A dozen professional golf hopefuls have come to the Grand Strand in search of their big break.
The 22nd season of the Golf Channel golf skills competition reality series “Big Break” is being filmed in the Myrtle Beach area for the first time over a couple of weeks this month.
Big Break is Golf Channel’s most successful original series, with about 5 million viewers watching the 11 episodes each season, according to the network, and is one of the longest running reality competition shows on television.
Big Break Myrtle Beach will be broadcast for 11 consecutive weeks from Oct. 7 through Dec. 16, and will air at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Bill Golden, president of marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, which negotiated to bring Big Break to the area. “… We get to tell a story and we get three months to tell the story. So from that perspective it’s a big deal for the destination.”
The series has been filmed at some of the world’s most famous golf courses. Past locations include Carnoustie and St. Andrews in the United Kingdom; Trump National in Los Angeles; Ka’anapali Resort in Maui, Hawaii; Sandals Resort in the Bahamas; Casa de Campo Resort in the Dominican Republic; K Club in Ireland; The Greenbrier in West Virginia; and Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
“From a golf standpoint, the [Myrtle Beach] location is second to none,” said Jay Kossoff, Golf Channel’s vice president of original productions and Big Break executive producer. “It’s probably a long time coming that we get there.”
The film set is closed, so no spectators or onlookers are welcome.
The location of filming and the specific skills challenges won’t be revealed until after the series is shot, as the cast of six men and six women doesn’t know what awaits it.
The cast members won’t be revealed until a Sept. 17 one-hour Golf Channel special that introduces them, and results of the competition won’t be released until Big Break Myrtle Beach airs.
Kossoff and Golf Channel senior director of original productions Paul Schlegel are co-creators of the Big Break series, which made its debut on Golf Channel in 2003.
Big Break continues to gain popularity. The 21st season was Big Break Florida at Omni Amelia Island Plantation in Amelia Island, Fla., which concluded last month and broke series viewership records.
The third episode was the most-watched Big Break episode in history as well as the most-watched original series episode premiere in network history, surpassing “Haney Project: Charles Barkley” and the series premiere of “Feherty” with Lee Trevino.
“It’s been amazingly successful for us,” Kossoff said. “We get calls about it all the time. Everyone wants to be involved, and it’s a testament to the show and more for the opportunities these golfers and locations get.”
The series is designed to show off the talents of the competitors while creating an intriguing series. It pits skilled golfers against each other in a variety of challenges that test their physical skills and mental toughness.
The skill competitions test all facets of players’ games and invariably include the series’ signature Glass Break, where competitors attempt to break glass with an accurate golf shot, and Flop Wall, where they must execute flop shots over a series of walls of varying heights.
“We’re breaking out different challenges and competitions,” Kossoff said. “We’re also using features of the golf courses to challenge them with trouble shots and course management situations we’ll put them through throughout the series.”
One contestant is eliminated each episode, with the last player standing awarded his or her Big Break – which includes an opportunity to compete at golf’s highest levels.
The Big Break Myrtle Beach prize package hasn’t been disclosed. Jackie Stoelting of Vero Beach, Fla., the winner of Big Break Florida, which featured 12 women, earned cash and prizes worth more than $100,000.
She received an exemption into last week’s Manulife Financial LPGA Classic as well as $65,000 in cash, full exempt status on the 2015 Symetra Tour with all entry fees paid, an endorsement contract from Adams Golf that includes $10,000 in cash, $10,000 in Avis Car Rental credit, $13,000 in Travelocity travel credit, and a three-night stay at any Omni golf resort in the U.S.
Past Big Break champions have won tournament exemptions into PGA Tour, Champions Tour, European Tour, LPGA Tour and Web.com Tour events.
Several past Big Break competitors have gone on to have successful careers. They include PGA Tour winners Matt Every and Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey of Bishopville; Solheim Cup competitors Gerina Piller, Ryann O’Toole and Kristy McPherson of Conway, who competed on Big Break VI Trump National in 2006; fellow LPGA members Kim Welch and Nicole Smith; and recent Symetra Tour winner Mallory Blackwelder.
“It’s been a neat thing for us to see our alumni be successful out there, make money, make cuts and in several cases win,” Kossoff said. “I think almost to a man and woman they’ve said they have come out of this with a different confidence. A lot of it is that every single shot they hit means something. Here in some cases it’s one swing or one putt and if they miss, they’re done. It creates a mindset for them; that’s what they’ve told us.”
The casts have alternated between all male, all female and coed. “It’s a fantastic cast,” Kossoff said. “When we cast these we’re looking for people from all walks of life with stories to tell.”
The cast was selected through a casting call and audition process that started with nearly 3,000 applications submitted online, Kossoff said. About 300 applicants were invited to six audition sites across the country, where they displayed their golf abilities and were interviewed to determine their story and personality.
That process narrowed the list to about 100 and a small committee at Golf Channel chose the 12 contestants.
“It’s a big, big research project casting this show,” Kossoff said. “The first qualification is they have to have the golf game, which is scratch, and want and have the ability to turn pro if they’re not already pro.”
Winners of each skills challenge will also earn prizes, which will showcase activities on the Strand such as Jet Ski excursions, fishing trips, etc., and eliminated contestants must remain on the Strand until filming is complete, so they’ll be accompanied on daily activities that will often be shown in additional webisodes.
A dedicated Big Break Myrtle Beach website within GolfChannel.com will have a lot of footage that doesn’t make the cut for the show.
The show is part of a media buy by Golf Holiday that also includes two one-minute commercials to support the destination, and digital promotions running on GolfChannel.com later this summer and into the fall.
“If you look at all the facets of marketing we work on: branding, content, social media, digital media, public relations, cross promotions – all of that comes with this,” Golden said. “We’re buying into a television program, but we’re getting all these ancillary marketing opportunities that are going to spin off that. So that’s a big deal to us.
“The broadcast would be enough on its own, but now we get the broadcast and the ability to brand the entire destination, and showcase not just golf or not just a golf course or an area of the beach, we’re able to showcase the entire destination.”
Golf Holiday executives considered attempting to bring the show to Myrtle Beach in the past, and one of the conversations led to the creation of the 12-episode 2008 Golf Channel series “Myrtle Beach: Road Trip,” which followed a celebrity foursome on a Strand golf vacation. The cast was comprised of musicians Josh Kelley and Mark Bryan, pro golfer Perry Swenson and golf announcer and past PGA Tour member Charlie Rymer.
“When we looked at it this year, really starting the end of December, the timing was right,” Golden said. “The production window was later in the spring, which allowed us to do what we needed to do from that standpoint. The timing of when the show will air sets up perfectly for what we were trying to do setting up for 2015. So the timing was right and we’re excited to do it.”
A production crew of more than 80 people, not including the 12-member cast, will shoot the 11 episodes over 15 days.