Golf | Taylor Collins

‘Big Break’ gives Doral’s Taylor Collins big ticket to LPGA debut


Taylor Collins’ triumph on ‘Big Break Mexico’ earned the Doral woman a shot on another big stage in November, when she will make her LPGA debut.

Special to The Miami Herald

Collins eyeing LPGA debut

Taylor Collins was sworn to secrecy, and she obeyed the command.

Collins, a 24-year-old Doral native, had competed in Golf Channel’s competition-based reality show Big Break Mexico in January and February.

Not even her parents knew Collins had won the 16-player competition — one golfer is eliminated each week, with only the champion remaining — until it was televised on July 29.

“By that time, my parents were out of the country on vacation,” said Collins, who starred at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas and Nova Southeastern University. “I ended up watching the finale by myself.”

Collins, who plays in the developmental Symetra Tour, won $50,000 in cash plus another $50,000 in prizes.

“For once, I’m not broke,” said Collins, who lives with her parents in Davie. “I don’t have to ask my mom for money for the movies.”

But Collins said the biggest prize she won wasn’t the cash — it was an exemption to the Nov. 14-17 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico, which will be her first LPGA event.

Collins earned that right by beating Tampa’s Matthew Galloway in the Big Break Mexico finale — 18 holes of match play. This was the 19th season of the show, and it was the first time a woman beat a man in an 18-hole finale.

“It was more fun to beat a guy,” said Collins of the competition, which started with eight men and eight women and eliminated contestants each week based on different golf challenges.

“It’s cool to know that I’m the first girl to do it, but I’ve grown up around guys. I’m pretty comfortable competing against them.”

Keeping her secret was in some ways harder than winning.

“It was pretty difficult,” Collins said. “When you hadn’t been playing good golf [on the Symetra Tour] and then you win Big Break, I kind of wanted to tell people.”

Her family, friends and fans all know now. She received roughly 100 text messages on the night the finale aired. One of the messages was from Lorena Ochoa, the former top-ranked women’s player in the world and the namesake of the tournament Collins will compete in this fall.

“It took me hours to respond to everyone,” Collins said. “I don’t want to be rude. I appreciate everyone who supported me.”

High on that list are her mother and father, Mimi and Keyron, who called from Mexico when they found out she had won.

“They called me with a bunch of friends, and they were all screaming and crying,” Collins said. “I couldn’t understand a word they were saying.”

Keyron said he, his wife and their friends had a great party that night and added that he admires his daughter for never giving up the secret.

“She has a great poker face,” he said. “She never even gave us a twinkle in her eyes.”

Keyron, a teaching golf pro, said she got her start in the game by following him around the course.

Wanting to improve his knowledge of the game, Keyron met with different instructors until he came upon Boca Raton resident Bob Toski, a former pro golfer who was the leading money winner on the PGA Tour in 1954 and played on the Senior Tour (now Champions Tour) in the 1980s.

“My dad would bring me out to the course as a kid, and I just stayed quiet and watched, but that’s how I learned,” Collins said. “If you see my swing, you see Bob’s. I’m like a replica of him.”

Keyron said he met Toski eight years before his daughter was born.

“She’s been groomed for [golf],” he said. “We put her in soccer so she could train her feet and baseball so she could train her hands.”

Toski, who has written several golf books, was an analyst for NBC Sports and was inducted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame, said Collins has “unbelievable” competitive instincts.

“She’s only 5-1, 115 pounds, but she won’t back down against anyone,” said Toski, who still teaches golf at age 86. “She hits it long for a little girl [about 250 yards]. She gets more out of her body, pound for pound, than any girl I know of.”

Added Keyron: “If you are good enough, you are big enough. The golf ball doesn’t know how big you are or how old you are.”

Collins said she gets her athleticism from her childhood days as a self-described “tomboy.” She would play all kinds of sports, including street hockey with her older brother Ryan, 25. She also played point guard for St. Thomas Aquinas, hoisting three-pointers with regularity.

But while Ryan only played golf through high school, Collins took it further, winning three Division II national team championships and one individual national title during a stellar career at Nova.

Making a living at golf hasn’t been nearly as easy for Collins, who turned pro in 2011 and estimates she spends 15 hours per day on the sport. That includes working out, practicing, reading about golf and watching it on TV.

“I’m obsessed with golf,” Collins said.

Her love of the game was put to the test on Big Break as contestants got little rest. They got up each day at 4:30 a.m. so they could get filmed having breakfast. From there, it was a full day on the golf course and then recap-type interviews that often lasted until midnight.

Winning made it all worthwhile for Collins, who supplements her Symetra Tour earnings with work as a substitute teacher and a junior golf rules official. She is also entering her third year as Aquinas’ golf coach.

But her main focus is preparing for her LPGA debut in November.

“Playing an LPGA event is a dream,” Collins said. “I wanted that exemption so bad. This is one of the best tournaments to play because they invite the world’s 36 best players. I’m the odd [woman] out.”

Collins said she looks forward to talking to the veteran players and watching how they prepare.

Toski advised Collins to get to the Guadalajara Country Club three or four days early so she can study the layout.

“She will see a golf course she won’t believe,” Toski said. “It’s more like a big obstacle course with changes in elevations and contours. She’s used to playing flat courses. This one is like Mount Vesuvius.”

Toski said Collins’ biggest weakness is her bunker play. Her putting has improved. In fact, she has never putted as well as she did on Big Break.

“The doors are wide open for her now,” Toski said. “She should make the [LPGA] Tour. She’s attractive, and she knows how to use the camera. If she works hard, she is going to make a lot of money.”

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  • PGA European - Italian Open Preview

    Thursday, August 28th through Sunday, August 31st Course Info Site: Circolo Golf Torino, Fiano, Torino, Italy Course Architect: John Morrison (1956), Graham Cooke and Mario Croze -redesign Par: 72 Yardage: 7,208 Hole by Hole Front Nine: 36 3,555 Yds 1 - Par 5 511 Yds 2 - Par 4 414 Yds 3 - Par 4 412 Yds 4 - Par 4 423 Yds 5 - Par 3 178 Yds 6 - Par 4 466 Yds 7 - Par 4 398 Yds 8 - Par 3 195 Yds 9 - Par 5 558 Yds Back Nine: 36 3,653 Yds 10 - Par 4 427 Yds 11 - Par 4 427 Yds 12 - Par 5 531 Yds 13 - Par 3 186 Yds 14 - Par 4 371 Yds 15 - Par 5 593 Yds 16 - Par 3 220 Yds 17 - Par 4 465 Yds 18 - Par 4 433 Yds Tournament Info Year: 71st Television: Golf Channel - Thursday -- 5:30-7:30 a.m. (et), -- 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (et), - Friday -- 6-7:30 a.m. (et), 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. (et), - Saturday -- 7-11 a.m. (et), - Sunday -- 7-11:30 a.m. (et) Champion: Julien Quesne Runner Up: Steve Webster, David Higgins Tournament Record: 262 (Peter Alliss, 1935) 54-Hole Record: 194 (Hennie Otto, 2008) 36-Hole Record: 128 (Ian Poulter, 2002) Course Record: 66 (Romain Wattel and Scott Hend, 2013) Total Purse: $1,975,292 (1,500,000 euros) Shares: 2013 Final Leaderboard Julien Quesne 276 Steve Webster 277 David Higgins 277 Fredrik Andersson Hed 278 Nicolas Colsaerts 278 Felipe Aguilar 278 Emiliano Grillo 278 Six players at 279 Past Winners 2013: Julien Quesne (276). Runner up: Steve Webster, David Higgins 2012: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (264). Runner up: Garth Mulroy 2011: Robert Rock (267). Runner up: Gary Boyd, Thorbjorn Olesen 2010: Fredrik Andersson Hed (272). Runner up: David Horsey 2009: Daniel Vancsik (267). Runner up: Raphael Jacquelin, John Daly, Robert Rock 2008: Hennie Otto (263). Runner up: Oliver Wilson 2007: *#Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (200). Runner up: Markus Brier 2006: Francesco Molinari (265). Runner up: Anders Hansen, Jarmo Sandelin 2005: Steve Webster (270). Runner up: Anders Hansen, Bradley Dredge, Richard Finch 2004: *#Graeme McDowell (197). Runner up: Thomas Levet 2003: Mathias Gronberg (271). Runner up: Jose Manuel Lara, Colin Montgomerie, Ricardo Gonzalez 2002: #Ian Poulter (197). Runner up: Paul Lawrie 2001: Gregory Havret (268). Runner up: Bradley Dredge 2000: Ian Poulter (267). Runner up: Gordon Brand, Jr. 1999: Dean Robertson (271). Runner up: Padraig Harrington 1998: #Patrik Sjoland (195). Runner up: Jose Maria Olazabal, Joakim Haeggman 1997: Bernhard Langer (273). Runner up: Jose Maria Olazabal 1996: Jim Payne (275). Runner up: Patrik Sjoland 1995: Sam Torrance (269). Runner up: Jose Rivero 1994: Eduardo Romero (272). Runner up: Greg Turner 1993: Greg Turner (267). Runner up: Jose Coceres 1992: Sandy Lyle (270). Runner up: Colin Montgomerie 1991: Craig Parry (279). Runner up: Ian Woosnam 1990: Richard Boxall (267). Runner up: Jose Maria Olazabal 1989: Ronan Rafferty (273). Runner up: Sam Torrance 1988: Greg Norman (270). Runner up: Craig Parry 1987: *Sam Torrance (271). Runner up: Jose Rivero 1986: *David Feherty (270). Runner up: Ronan Rafferty 1985: Manuel Pinero (267). Runner up: Sam Torrance 1984: Sandy Lyle (277). Runner up: Bobby Clampett 1983: *Bernhard Langer (271). Runner up: Seve Ballesteros, Ken Brown 1982: Mark James (280). Runner up: Ian Woosnam, Bobby Clampett 1981: *Jose Maria Canizares (280). Runner up: Bobby Clampett 1980: Massimo Mannelli (276). Runner up: John Bland, Ken Brown 1979: Brian Barnes (281). Runner up: Dale Hayes 1978: Dale Hayes (293). Runner up: Tommy Horton, Vin Baker 1977: Angel Gallardo (286). Runner up: Brian Barnes 1976: Baldovino Dassu (280). Runner up: Carl Mason, Manuel Pinero 1975: Billy Casper (286). Runner up: Brian Barnes 1974: Peter Oosterhuis (249). Runner up: Dale Hayes, Johnny Miller 1973: Tony Jacklin (284). Runner up: Valentin Barrios 1972: Norman Wood (271). Runner up: Brian Huggett 1971: Ramon Sota (282). Runner up: Brian Barnes 1970: Not Held. Runner up: 1969: Not Held. Runner up: 1968: Not Held. Runner up: 1967: Not Held. Runner up: 1966: Not Held. Runner up: 1965: Not Held. Runner up: 1964: Not Held. Runner up: 1963: Not Held. Runner up: 1962: Not Held. Runner up: 1961: Not Held. Runner up: 1960: B.Wilkes (285). Runner up: Aldo Casera 1959: Peter Thomson (269). Runner up: A. Angelini 1958: Peter Alliss (282). Runner up: A. Angelini 1957: Harold Henning (273). Runner up: R. Cotton 1956: A.Cerda (284). Runner up: Flora van Donck 1955: Flora van Donck (287) - H. DeLamaze. Runner up: 1954: Ugo Grappasonni (272). Runner up: J. Jacobs 1953: Flora van Donck (267). Runner up: L. Faulkner 1952: E.Brown (273). Runner up: D. Rees 1951: J.Adams (289). Runner up: E. Brown, A. Angelini 1950: Ugo Grappasonni (281). Runner up: A. Angelini 1949: H.Hassanein (263). Runner up: Aldo Casera 1948: Aldo Casera (267). Runner up: P. Manca, Ugo Grappasonni 1947: Flory Van Donck (263). Runner up: Aldo Casera 1946: Not Held. Runner up: 1945: Not Held. Runner up: 1944: Not Held. Runner up: 1943: Not Held. Runner up: 1942: Not Held. Runner up: 1941: Not Held. Runner up: 1940: Not Held. Runner up: 1939: Not Held. Runner up: 1938: Flory van Donck (276). Runner up: P. Travaini 1937: M.Dallegagne (276). Runner up: Auguste Boyer 1936: Henry Cotton (268). Runner up: J. Ezar 1935: Peter Alliss (262). Runner up: Auguste Boyer 1934: N.Nutley (132). Runner up: Gonzales 1933: Not Held. Runner up: 1932: A.Boomer (143). Runner up: Auguste Boyer 1931: Auguste Boyer (141). Runner up: R. Golias 1930: Auguste Boyer (140). Runner up: A. Dallemagne 1929: R.Golias (143). Runner up: Auguste Boyer 1928: Auguste Boyer (145). Runner up: Loth 1927: Peter Alliss (145). Runner up: M. Dallemagne 1926: Auguste Boyer (147). Runner up: A. Ross 1925: Francesco Pasquali (154). Runner up: W.H. Jolly * - Won in Playoff # - Rain Shortened Formerly called BMW Italian Open (2009-12), Methorios Capital Italian Open (2008), Telecom Italia Open (2002-07), Atlanet Italian Open (2001), Fiat & Fila Italian Open (1999), Conte of Florence Italian Open (1996), Tisettanta Italian Open (1994), Lancia-Martini Italian Open (1990-93), Lancia Italian Open (1987-89), Italian Open (1971-86, 95, 98, 2000). Top Contenders Julien Quesne 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: mc 2011: 2012: mc 2013: Won Steve Webster 2004: 2005: Won 2006: mc 2007: mc 2008: T-23 2009: 2010: T-46 2011: T-33 2012: T-57 2013: T-2 David Higgins 2004: 2005: 2006: mc 2007: mc 2008: 2009: 2010: 2011: 2012: 2013: T-2 Nicolas Colsaerts 2004: mc 2005: T-32 2006: T-12 2007: T-30 2008: 2009: 2010: T-3 2011: 2012: T-5 2013: T-4 F. Andersson Hed 2004: T-28 2005: mc 2006: 2007: T-3 2008: mc 2009: T-54 2010: Won 2011: T-15 2012: T-35 2013: T-4 Hennie Otto 2004: 2005: mc 2006: T-33 2007: 2008: Won 2009: mc 2010: T-7 2011: T-46 2012: T-22 2013: T-8 Francesco Molinari 2004: T-13 2005: T-17 2006: Won 2007: T-3 2008: mc 2009: T-6 2010: 2011: T-8 2012: T-46 2013: T-16 Matteo Manassero 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: T-25 2010: T-29 2011: T-8 2012: T-3 2013: T-42 Gregory Bourdy 2004: 2005: T-60 2006: T-33 2007: T-60 2008: T-30 2009: 2010: T-22 2011: T-11 2012: T-3 2013: T-42 Simon Dyson 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: wd 2011: 2012: 2013: T-47 Mathias Gronberg 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: T-42 2010: 2011: 2012: mc 2013: T-66 Jose M. Olazabal 2004: mc 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: 2011: 2012: T-63 2013: 70th R. Cabrera Bello 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: T-56 2008: T-51 2009: 2010: mc 2011: T-67 2012: 9th 2013: mc Robert Rock 2004: T-48 2005: T-37 2006: mc 2007: T-56 2008: T-51 2009: T-2 2010: T-17 2011: Won 2012: T-46 2013: mc Joost Luiten 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: T-32 2011: 5th 2012: mc 2013: Stephen Gallacher 2004: T-48 2005: T-70 2006: 2007: 2008: mc 2009: mc 2010: mc 2011: 2012: 2013: NOTES: One of the most storied events on the European Tour schedule, the Italian Open takes center stage this week. This tournament dates back to 1925. Some of the European Tour's best are in the United States competing in the PGA Tour Playoffs. However, three of the top 50 players in the world are in the field - Stephen Gallacher (34), Italian Francesco Molinari (44) and Joost Luiten (50).

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