Silvers hopes to make most of Big Break

By Lance Hanlin

Mark Silvers knew his game was good enough.

Since turning professional in 2010, the 25-year-old Savannah resident has proven his golf ability, winning 15 events on various mini-tours.

To realize his lifelong goal of playing on the PGA Tour, he just needed to catch a break.

The former Savannah Country Day and University of South Carolina golfer hoped to do that by signing up for the popular Golf Channel reality TV series Big Break Greenbrier.

The show started with 12 contestants and was filmed over a 15-day stretch in June at the legendary Greenbrier Resort.

The show premiered Oct. 2 and one contestant was eliminated each week, leading up to the season finale Dec. 18. Silvers made the cut each week and then rallied to a dramatic victory on the final hole, earning automatic entry into the PGA Tour’s 2013 Greenbrier Classic and $80,000 in cash and prizes.

Silvers took a few moments to chat with Golfer’s Guide about his favorite moments from the show and more.

Golfer’s Guide: First off, congratulations on winning Big Break Greenbrier. How has it changed your life?
Mark Silvers: It’s just the little things. Everybody around Savannah kind of knew about it. I get a lot of people who I have never met who will come up and congratulate me, which is really neat.

GG: You battled back from a significant deficit in the final match, going 5-under on the final five holes to defeat James Lepp. How would you describe your strong finish?
MS: I knew I was playing well. I just couldn’t get anything to go in for me. When you have your back against the wall, sometimes you quit thinking about it and just react to the situation. Luckily, everything kind of went my way and the putts started to go in.

GG: For winning the show, you got an invitation to compete in the 2013 Greenbrier Classic in July and $50,000 in cash. Which is the bigger deal to you?
MS: I think everybody who signs up for the show has the goal of playing on the PGA Tour. Fifty grand is an unbelievable prize but we all wanted to use the show to help advance our careers. Hopefully the Greenbrier Classic will be the bigger push.

GG: You also got an Adams Golf endorsement contract, a $10,000 shopping spree to Dick’s Sporting Goods and $10,000 in car rental credit from Avis. Did it feel like Christmas?
MS: Oh yeah. It’s like the ultimate Christmas package for a mini-tour golfer. Everything that you struggle with, they want to help you out with.

GG: I know your father passed away prior to you filming the series in June. How proud would he have been of all this?
MS: That’s all I could think about after the last putt went in. He always pushed me to be the best golfer I could be. I certainly think that he would be awfully proud with not only how I finished, but how I handled myself.

GG: Aside from winning, what was your favorite moment from the show?
MS: Fly fishing (with Isaac on their day of immunity) was fun. That was kind of a bucket list thing for me. I’ve never fly-fished before. I kind of dove in head-first.

GG: Did the show bend the truth any or is what we saw the way things happened?
MS: All the golf was real. They edited some shots to make it more dramatic, but it was all real. That was one of my concerns going into the show – whether I would be represented accurately. For the most part, I think they did a really good job with it.

GG: With the show being taped in June, it had to be a challenge not to spill the beans before the finale. How tempting was that part of it?
MS: It was always tempting because that was the first question everybody asked. “Did you win? Oh come on, you can tell me!” To me it was fun to watch everybody’s reaction. If I would have told people, it would have ruined all the fun for me.

GG: Did the Golf Channel have any safeguards in place to keep you quiet?
MS: A potential million dollar lawsuit.

GG: Oh wow. That will keep you quiet.
MS: Yeah. That’ll do it.

GG: Where do you play over there in Savannah?
MS: Savannah Golf Club.

GG: Do you get a chance to play over here at all?
MS: Every now and then. I’ve played Harbour Town a few times. I’ve played Long Cove. I play some in Bluffton. They’re all incredible golf courses.

GG: In addition to competing in the Greenbrier Classic, you will also be competing on the Web.com Tour this year. Does it feel like your dream is coming true?
MS: Yeah. Obviously winning Big Break was one of my biggest achievements. Then to be able to follow it up by making the final stage of Q School, it certainly was an important year for me.

GG: What are your short-term and long-term goals?
MS: I finished just outside of the fully exempt number but I should get into (PGA Tour) events early. If you play well early then you can be good to go for the rest of the year. Obviously, my short-term goal is to play well in the events I get in early so I can play full-time out there for the rest of the year. My long term goal is to earn my PGA Tour card.

GG: You mentioned your bucket list earlier. Is the Heritage on there?
MS: Oh yeah. I grew up going to the Heritage. As far as I’m concerned, that is my home town event. It’s big for Hilton Head, it’s big for Savannah and all of the Lowcountry. Playing in the Heritage is a huge goal of mine.

GG: How would you sum up the Big Break experience?
MS: It was an incredible experience because I’ve never felt nerves like that on a golf course. I played in the U.S. Open, made tour events and Web.com events. The jitters you have on the first tee of a big tournament, you basically had on every shot during Big Break. To be able to manage those nerves and still perform well was a huge boost for me. I was able to play well after the show, making it through all three stages of Q School. I think I can credit a lot of that to the show.

HOW BIG BREAK CHAMPS FARED

The Big Break series has been a ratings hit for the Golf Channel since its first series in 2003. The show’s premise is to award an aspiring professional golfer exemptions into selected events on certain tours. Here is a look at what each champion has done with their Big Break.

Justin Peters, Big Break 1
* Gained entry into four tournaments on the Canadian Tour in 2004. Missed cuts in the Barton Creek Classic and the Greater Sacramento Open. Withdrew from Barton Challenge. Finished 60th in Central Valley Classic.

Kip Henley, Big Break II: Las Vegas
•    Won entry into four Nationwide Tour tournaments in 2005. Missed cut in all four events. He went back to caddying on the PGA Tour for Brian Gay.

Danielle Amiee, Big Break III: Ladies Only
•    Received entry into two LPGA Tour events in 2005. Missed cut in Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill. Withdrew from LPGA Corning Classic, citing a back injury.

Paul Holtby, Big Break IV: USA vs. Europe
•    Won spots in two events on the European Tour in 2006. Missed cuts in both the Algarve Open and Celtic Manor Whales Open.

Ashley Prange, The Big Break V: Hawaii
•    Won spot in 2006 LPGA Safeway Classic. Missed cut.  Has won twice on the Futures Tour and has three other top 10 finishes.

Denny Hepler, The Big Break VI: Trump National
* Won spots in the 2007 Turtle Bay Championship (T72) and 2007 Bank of America Championship (T59).

Briana Vega, The Big Break VI: Trump National
* Earned a spot in the LPGA’s 2007 SBS Open at Turtle Bay and Sybase Classic. Missed the cut in both events.

Tommy Gainey, The Big Break VII: Reunion
* Earned a spot in the Nationwide Tour’s 2007 Cox Classic. Finished T8. Has nine professional wins, including the 2012 McGladrey Classic.

Brian Kontak, The Big Break Mesquite
* Won a spot in the 2008 Mayakoba Classic. Missed cut.

Kim Welch, The Big Break Ka’anapali
* Earned a spot in the 2009 Navistar LPGA Classic. Missed cut.

Haymes Snedeker, The Big Break X: Michigan
* Brother of PGA Tour player Brandt Snedeker. Paid entry to Q School. Failed to advance from the first stage.

Bernadette Luse, The Big Break X: Michigan
* Paid entry to Q School. T10 at the final qualifying tournament.

Derek Gillespie, The Big Break Prince Edward Island
* Won $100,000 in cash.

Mike Perez, Big Break Disney Golf
•    Brother of PGA Tour player Pat  Perez. Earned a spot in 2010 Children’s Miracle Network Classic. Missed cut.

Carling Coffing, Big Break Sandals Resort
•    Gained entry into one LPGA event and one LET event in 2010. Finished 35th in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and T22 in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.

Blair O’Neal, Big Break Dominican Republic
•    Won spot in 2011 LPGA Kia Classic. Missed cut.

Anthony Rodriguez, Big Break Dominican Republic
* Won spot in 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Missed cut.

Mark Murphy, Big Break Ireland
* Won spots in two 2012 European Tour events. T52 in Hassan II Trophy and T58 in Irish Open.

Marcela Leon, Big Break Atlantis
•    Earned exemption into 2012 LPGA’s Kingsmill Championship. Missed cut.

Mark Silvers, Big Break Greenbrier
* Earned exemption into 2013 Greenbrier Classic.

 

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