Story by Ian Guerin
Jimmy Brandt wasn’t the best golfer from start to finish in “Big Break Myrtle Beach.”
He wasn’t even in the lead at the beginning of the finals.
Being better than a single opponent when it was all said and done will more than do.
The 31-year-old Auburn, Ala., native was crowned champion of the Golf Channel’s reality golf competition in Myrtle Beach after defeating Toph Peterson in a match play of the series finale. The 11-episode 22nd season spanned four golf courses - three at Barefoot Resort and Golf, and the trek south to Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club - during its two-week filming in June. It put the Grand Strand’s golf scene on display for a new batch of potential tourists, and the courses are already starting to see some of the payoff.
But while the series’ ultimate meaning to the area won’t be known for some time, we can be certain that Brandt’s game came as close to peaking at exactly the right time.
He and Peterson each won just one of the first nine holes at Barefoot’s Fazio Course. But Brandt took three of the first five on the back nine. It allowed him to get away with a crucial putting mistake on No. 16. It was there that he pushed a three footer that would have ended the match.
The miss only delayed the inevitable.
On the next hole, Peterson hit his second shot into a green-side bunker. Brandt went on to win the hole, the match (with score of 3 & 1) and the title of Big Break champion.
It was a considerable figurative distance for Brandt, a player who by his own admission was not at the top of his game when the show began.
“My golf career hasn’t been going in the right direction the last year or so,” he said to start Tuesday’s episode.
That being the case, Brandt started the two-week filming in much of the same way. He was up for elimination six times in the first nine episodes. Several times, he appeared to be headed for a bench seat for the finale. He played his way into the semifinals by taking out the near-consensus favorite in Charlie Harrison, and then beating youngster Anthony Quezada last week.
On Tuesday, he defeated his newfound friend Peterson, completing his run to outlast all of the 11 other competitors.
The victory earned Brandt $50,000 in cash, a similar figure in prizes and maybe most importantly an exemption to the 2015 Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., in March. He took full advantage of a frantic half month of golf in Myrtle Beach in June to give himself the biggest opportunity of his career.