by Jim Riggs
April 30, 2005
Miller Relives Her Big Break Experience
Back in January, Miller couldn't reveal how she did. Now we know.
Despite being the oldest in the field at 48, Miller, who played on he LPGA Tour from 1979-81, continued to stay alive among the field of golfers mostly in their 20s. She was finally eliminated on last week's program after reaching the final three.
On Tuesday night, the winner, Danielle Aimee, defeated Pam Crikelair and earned the top prize of The Big Break III - exemption into two LPGA events. The first is the Michelob ULTRA Open next week and the second is the LPGA Corning Classic at the end of May.
When asked this week in a telephone interview if she ever imagined reaching the final three, Miller said, "Yeah, I thought I could."
And she formed that opinion after seeing the other nine competitors play.
"This was about not hitting one bad shot at the wrong time," Miller said.
And one bad shot could be huge on The Big Break III.
"It's more pressure than any Tour event I've played in or the U.S. Open (in which she's played five times)," she said. "In 18 holes you've got time to recover."
In The Big Break III there was the Skills Challenge and the winner of that earned exemption from the Elimination Challenge, in which the loser is eliminated. Miller won the Skills Challenge four times, which meant four times she automatically moved on to the next program without having to face elimination.
And each time it happened, Miller said her response was, "Thank you, Lord!"
When asked about a turning point, Miller said, "I think there may have been two."
The first was when facing elimination, she put a 70-yard bunker shot inches from the cup, and the other was a wood shot that appeared headed into a pond, but instead her ball skipped onto land.
But Miller noted she wasn't alone.
"Everyone who advanced got lucky," she said.
The competitors also had to display some skill because throughout the week they played in cold and rainy conditions, which is why they played lift, clean and place through the green.
Adding to their challenge was overcoming a lot of down time. While the action moved quickly on TV, thanks to editing, things often crawled at the real event. A lot of time was taken for measuring distances on challenges or setting up camera angles and moving equipment into place. Miller mentioned sometimes they might have to wait nearly 15 minutes between shots.
"It was a great character-building process," Miller said.
The eventual champion, Amiee, reached the final by defeating Miller in three holes of straight golf. After they parred the first hole, Amiee had a par 5 on the second hole and Miller bogeyed when her par putt lipped out.
"I hit a good putt," Miller recalled.
And when it didn't go in, Miller said her thoughts were, "You're not supposed to win this thing."
And she didn't when they both parred the third hole.
But it was still quite an accomplishment to reach the next to last program.
"I didn't want to choke my guts out in front of the whole world," Mille said with a laugh.
And that "whole world" statement was pretty accurate because Miller heard The Big Break III was the highest rated show ever on The Golf Channel. Also, she has received e-mails from all over, including England and Germany.
Throughout the weeks of telecasts, a graphic under Miller's name stated she was former LPGA Tour player. But it was never mentioned that her husband, Allen, played on the PGA Tour, and that their son, Jamie, is on the Ohio State golf team.
"That bothered me," Miller admitted. "I thought there was more of a story here."
It was also never mentioned that last summer Miller became the oldest person to win the LPGA National Teaching and Club Professional Championship and that victory qualified her to play in the McDonald's LPGA Championship, one of the tour's four majors.
It probably wasn't mentioned because the theme of The Big Break III was that the competitors were seeking the dream of playing on the LPGA Tour. Of course Miller had already played on the Tour. But not only did she know she would be playing in an LPGA Tour event again this year, but it was a much bigger event - a major - than the Michelob ULTRA Open or the LPGA Corning Classic.
After returning home from the taping last fall, Miller returned to giving lessons at the Wherle Golf Dome in Williamsville five days a week. When The Big Break III began airing, some of her clients thought she was playing in it weekly. Miller recalls people seeing her at the dome and remaking, "Oh my god, why are you here?"
She also noted a lot of people thought she had won.
But they found out on April 19 that she had been eliminated.
Miller and her friends always watched the program every Tuesday night at the Buffalo Brew Pub. She said many remarked, "You made Tuesday nights fun."
Miller was out of town on April 19, but her husband was there and when she was eliminated he said, "Boy, you could hear a pin drop."
And there was also some crying.
But there are only smiles from Miller who said, "I'm just thrilled that I've become a better player and a bigger person for doing this."
And adding to her optimistic outlook was all the exposure she got, which could lead to more lessons.
"I got a free 10-week commercial," Miller said.