous on the first tee. After I hit those wayward drives, it was out of my system and I had nothing else to lose.
Next I had to hit the same three shots with my 5-iron. I play with Cobra clubs but I have replaced my 5-iron with a Sonartec 25-degree hybrid. I hit all the shots just right with my hybrid. Then I was asked to hit 85-, 65-, 50-yard and flop shots. I did those really well. For the flop I asked if I got bonus points for hitting it in the basket, he said “yes.” I missed – but only by a few feet.
NB As you look back on the day, what the hardest?
KG The hardest part was talking into the camera.
My face was really red and sweat was dripping in my eyes. I was trying not to look too uncomfortable and just pretend everything was okay. The whole time I was just trying not to say “Umm.” I am usually pretty animated when I talk, but I was pretty nervous. The interviewer and camera men were great – really calmed my nerves and at the same time pumped me up – especially about my accomplishments.
NB Everyone will want to know when, how and why you became a golfer. Please share that with us.
KG I started playing golf at age 15. I had a crush on a boy who rode my bus and was on the golf team. I told my dad I needed some golf clubs to get his attention. He didn’t ever ask me out, but in the process I learned that I had some natural ability.
My only golf teacher was a neighbor, Mr. Perkins, who had played golf as a young man. He was now too old and ailing to play, but he became my mentor. He gave me a golf book and I read it every morning before school. My high school coach taught me how to putt. I am a visual learner and between the book and watching everyone else hit, I improved. Mr. Perkins used to watch me hit balls almost everyday and we talked about visual stuff and pretending to hit over things that were not there, like water. He could not show me what to do because of his arthritis, but he was a great coach. I really credit him to keeping me interested in the game.
The next summer I started working at a golf course and remember watching Brian Claar, a professional golfer, hit balls for hours. What a GREAT swing! I modeled my swing after his. It was a classic long and slow swing – great tempo. Being visual, I would pretend I was him when I hit my shots. I won a few junior tournaments and I remember that prior going in to each tournament, I just knew I was going to win. It all starts with giving yourself permission to win; it’s really that simple!
When I applied to colleges, deep down I had already made my decision to concentrate on golf. I wanted to go to Florida State University mostly because of its location – not too close to either mom, or dad, but close enough to drive home if I wanted. My dad lived in Jacksonville, and my mom in Tampa. The fact that FSU was a Division I school did not deter me. I had made up my mind. FSU gave me the opportunity to practice with the team and prove myself. The coaches were great. I feel fortunate that they took me under their wing and gave me a chance. I saw many other girls that did not get that chance. I was very persistent and never saw any reason that I should not be on the team.
Every year I improved and every year they increased my scholarship. By my senior year, I had earned a full scholarship! My senior year was the best, I was the oldest on the team and I played pretty well. My very last tournament, I had decided that after that, I would turn pro by trying to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. I went out there and decided to play like a pro. I never gave up and shot my first sub-par round in a tournament. Then I went on to win the tournament by eight strokes. Something I remember thinking was what the other coaches were maybe saying to their girls the night before the final round. Things like, “She’s never won before, she will choke,” or, “She’ll get in her own way, just be patient.” Then I just told myself not to listen and I would prove them wrong! I knew I was going to win.
After college, I played a little on the Futures Tour, but didn’t have the financial backing to stick with it. I needed to work. I got in the golf business, and joined the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional division in 1997. I started the process to becoming a better teacher. I really love the LPGA. I have met some really great people and being a part of a group that is so specialized makes me feel good. It has been a real learning process and I think I am still evolving. I am a good teacher, but I still like to be a student of the game myself and compete. One reason I joined the LPGA teaching division was so that I could still have access to tournaments. I get to see many people I played against in college and the thrill of playing in a tournament is like nothing else.
In my interview for the Big Break, I said that the dream of playing on the LPGA Tour never dies. That is the truest statement I could ever make. The process of trying out for the Big Break has brought some of the spark and love of the game back in to my soul. I am meant to play. Hopefully the producers will see something in me worth putting on the show.
NB What’s your best advice to girls and women who want to play golf?
Take up golf because YOU want to. Then absorb yourself in it! It is a sport that requires dedication if you want to be good at it. Never listen to anyone who says you aren’t big enough or don’t hit it far enough. That should only encourage you to prove them wrong. Golf is the type of game that will teach you almost everything you need to know about yourself.
Join me in wishing Kathy good luck on The Big Break. If you are interested in being a guest in Hawaii for the taping of the show, see www.lpga.com and the contest sponsored by Michelob. Stay tuned for news about Kathy. It will be posted on www.cybergolf.com and on www.nancyberkley.com.
About Nancy Berkley: As President of Berkley Consulting and founder of The Woman’s Only Guide™ to Golf, Nancy is a recognized industry expert on women’s golf. She is the author of Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women’s Golf (published by the National Golf Foundation). To learn more about marketing to women golfers, visit her website www.nancyberkley.com which offers Nancy’s “Free Help Line” for golf facility managers and professionals and women golfers who want to improve their programs.
Nancy instructs golf professionals and managers about how to deliver a women-friendly golf experience. Berkley Consulting offers a full range of consulting services to the golf industry including staff training and marketing assistance. Contact information: Nancy Berkley – 242 Eagleton Estates Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, 33418, Telephone 561-776-7243 or at [email protected].