Over the course of the early days of this blog, we’ve been discussing the requirements for playing golf exceptionally, wherever you are on the golfers’ food chain…and, by implication, being exceptional everywhere else in life too.
We’ve been talking about becoming aware of how big a part our egos play in the way we do things and that the access to grace and ease in golf comes through getting connected with our spiritual essence. And once connected, to be able to stand back and watch the ways in which our egos interfere with our efforts.
Well, it’s one thing to begin a pursuit of quiet, introspective contemplation as a way to play better golf. But it’s quite another to be able to watch an exposition by young players who don’t yet understand those issues. All of this can be found in The Golf Channel’s hit reality series, The Big Break.
The show is golf’s version of, The Survivor, without any physical discomfort: gather a dozen golfers at a golf resort and then pit them against each other in skills and playing tests until you have a winner. The reason it’s called The Big Break, is because in addition to cash and merchandise prizes, the winner usually wins a sponsor’s exemption into one, and sometimes two, tournaments on the big-time tours, the PGA Tour and Champions Tour for the men and LPGA Tour for the women.
Not only do they continue to lure viewers, according to them, they lure thousands of contestant applications for each season’s show. I know, full disclosure, because I was one of the fewer than 200 applicants invited to audition in Orlando for Big Break VI back in 2006. I was on The Golf Channel’s website looking for something else and came across their invitation to apply. It was the first show that involved Champions Tour players. Coming as it did just six months after I had abandoned my nine-year efforts to qualify for the Champions Tour, I saw its arrival as just too providential not to give it one last hurrah.
The producers have done a good job of continuing to attract higher and higher quality players to the show. In the early days, it wasn’t just a big break, it was an improbable break because the quality of play was not as uniform. In recent seasons, they’ve heavily recruited players from the mini-tours who not only have shot competencies, but who have also been grizzled by their experiences of heavy competition in the backwaters of professional golf.
The show is heavily produced. Not only do they use multi-camera shoots for the skills tests, each of the players and co-hosts are miked up from dawn through the evening debriefings. And that’s where the viewers can draw insight: the audio is quite good.
In an effort to succeed, the players become filled with fierce determination, hubris over their ability to dominate another player and win, shame when they fail, guilt when they let teammates or themselves down, embarrassment, disparagement for other players, anger mostly at themselves but sometimes others and all manner of other manifestations of the ego. I almost forgot: self-loathing. It’s not really their fault. Most of it is caricature of who they think they have to be in order to be winners and is based on what they’ve seen, read or heard about being a competitor from successful champions across all sports.
Unfortunately, while these successful champions may have modeled all of these behaviors to some extent, I submit that their success was not so much attributable to those behaviors as it was to their ability to block out the distractions of the world—including their egos—and focus on their task with a relaxed, laser-like focus emanating from their very essence.
If you want to get a sense of the antithesis of what we’ve been discussing about essence and ego, watch this show. It is a veritable laboratory of the ego and quite informative on those terms. This season’s has a little more salsa in the mix because it involves co-ed teams of players who have all come up short in previous shows: a chance at redemption.
The Big Break Dominican Republic, The Golf Channel, Tuesday evenings at 9 PM (Eastern).