College Sports

February 23, 2014

TCU grad to compete on Golf Channel reality series

Lauren Sullivan took a detour from dental school to golf and has won an audition for “Big Break Florida.”

Lauren Sullivan’s life was set when she graduated from TCU in 2010.

The biology major had recently married husband Parker, was set on the prospects of dental school and hadn’t touched a golf club in almost four years.

It was an innocent invitation by her mother-in-law to play in the Shady Oaks Member-Member Tournament that changed it all.

Sullivan, who has spent the past three years working on her game and playing various minor-league professional events, is one of 12 contestants who competed in October on Golf Channel’s reality series Big Break.

The 12-week series kick offs at 8 p.m. Monday on the Golf Channel. This 22nd installment of the series, titled Big Break Florida, was staged at three courses of the Omni Plantation Resort in Amelia Island, Fla.

The winner receives more than $100,000 in cash and prizes, an exemption into the 2014 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ontario, as well as full exemption in the tour’s minor-league Symetra Tour.

The full season of Symetra starts also includes all entry fees waived, and contestants of the show earn the chance to win additional cash and prizes.

Sullivan, from Wichita falls, took timeout after premiere parties in Arizona and Florida to catch up with the Star-Telegram:

You gave up the possibility of being a dentist to play professional golf. Have you found anyone to blame for that yet?

Well, do I blame my mother-in-law; Mike Wright, the director of instruction at Shady Oaks; or several others? I guess, if things don’t work out I can blame someone, but honestly I’m thankful. It’s amazing how life unfolds. Had I not taken the invitation, none of this would have happened. I wouldn’t have asked for the golf lesson on the same day from Mike and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so many things since then.

How did it even come up that professional golf might be a road you wanted to go on?

I played pretty well in that tournament and I just kind of thought I’d ask about a lesson and get someone to take a look at what I was doing. Mike kind of asked if I’d ever thought about playing more competitively. I kind of got bitten by the bug right there and went home to research how some of the girls I played junior golf with were faring. As I started to really look into it, I started to think about the seven or so years of post-graduate work I’d have to do and then after all that I’d have to start building a practice. When I laid all of it out, I just thought I might be mad at myself if I did all that and then wondered later how I might have done in golf.

Once I talked it through with Parker and made the call to give it a go, I talked to my parents and parents-in-law and they were all supportive. I felt bad, though, because my parents had paid for my undergraduate degree and now I was going to play golf. I guess I could have played college golf and let that pay for my education.

You’ve played for three seasons and now you have a spot on Big Break. Was it worth it?

It has been except I’ve struggled. I’ve spent a lot of money traveling and playing in tournaments and I’ve had some injuries that have kept me from giving Q-school a go. I just haven’t felt like I’ve been either healthy or playing well enough to go through that. When I found out about Big Break auditions, I thought that might be a real way for me test how good I could be.

Did the audition go well?

Well I thought it had, but in actuality, they asked me how much professional golf I had played. When I told them what my plans were and how I’d been held up by injuries and things, they actually said something along the lines that made me think I wouldn’t get picked. The physical part I did great in, but I told myself if I don’t get it, it’s because I hadn’t played enough. It’s one of those where they say thanks and if we don’t call you, well then, you know how it turned out. About three weeks later I got a second interview and the following week, they called to let me know I was in.

You filmed the show last October. How was the experience?

You know they have so many people out there, it’s just amazing how they make it look like we’re the only ones out there. I mean there are golf carts everywhere, every one of us is mic’d up and you can’t say anything without someone hearing it or recording it. You can’t even say anything under your breath without it being picked up. One thing I’m certain of, though, is that I don’t know how I could ever be nervous over a ball anymore. It’s hard to explain the feelings, the pressure, the nerves. I wanted all this to be about how I play the game and how my game stacks up. It’s different from a tournament because you’ve got 17 holes to recover if you make a mistake. But you can’t make a mistake out there or it’s over. And on top of that, everyone that is out there watching you, they’re all filming it for the millions that will eventually see it.

Did you make some new friends?

Well, any time you get 12 girls together in something like this, you’ve got different personalities and you’re going to have some drama. We had some. But I’m close with several of them and just returned from Haiti on a trip with Lindsay Aho. We went down to work with orphan kids. It’s a trip organized by New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson and his Orphan Ministry. So again, deciding to play golf opened up this opportunity also. It changed our lives. You really don’t know much about poverty and need until you make this trip.

How did the other girls feel about you in general and did your cast mates take you seriously?

I don’t know, I’ll guess we’ll find out.

Who won?

We’ll find out in about 12 weeks.

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