David Byrne is part of the new generation of Big Break contestants that grew up watching the popular golf reality show on the Golf Channel. Since the very first season of Big Break in 2003, David has watched the show with great interest, and aspired to become a contestant one day. Following an audition for which he drove 20+ hours to attend, he was finally selected as a contestant for Big Break Indian Wells. What happened next was a dream come true as he fought long odds and ten other determined players to win it all, taking home $70,000 in the process, and gaining an exemption into the 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans on the PGA Tour.
Growing up in Canada in the town of Essex, Ontario, David had a solid amateur career. He is a three-time Ontario Match Play Champion and also was the top-ranked amateur in Ontario in 2007. He earned a scholarship to the University of Detroit-Mercy, where he was 2010 Horizon League Player of the Year. He turned pro just prior to filming the Big Break and moved to Orlando soon after filming to work on his game. He now spends his days playing and practicing at Grand Cypress Resort. David and I played several times over the winter, usually with our good friend and Big Break Sandals Resorts champion Carling Coffing. I think his competitive nature, mental fortitude and solid all around game will translate to a bright pro career. We sat down with David just prior to the Big Break Indian Wells finale to ask him about golf and life.
ITG: Did your time on the Big Break differ from your expectations of the event?
David: Yes, absolutely it did. I expected to go there and meet these cut throat individuals. But I met my 10 newest best friends. They were just such an amazing group of individuals. I also never understood the time in between shots and how difficult being a participant really is. Also the job the golf channel does on thinking of every possible situation and scenario. My expectations were blown out of the water.
ITG: What did you expect and what surprised you about your time in Indian Wells?
David: I expected to go on the show, go through the experience and get on with my life and never hear from people again.. I have stayed in contact with pretty much everyone from the show. I was just so surprised about how long everything took, and how the lighting needed to be just right ( I had a rough time on promo days) and how great we were treated. Win, lose or draw it was a dream opportunity. I mean, lets get serious being a part of your favourite TV show that is also on the golf channel… being a golfer! Just about everything surprised me to be honest.
ITG: How long have you been playing golf, and how did you get your start?
David: I have been playing golf since I was about 8. My mom got me involved but my Uncle Matt (who can still probably beat me) got me involved in the Jr. Adult program out at what is still my home course Sutton Creek. I tried to emulate him and he is so well liked and well spoken I always looked up to him on the golf course. After that, my mom did everything and took me to all my tournaments and made a ton of sacrifices. She did A LOT of work. I didn’t take golf all that seriously until I stopped growing and people could finally catch me on the ice. My dog is named after a hockey player…not a golfer (Pavel Bure)
When did you know you wanted to be a professional golfer?
David: It is always a dream when you continue to improve but oddly enough the moment was when I got DQ’ed at the Glencoe Invitational after I was leading by four. 16 of us got DQ for hitting from the wrong tees ( yup we were 16.. still a sore spot). I won the Ontario Match Play for the 3rd year in a row and the Ontario Champion of Champions earlier in the year and this was one of the best fields in Canada. So to knew I could win. (or lead – should have won) It made me think I can take this to the next level.
ITG: What can you tell people about the Big Break experience that we may not know from watching it on TV?
David: The amount of time in between shots. The first day I was last to hit and it was about 3.5 to 4 hours from the range to hit my wedge shot. We are also mic’d up from about 5:00am to 10:00pm until our interviews at night are done. It is a really long day and very mentally taxing.
ITG: How has being on the Big Break changed your career?
David: It has just been humourous. People come up to me and say ‘Wow, David Byrne – Big Break?’ and want my autograph. Of course I ask them if they are sure. Because after all I am just a guy from Essex, Ontario who is a fan of the show myself. I can’t say it has changed my career more so than jump started it. I went from being a known amateur in Ontario to a known golfer from his favourite TV show.
ITG: How many professional events do you plan to play this year, and do you also plan to try PGA Tour Qualifying School?
David: I want to play in as much as possible. Obviously with that being said, I need the finances to do so. I would like to do PGA Tour Q school if I can get the finances. I also want to do European tour Q school. I grew up watch the Euro tour on the golf channel weekend mornings. I think it would be amazing to travel the world and play golf. It’s funny, I won $70,000, but after taxes, student loans and maybe a car that is better than 4 wheels and a speed bump to get the air conditioner to kick in, I won’t really see too much of that money. I NEED HELP!!
ITG: How difficult is it financially, physically and mentally to play professional golf?
David: After going through the Big Break and I stand on the 1st tee I look at mini tour guys and even though there are plenty that are better than me, I see how nervous they are and I think to myself “these poor guys, they don’t know what pressure really is.” Being on the Big Break taught me a lot about myself mentally. Being patient and always fighting. The financial burden is something I have always dealt with and when I play for money my mental ability to just get it done and focus is one of the best I think. Never coming from an abundance of money, I realize the true value of a dollar and I think that is what will help me succeed. As for physical – I’m 5’6” ( I can get to about 5’8” if the person I am talking to doesn’t know me) haha… I need to put on weight. I am about 130 lbs and hit it about 280 or 290 off the tee. Just imagine what I can do with 30 extra LBS!!
ITG: How much time do you spend practicing/working out in a typical week?
David: I like to think I am a very hard worker. Always have been and always will. I can’t say I have a strict routine. I played with Chad Campbell once and asked him what advice he would have for a guy who is trying to make it and his answer was “Practice 14 hours a day, practice 2 hours a day, don’t hit balls, hit lots of balls. There is no formula for success. Everyone is different.” I do as much as the body can handle. I feel some time off is underrated. I like to do a good job of balancing both golf and rest. Especially since the heat can knock it out of ya.
ITG: What do you like to do when you aren’t playing golf?
David: I like to watch golf on tv! Haha. I am also a reality tv junkie (whoops..) Yes, I watch Teen Mom, 16 and pregnant, Love in the Wild, Bachelor, Bachelorette, The Challenge, Buried Life, World of Jenks, Survivor, Big Brother, Biggest loser, Expedition Impossible even Temptation Island when I was about 13, Keeping up with the Kardashians..… oh and some Big Break show… thank God for DVR!
ITG: Can you tell us something funny and/or interesting about you that most people don’t know?
David: Trying to answer this I turned to my girlfriend and she laughed. This is what she thinks.. I mark my golf balls Using “GEM” not gem… it stand for Grandma, Erin (girlfriend) and Mom. I also make the best scorecards. Seriously. No you don’t understand. They are the best!! haha I color code them. Red – birdie and circle, green for par. Black –bogey and square. Orange – Eagle and triangle. Blue – double and double square… I used to be a scorekeeper for hockey.. and my games heets were a template for Ontario.. I take pride in my penmanship.
ITG: Do you have a website or fan page people can go to follow you?
David: I have a facebook Page. David Byrne Golf and David_Byrne87 on twitter. I have thought about starting up my blog again. I try to respond to everyone. Love to hear people’s comments.
What advice can you give to young people who want to follow in your footsteps and become a professional golfer?
David: Just keep on working hard and sometimes you do get a “break.” I have heard a few good things throughout this journey. Good things happen to good people, and as Russell Normandin from BBIW put it. Tough times don’t last but tough people do. All of us on the show seemed to really embrace that line.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your golf career?
David: I would say that my mom has had the biggest impact just because she did so much for me growing up and giving me the opportunity to play golf. I feel that my venture into pro golf and my success on the show (and hopefully after the show) is a direct result of my first golf coach Luke LaFave. He keeps me pretty calm and knows my golf swing and I will NOT trust anyone else to look at it. Until he gets tired of working with me I truly believe in what we are doing and my success in golf from here on out will all be because of him and what we have been working on. I have an amazing support system and so many people who have helped me and believe in me. Someone told me yesterday that me winning the Big Break is the biggest thing to happen to Essex, Ontario in a while!
If you could play golf with anyone – past or present – who would be in your foursome? What course would you play?
David: I will truly show my long-windedness in this answer… I love this question! My foursome would be Graeme McDowell, Tiger Woods and Donald Trump… I also would be interested in playing with Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. The reality of it is I have my 4 some at home in Essex. I can honestly say I have never played around of golf and not been in tears because of laughter. My foursome of James Patterson, Rob Mackay and Jeremy Romiens (Link) is a great time. All golfers need to play with these clowns! Hahah. They keep me very, very grounded.. If I hit a wedge to 10 feet.. I will hear that the shot was “Nationwide quality, not PGA.. Step it up kid” hahaha. As for the golf course, I am a big fan of Lake Joseph Golf Club in Northern Ontario (where I won 3 Ontario Match Play Championships). Obviously Augusta and St. Andrews would be bucket list. Being on Big Break was a bucket list thing, so was winning it. So if G Mac, Donald Trump or Tiger Woods reads this, I wouldn’t mind crossing off one more thing! hahah
ITG: If you could change any rule in golf, what rule would you change and why?
David: There are so many stupid rules in golf. I would say the ball ending up in a divot in the fairway or when the wind blows your ball and you get a stroke penalty (Webb Simpson at some Zurich Classic thing… maybe I will ask him about it in person! Haha)
ITG: What’s the strength of your game? And where do you feel you need to improve?
David: I feel the strength of my game is the ability to get the ball in the hole. I am scrappy. It doesn’t look pretty that often, but I get it done. I always said I am a decent putter inside 10 feet. I need to improve the most is those little wedge spinners and chipping. I used to be great at both but I have worked on my swing so much since the culmination of the final show, my practice needs to get back to focusing on that.
ITG: What’s on your iPod right now?
David: I have about 3,000 songs downloaded. BUT – I am from Essex and Detroit. The 3-1-3. I love my Eminem. I also am a big fan of The Script (An Irish band – hoping Rory, G Mac and Darren listen to them too, maybe it will send me good vibes) Oh I also listen to Katy Perry, lots of Pop. While I do like Bieber, I do not have Bieber Fever! haha
ITG: When I become a PGA Tour star, I’m going to ______
David: Take care of everyone who helped me and do lots of mission trips to places like South Africa and other 3rd world countries. I went to South Africa not long ago and I love the people (especially my south African family – Attie, Walda, Tanya, Promise and Vusi) and I can’t see how there is any other feeling better than giving back to those in need and impacting people’s lives, kind of like the golf channel did to me…
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