The Post-Journal

Big Break Memories

This week Silver Creek resident Cindy Miller was, as usual, at the Wherle Golf Dome in Williamsville giving lessons. Six years ago this month she was doing the same thing, but it was also in February of 2005 when Golf Channel's The Big Break III: Ladies Only premiered and Miller became a "star."

Big Break is Golf Channel's reality show competition that runs weekly for about 10 weeks in which contestants are eliminated through a series of "challenges." Miller, then 48, was and still is the oldest female participant in the program. And she made it all the way to the final three in the The Big Break III before being eliminated.

Golf Channel and its viewers haven't forgotten.

"Our show is one of the few that sells in a DVD set," Miller said.

She knows that because a customer at the Wherle Golf Dome recently asked her for an autograph and said, "Our son asked for the The Big Break III DVD for Christmas and we're watching you now."

Last week she received a golf ball in the mail from a fan in Iowa who is collecting autographed balls from all the Big Break participants.

And plenty of people were watching The Big Break III in 2005.

"We were like the pioneer show and we are still the top-rated Big Break show ever," Miller said about the series that recently completed its 15th season.

A lot has changed since Miller was in The Big Break III and then again appeared in Big Break VII: The Reunion. It has recently been held in exotic places, such as Maui, Sandals Resort and the Dominican Republic. The Big Break III was held at Kingsmill Resort at Williamsburg, Va., in October of 2004 and featured unusually wet and chilly conditions. It wasn't the best situation for most of the contestants, but that didn't include Miller.

"I think being at Kingsmill where it was cold and rainy and windy and yucky was probably an advantage to me because I'm from Buffalo," said Miller, who had plenty of golf in those conditions. Her feelings were, "OK, be a big girl, suck it up and hit a shot."

And Miller did, as she continued to stay alive all the way to the final three, while contestants, many half her age, were eliminated.

"Does it amaze me, yes, because a lot of it is luck and it's not all talent," she recalled about her success in the The Big Break III. "You have to hit the right shot at the right time."

She added, "Do I feel like I could have won it? Probably, if we didn't have to do the long-drive contest. But I'm absolutely honored and thrilled that I had the opportunity to be on the show and to do as well as I did and that I behaved as well as I did on camera."

Miller sums up the entire experience as, "It was the best thing I've ever done in my golf life."

And why did she do it?

"The little voice in my mind said if you happened to be in a Legends Tour event and you had to put a shot over water on the last hole and you were tied for the lead, you would choke your guts out," Miller said. "You need to test your ability to perform under pressure and this show will help you do that."

The following summer Miller did play in a Legends Tour tournament, was tied for the lead on the last hole and had to hit a shot over water with thousands of people watching. She successfully put the ball on the green and two-putted.

"I was still tied for the lead, but I didn't choke my guts out," Miller said, who went on to lose in a playoff. "But that helped me finish second on the tour money list which made me exempt on the Legends Tour which is why I competed on the Big Break, so I'm very thankful I did that."

And she was able to do it because of her pitch during an interview for the The Big Break III. She told them, "There are not a lot of 48-year-old women watching your channel. They aren't interested; their husbands might be watching it. You need a token old lady on this show. I might be your miracle story. I could be the light of the whole thing. You need the voice of the middle-aged player who isn't a star and that would be me. I'm the perfect underdog - Cindy from Silver Creek who never made it big on the tour."

But she's made it in other ways. For instance, Miller was named 2010 LPGA Teacher of the Year.

"To me that's more important than being on the Big Break," she said. "And finishing second on the Legends Tour money list is more important than being on the Big Break; and playing on the LPGA Tour (from 1979-81) is more important than being on the Big Break. So, did being on the Big Break help me? Yes it did because I knew I needed to test my ability to perform under pressure."

Miller still watches the Big Break and notices something that is quite different.

"Now they're getting $5,000 for winning an elimination challenge, which I won four or five and got nothing," Miller said.

When Miller participated they received a golf bag and maybe a shirt.

As the series heads to its 16th edition, Miller sees some room for improvement.

"This last Big Break I thought was one of the better ones," she said. "There's been some in the middle that were pretty boring."

Now Miller would like to participate with the Golf Channel behind the scenes.

"I'm trying to make a proposal to them for a show that I would like to do, but I'm not going to say anything else." Miller said. "But it would be good and people would watch it."

And who knows? It could happen because her daughter, Kelly, is an associate producer at Golf Channel.

But what if Miller was asked to be on the Big Break for a third time?

Her face lit up and she said without hesitation, "I'd do another one – in a heartbeat. Bring it on."

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