By Ian Guerin
A little over three years ago, the Myrtle Beach golf market got itself some primetime love.
Golf Channel’s then-recurring program - “The Big Break” - came to South Carolina’s Grand Strand with the intent of illuminating not only the contestants on the show’s 22nd season, but also the area in general. It was relatively big news, even though the end was near for the program.
It was nixed in 2015 due to reported budget cuts, a move coming just one season after the Myrtle Beach episodes ran. The decision came despite unprecedented ratings on the network in 2014. But as they say, all good things must come to an end.
That didn’t happen, however, before Myrtle Beach got its chance to join the likes of some high-profile golf areas in Hawaii, Ireland, Mexico and Florida. The 11-episode 22nd season, filmed in June of 2014 and aired that fall, included broadcasts from Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club, the Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club, Fazio and Love Courses. There were also excursions to the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, the Anchor Cafe at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes resort and even North Myrtle Beach’s Cinzia Spa, where some of the male competitors earned some of the biggest laughs of the entire season.
On the courses, a 31-year-old Alabaman named Jimmy Brandt edged out Toph Peterson of Logan, Utah, in the finals to claim the top spot - which earned Brandt $180,000 in cash and prizes and an exemption for a professional tournament (Brandt missed the cut at the ensuing Valspar Championship the following March).
And between the drama - Brandt was on the chopping block several times before making and ultimately winning the title match - and the pristine conditions, the show itself was a marketing boon.
“The Big Break generated a lot of buzz and the Myrtle Beach area benefitted without question,” said Mike Ross, the Barefoot Resort’s director of golf. “There was talk about it on the Golf Channel and the competition that we hosted was one of the best in terms of a dramatic outcome. It’s really marketing that you can’t buy. As time passes, it begins to fade but we still talk to customers about it and memorialize it in marketing pieces.”
Occasionally, Pawleys Plantation Head Golf Pro Brian Lewis says the topic of conversation still comes up at his club, too. Despite the time, the memorabilia from the event stirs up talking points of that fall.
More importantly, though, Big Break’s big payoff may have been that it showed an existing market that was already potent in the industry. Three years after the Big Break aired, the 90 or so courses alive and well here each have their own bragging rights, some of which were promoted more than others during the Golf Channel’s run.
“It tells me that we have a very good product here, Lewis said. “It is a championship golf course, designed by the greatest player to play the game, Jack Nicklaus. For me, it feels great to work at one of the top golf clubs on the beach, and feels even better when we get recognition with things such as the Big Break.
“Any exposure Myrtle Beach gets on the national stage is great, especially since we are the golf capital of the world. I think the show itself had faded by the time filming took place in Myrtle Beach, but the fact that Myrtle Beach and especially Pawleys was chosen, speaks volumes to how important we are to golf as a whole.”