The Post-Journal

Hick From Silver Creek Makes Prime Time

Cindy Miller of Silver Creek lives a life of golf.

After earning All-American honors at the University of Miami, where she led the team to back-to-back NCAA titles, she was a member of the LPGA Tour from 1979-81 before turning her attention to raising a family. She now teaches golf at the Wherle Golf Dome in Williamsville five days a week while operating a golf accessory company called Tee Shots.

Meanwhile, her husband, Allen is a former PGA player and her oldest son, Jamie is a member of the Ohio State golf team.

Last October, Miller filled her "down time" by competing in the Golf Channel's The Big Break III: Ladies Only for two weeks. It is a 10-women competition that earned the winner an exemption into two LPGA events this year - the Michelob Ultra Open and the LPGA Corning Classic.

How Miller finished is a secret, but you can find out by watching the 10-week series that starts Feb. 8.

Miller learned of The Big Break III last April and recalled in a telephone interview last week. "I thought, 'You should do that.' And then of course the other voice in your head says, 'Well that's ridiculous, they'll never pick you.'"

Why would a 48-year former LPGA player want to compete in a reality TV golf program?

"I truly did it because I want to win a senior tour event," Miller said. "I'm on a mission to prove that I can play to myself. I'm not going to try to play against Annika Sorenstam and them on the LPGA Tour because I'm too old and don't hit it far enough; you've got to be realistic. But I can play against people my age."

She proved that last July when she became the oldest person to win the Golf for Women LPGA National Teaching and Club Professional Championship with rounds of 69-72-74. With that win she qualified to play the McDonald's LPGA Championship in June. Which means she will compete against Annika.

"In the back of you're mind you're thinking, 'Gee I don't think I was done yet,'" she said about competitive golf. 'Can I get to do this some more?'"

So she thought The Big Break III would be a perfect preparation for the LPGA Senior Tour for which she is qualifying for a year's exemption this week. Last year she was not exempt but still competed in four events that tour after succeeding in Monday qualifiers. She finished 39th on a money list that included players such as Nancy Lopez, Joanne Carner, Sherri Turner and Patty Sheehan.

"You've got to be able to hit a golf shot with the heat on you and see if you can do it," she said about The Big Break III. "And this is competition, its not who's voted off the island. It's by skill."

So Miller submitted an application in April and in July she was invited to an audition in Orlando, Fl. The audition involved hitting different shots with different clubs and on-camera interviews. One of the interview questions was why Miller thought the Golf Channel should pick her.

"I'll tell you why you should pick me," she said. "If you're trying to make the viewing audience of the Golf Channel become middle-aged women, I'm the perfect candidate. I'm 48 years old, I'm married with three children, I played on the LPGA tour, my husband played on the PGA tour, and by the way, we're the only couple in the world that are married that have both played on the real tour and the senior tour. We have had family challenges. I am a normal typical person who happens to have a golf skill. In fact, I could be your miracle story and the light of the show. That's why you should pick me."

In September she found out the Golf Channel agreed.

"I can't believe I got picked!" Miller said. "I had the best time of my life. I am so glad I had the guts to do this."

For 12 days, Miller and nine other golfers, with a majority in their 20s, were living and golfing in a Williamsburg, Va., resort with a camera constantly in their faces.

Halfway through the competition, Miller was asked what is was like to be twice the age of her competitors and she answered, "I forgot I was."

That's because everyone got along, had a great time and each had a nickname. It was "Momma Miller" for Cindy.

"We were really a crazy bunch, just whacko," Miller said. We had them cracking up."

It took a couple of days for the first player to be eliminated and then it was one a day.

"Playing a tournament would have been much easier than any of this," Miller said. "If we teed it up (and played regular golf), I'm going to beat most of them nine out of ten times."

But like in the previous two Big Break programs, it involved a series of golf skills events that included plenty of standing around and waiting between shots and events.

"Mulligan challenges were a little hokey," she said of an added event that didn't always involve golf. "I'm thinking the best player had better win here because it wouldn't have been fair."

But Miller thinks she mainly benefited because in The Big Break III if you failed at a competition you could be eliminated immediately. That's quite different from recording a bogey during a round of golf, but knowing you can make up for it with a birdie at the next hole.

"It's the best thing I've ever done for my mental game," she said. "This is probably the greatest opportunity I've ever had and I accomplished learning about me what I wanted to. I'm a better player mentally and probably physically because I did it."

And how did she do?

Miller can't tell and you'll have to wait until the final The Big Break III episode to find out.

But even though the show premieres on Feb. 8 at 9 p.m., there has been plenty of publicity world-wide, including a Golf Channel insert in Golf Digest that features six photos of all ten competitors. That's why Miller said, "It's also a little scary. You know what? I like being a hick from Silver Creek and not having anyone know who I am."

Now plenty of golfers will know Miller from being on The Big Break III. And if she finished as the winner, more will know her after she plays in two LPGA Tour events this summer.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.