STATELINE — At 20 television series, Big Break is one of the longest running reality shows around.
The concept of Big Break is to have highly skilled golfers face off against each other in challenges to test their physical golf skills and mental toughness.
This year, Golf Channel will team with the NFL to host Big Break-NFL starting Oct. 8 in Puerto Rico.
“We’re honored to partner with the NFL to commemorate the series’ 20th season,” said Tom Knapp, Golf Channel’s senior vice president of programming. “With this unique team format and the sheer competitive nature the NFL legends will bring to the series, it will be exciting to see how the teams handle the pressure of playing in front of the cameras and for each other.”
Ex-49er great Jerry Rice, ex-Raider great Tim Brown, former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, former Washington quarterback Mark Rypien, ex-kicker Al Del Greco and former Minnesota defensive end Chris Doleman were the NFL players selected. The six NFL stars will be paired with players who have played on the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour. The group will be joining two Big Break competitors, one male and one female, to form three-person teams.
At stake is $50,000 to the winning NFL legend’s designated charity along with 2014 PGA Tour and LPGA tour exemptions.
Both Brown and Rypien enjoyed competing on the show, which was taped between June 1-17 at the Dorado Beach Resort, and both talked about the pressure of the competition.
“The pressure was immense, no doubt about it,” Brown said. “Playing 17 years in the NFL, I’ve been in some tough situations, and you think you can handle anything. In the NFL you have multiple chances. I had a chance to redeem myself if I dropped a pass or something like that.
“If you didn’t hit (make) that shot you were in trouble. It was pretty tough stuff, two weeks of hitting balls everyday. I probably hadn’t done that ever in my life. For the most part it was an incredible experience, and my litmus test for everything is I would do it again and I would put myself in that situation again.”
“As a quarterback, the one thing you always wanted to do was start the game off with a hand-off because you have the nerves going,” Rypien said. “If you had to go play-action (pass), go downtown, it was like ‘oh gosh how is this going to come out.
“That was everyday at Big Break. I think the realness and intensity and the nerves and the shaking every single time (you got up there) and you only had one chance to do it. You’ve got people relying on you to make that shot. This is their life. They’re wanting you to make it so they can get a sponsor’s exemption to a PGA or LPGA event.”
As with any reality show, the competitors are sworn to secrecy, and both former NFL stars said that it’s been hard.
“The last month has been hard,” Rypien said. “I’m horrible at Christmas time keeping presents from everybody. I usually tell people and give them hints about what they got. I was telling people I was on vacation. You know, you can’t tell them where you’re going. People would say you can’t tell me where you’re going on vacation? I told them I can’t, just we’re going to be cruising around the Caribbean.”
“I’ve been telling people I can tell you but I would have to kill you. From that standpoint no one wanted to know,” Brown said. “It’s been a little tough, but I think everybody is excited to watch the broadcast, and it’s like knowing the end of a book but when you start to read it you don’t want to know that. So my family and friends have really backed off from me after the first week of being home. It was pretty tough that first week.”
Often times, the present-day golfers don’t know the former NFL stars. Brown related his first experience meeting one of the golfers.
“When I came out, the young lady I was playing with asked “Who are you? She basically asked that question, and she was a little feisty. So she really didn’t want me there. I mean she said hell and then turned her back on me the whole time we were doing our little welcome presentation deal.
“This wasn’t the welcome I expected to get. I think you’ll see how the relationship really emerged, because you’re right they had no clue. After it was all over, in the room that we all gathered, they had all our highlights playing. She was like why didn’t they show me this before you guys came in, I would have known more about you.”