ORLANDO, Fla. -- In 2003, Brian Kontak wanted the opportunity to qualify for the United States Women's Open after Annika Sorenstam competed in a PGA TOUR event. It never happened. Now, after winning GOLF CHANNEL's "Big Break: Mesquite," he will be the one playing in a PGA Tour event.
Kontak, 35, of Phoenix, Ariz., defeated Josh Warthen of Arroyo Grande, Calif., 6 and 4 in the 18-hole match play "Big Break: Mesquite" finale on Tuesday to earn an exemption to the 2008 Mayakoba Golf Classic, Feb. 18-24, on the PGA Tour. In addition, he gained an Adams Golf endorsement contract which includes $10,000 cash and both $5,000 in cash and a $5,000 shopping spree from Dick's Sporting Goods. Finally, he won a new 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible.
"I think it's pretty cool," said Kontak following his victory. "To come out on top with these great players, man I couldn't be happier."
What Kontak did was school the inexperienced Warthen. Having never trailed during the match, Kontak was 6-up at the turn and closed out the match on the par-4 14th hole on the Palmer Course at the Oasis Golf Club in Mesquite, Nev.
The truth is Kontak has the talent to play on any tour in golf. Besides his victory in "Big Break: Mesquite," he tied for 17th in the 1999 Tucson Open on the PGA Tour and placed fourth in the 1997 Nationwide Tour Permian Basin Charity Golf Classic. He also won the 1999 Canadian Tour Order of Merit, and in 2007 was one of the top players on the Gateway Tour, recording three victories and finishing fourth on the money list.
Not one to shy away from conflict, Kontak has an attitude and a sense of humor that has friends calling him "Brian Conflict."
"If saying what I think all the time makes me a trouble maker, than yeah I guess I'm a trouble maker," said Kontak, a fanatical Ohio State football follower. "I'm not a fan of people who are one way to you and another way behind your back."
That attitude made him a focal point in the argument for gender equity in sports. According to Kontak, what started off as mostly a joke about attempting to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open turned into a story that took on a life of its own.
"I wasn't trying to impress anyone, said Kontak. "My whole deal is equality. If we're going to be equal, then let's all be equal. It just got blown way out of proportion. A lot of people misconstrued it as I wanted to play on the LPGA Tour."
Seemingly, his biggest challenge of the series was making it to the set of "Big Break: Mesquite." One month prior to the start of filming, his wife, Karen, gave birth to the couple's second child. He says that being a father and husband he keeps a picture of his kids in his golf bag is the most important thing in his life, and considered not playing. In the end, however, he decided the opportunity was too good to pass and competed in the show with his wife's blessing.
Warthen was living by prayer early in the series and hoped to finish it off by fulfilling a dream. The least experienced player in the field survived by escaping elimination in the first episode and became a force as his confidence grew. The show was quite a ride for someone who did not turn professional until 2006.
His professional career got off to a great start last October when he won the first event he played on the California Players Tour. He still plays the circuit and has continued practicing to make the most of both his talent and life.
Warthen has a bright career ahead of him, but after winning "Big Break: Mesquite," Kontak's future is to play with the big boys on tour.
Filmed in Mesquite, Nev., the "Big Break: Mesquite" concept showcases highly skilled golfers competing against each other in a variety of challenges that test their physical skills and mental toughness, with the ultimate winner awarded his/her "Big Break," a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in select professional tournaments and other career-building prizes.
For additional information, please contact Mark Mitchell, GOLF CHANNEL Public Relations, at 407-355-4063, or firstname.lastname@example.org