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Opinion & Analysis

A GolfWRXer auditions for the Big Break

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I just wanted to start this article by thanking GolfWRX for allowing me to share my story of battling ulcerative colitis, and to the community of great members for taking the time to read it. It was a blast for me to write it, and I feel I am achieving one of my goals of raising awareness about the disease and just how difficult it can be on the people and their loved ones going through it.

To provide a bit more insight as to where I am now, I am feeling 100 percent. It was a long road to get there, mind you. After being told I would be in the hospital for three to five days, I was there for 14, home for two and then back to the hospital for another three.

I remember a lot about being in the hospital. The thing that I will take with me the most is the love and support of my family and friends. My loving wife (fiancée at the time) was the best. She would always be with me and just made me feel so good about it all, and always encouraged me to continue to get better and better. My brother came to visit me every single day; a 45-minute drive away and never missed a day. It meant the world to me to see him, and he made things easier for me. My mom and dad were there a lot too, and my friends all came to visit. It’s the people in your life that make the difference, and I think my team of people is the best!

I also remember my weight. Before getting so sick, I was about 170 pounds. A few days after my surgery I got on the scale and it said 123! I was in shock. I was so skinny it was scary. I am happy to say that I am now back to 165, and feel great about it.

As for my ostomy, I still have it. I am in a position to remove it and replace it with an internal “J-Pouch,” however I plan to keep my bag. For me, it has been easy to deal with, and I can easily handle it. I consider it my life-saver, and it truly has been. It allows me to golf, and live a very normal life, it is all good!

Now, as for golf, I was able to get in a very full 2012 season and it was a blast. I did a lot to prepare in the cold, wintery months here in Toronto and felt ready to go once 2012 started. My goal was to compete in about four or five events, but that changed when a big break came.

I saw the application online for The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” and I knew I had to apply. True, I was very rusty at the time, but I thought why not? What a story it would be right? I applied and kind of forgot about it, that is until the show got back to me asking me to come apply. The problem was the auditions were nowhere near me; Florida, North Carolina and Phoenix were the sites.

I am a die-hard Phoenix Coyotes fan, and it has been a dream of mine to go to Arizona. I really thought hard about it, and then my father-in-law offered to help out with the costs of the trip. He believed in me, and knew this was a great opportunity for me to live out two dreams: go to Phoenix and be on the Big Break. From there, I had to go for it, and I did! It was mid-March, and I was on my way, about to try to make it on the show.It was a dream come true just to be there, and a trip I won’t soon forget. I was very fortunate to be able to play TPC Scottsdale, as well as Troon North while out there, and both were incredible. Troon North truly blew me away. It was something else!

I remember very clearly my audition for the show. I arrived at the course very early, and figured I would warm up and hit some putts — really just soak the whole experience in. I remember hitting balls and watching the guy beside me. He was swinging so beautifully, so pure and it was something else to see. It reminded me a lot of my favorite player, Aaron Baddeley. Turns out that it was Ray Beaufils, who, of course, qualified for the show. When it was finally my turn to be interviewed, I was really nervous, but confident at the same time. I went over in my head a number of times the potential questions and of course what my answers were. I felt pretty good as the interview kept going. He then asked me about my surgery, and I could tell he had never heard of the disease. He seemed was very confused as I told him a little about the procedure and what happened. That threw me off a little, and I kind of froze over the last question or two.

When it was time to hit some balls, I did, but they were OK shots at best. My flaw of a little over-hooking shots showed up a bit, but it could have been worse. When I left the course, I was really kicking myself over the interview more than anything. I really wanted a chance to have a do over on the final few questions, and actually show him my ostomy bag. I knew he was clueless about it, I should have just showed him. I was down, but decided to not let it ruin my trip. Later that week I got to live out a dream of seeing the Coyotes at home, and it was amazing. Thinking back to that night — wow —  so amazing! Of course, not totally like the atmosphere in Toronto or Montreal, but it was special nonetheless. And getting to meet Shane Doan and Mike Smith the day before at practice made it all the more special.

The only down side of the trip was the fact that I used up five of my vacation days at work, really limiting me in terms of days I could take for events. I knew that going in, but knew it was worth it! It was painful waiting to hear back from the show, and when I got the news I was not selected I was upset, but I totally understood. I think getting that “no” kept me motivated for 2012 to work hard on my game, and be more prepared for another shot if I decide to go for it.

As the season went on, it was just so great to be out playing. After missing so much time, the scores were a lot less important than the actual playing part. I started off playing respectably, but not up to my standards. I was hitting the ball well, but I was a bit shorter than I was used to, and was really struggling with my putter. That was until June, when I added a long putter. That putter served me well for the second half of the season, and I was able to shoot some pretty solid scores while in Florida in July. I was able to sneak in one event toward the end of the season, which was interesting to say the least.

I went up a few days before for a practice round and later found out that the Tour changed the event course! I really wish I had known that! So I arrived for the event going in cold, not ever seeing the course. But was just ready to have a good time and feel the nerves again of professional golf.

I vividly recall my warm-up session and just how good it was. I was flushing it, and honestly only missed one shot all warm-up. I was ready. Of course, what do I do on the first tee? Pull it left, lose the ball and make a six. It was weird; I honestly did not feel too nervous — I just really miss-aligned myself for fear of going right and over did it. As the round went on, I continued to struggle. I just kept telling myself have fun, and remember this is just a prep for 2013. I got a bit discouraged on the back after a few three-putts and left the course sour about how poor I played. But I was still excited to be back in professional golf, and looking forward to 2013.

Once again, thank you all so much for the read. It has been a lot of fun writing these entries and even more fun hearing all the well wishes from the community.

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I am a very proud member of the PGA of Canada, and love all aspects of this great game. I had ulcerative colitis in 2010 and 2011, and had my colon removed in August of 2011. It was the best decision of my life. I am currently working hard on my game and career, and I love the opportunity to share my story with the GolfWRX community

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1 Comment

  1. Brian Cass

    Jan 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    A great story. That’s inspirational!

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes

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Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

The 2018 NCAA Men’s National Championship: By the Numbers

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For the 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship, 156 participants (30 teams of five, and six individuals) will collect at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30 to determine the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion and the NCAA Team champion.

There will be three days of stroke play on Friday through Sunday (54 holes). From there, 15 teams and nine individuals advance to a final day of stroke play on Monday. That will determine the eight teams who will advance to match play, and the individual 72-hole stroke play champion. Match play format on Tuesday and Wednesday will then determine the national team champion.

Who will win? Well, let’s look at the numbers from the NCAA Men’s Championships in the past 9 years (when they began playing match play as part of the national title).

Average winning score for individual stroke play

  • For 3 rounds of stroke play — 832 strokes (avg. 69.3 per golfer)
  • For 4 rounds of stroke play — 1137 strokes (avg. 71.06 per golfer)

Number of No. 1 seeds to win championship: 0

Average match play seed of eventual winner: 4.5

Where the winners have come from

  • 44 percent of winners (4 out of 9) are from the SEC: Texas AM (2009), Alabama (2013, 2014) and LSU (2015)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from the Big 12: Texas (2012), Oklahoma (2017)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from Augusta, GA: August State (2010, 2011)
  • 11 percent of winners (1 out of 9) are from the PAC 12: Oregon (2016)
  • 11 percent of the match play field has historically come from mid-major teams

Mid-Majors that have Qualified for Match Play

  • August State (2010, 2011)
  • Kent State (2012)
  • San Diego State (2012)
  • New Mexico University (2013)
  • SMU (2014)
  • UNLV (2017)

Mid Majors with 4+ Appearances in the NCAA National Championship 

  • UCF (2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • Kent State (2010, 201, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • North Florida (2010, 2012, 2013, 2018)

So with facts in hand, let’s hear your opinion GolfWRX readers… who’s going to be your team champion for 2018?

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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