ORLANDO, Fla. -- This fall, 12 professional golfers will journey to the Emerald Isle to win the hope of putting their careers on the fast track when Golf Channel's popular Big Break series returns for its 16th season.
Big Break Ireland, premiering Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. ET, will feature an international cast of six men and six women competing against each other in an attempt to make their lifelong dreams of playing alongside the world's top golfers a reality. Filmed at The K Club in Kildare, Ireland, the ultimate male or female winner will be awarded two exemptions from the four exemptions up for grabs - which represent events on the LPGA Tour, European Tour and Ladies European Tour - among other prizes.
One of the tournament exemptions will be the European Tour's 2012 Irish Open. This year's tournament, contested this week at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, will include Waterville, Ireland, native and Big Break Ireland contestant Mark Murphy, who is competing this week on a sponsor's exemption.
The competitors on Big Break Ireland are:
Mallory Blackwelder (24, Versailles, Ky.) - One of the more experienced competitors on Big Break Ireland, Blackwelder is the daughter of 13-year LPGA Tour veteran Myra Blackwelder and professional caddie Worth Blackwelder. After traveling worldwide with the Ladies European Tour in 2010, Mallory is competing full time on the LPGA Futures Tour in 2011.
Annie Brophy (24, Spokane, Wash.) - A rookie on the LPGA Futures Tour and a proud alum from the University of Notre Dame, Brophy is looking to capture the "Luck of the Irish" on Big Break Ireland.
Joe Campbell (23, Cheltenham, England / Charlotte, N.C.) - The youngest competitor on the series, Campbell also is the longest hitter off the tee. He currently works at Carolina Golf Club, saving up money for mini-tour events in 2011.
Kelly Jacques (25, Thornton, Colo.) - Jacques made her return to competitive golf in 2011 after taking time away from the game following graduation at the University of Oklahoma. Currently competing on a limited schedule on the LPGA Futures Tour, Jacques has a new, fresh outlook on the game and on life.
Bennett Maki (26, Orlando, Fla.) - Unlike a lot of his playing competitors on Big Break Ireland, Maki is starting his professional golf career. A model and actor, Maki has appeared on numerous commercials that have aired on Golf Channel, which has served as a supplemental source of income to achieving his lifelong dream of competing on the PGA TOUR.
Matt Melrose (27, Mulanje Malawi / Scottsdale, Ariz.) - A veteran of several mini tours and the Gateway Tour, Melrose is competing on Big Break Ireland without ever having watched a previous series.
Mark Murphy (34, Waterville, Ireland / New Orleans, La.) - An Ireland native, Murphy grew up four hours south of The K Club in Waterville. Currently residing in New Orleans, La., Murphy's dream of playing on the PGA TOUR is still alive, although the results as a professional golfer have not come to fruition like he hoped. A former caddie for Rocco Mediate, Murphy is competing in the 2011 Irish Open this week on a sponsor's exemption.
Nicole Smith (24, Riverside, Calif.) - Currently living out of her car, Smith is competing full-time on the LPGA Futures Tour. The proud alum from the University of Tennessee is looking to follow in the footsteps of Big Break Sandals Resorts competitor Ryann O'Toole, her close friend and travel companion on Tour.
Julien Trudeau (30, Montreal, Quebec / Phoenix, Ariz.) - The lone Canadian on Big Break Ireland, Trudeau is looking to continue the recent success Canadians have had on Big Break. A veteran of several mini tours in the U.S. and Canada, Trudeau was ready to walk away from the game when a friend suggested he audition for Big Break and give professional golf one more try.
Andy Walker (36, Phoenix, Ariz.) - A veteran of several professional golf tours, Walker has yet to have that breakthrough year in professional golf. In addition to competing on the professional circuits, he also is a professional golf instructor, assistant golf coach at South Mountain Community College and a founding partner of the Joyner-Walker Foundation with former NFL great Seth Joyner.
Whitney Wright (26, Greenville, S.C.) - Girlfriend of Big Break Indian Wells competitor Robbie Biershenk, Wright is competing on the LPGA Futures Tour and supplements her income by competing in charitable competitions on the golf course.
Golf Channel's Tom Abbott and Stephanie Sparks return as co-hosts for the series.
The Big Break show concept pits highly skilled golfers against each other in a variety of challenges that test their physical skills and mental toughness. During Big Break Ireland, one contestant will be eliminated each week, with the last person standing crowned Big Break champion.
Filmed in May at The K Club in Kildare, Ireland, Big Break Ireland will unfold on the resort's two championship golf courses - the Palmer Smurfit Course and the Palmer Ryder Cup Course. In addition to hosting the 2006 Ryder Cup, The K Club also has hosted 13 European Opens on the European Tour.
Past Big Break champions have won tournament exemptions to compete on some of the world's top professional circuits, including the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour, European Tour, LPGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and Canadian Tour. Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, Big Break VII: Reunion champion and PGA TOUR professional, caught the world's attention in early 2011 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after leading the first three rounds of the tournament, finishing T8. Most recently, Ryann O'Toole, competitor on Big Break Sandals Resorts in 2010 and a current rookie on the LPGA Tour, earned her first top-10 finish at a major championship, finishing T9 at the U.S. Women's Open.
Several other past Big Break competitors are currently competing on the world's top tours, including Matt Every (PGA TOUR), James Nitties (Nationwide Tour), Kim Welch (Ladies European Tour) and Sara Brown, Gerina Mendoza, O'Toole and 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup Team member Kristy McPherson all competing on the LPGA Tour.
For more information contact: