Local Golf Notes

Silvers’ secret turns out to be a real winner

Ex-USC golfer won reality show but couldn’t tell Ex-USC golfer won reality show but couldn’t tell

bspear@thestate.comDecember 23, 2012 

Imagine this challenge: one of the great moments of your life — a marriage proposal, the birth of a child, a promotion to CEO, whatever — will be revealed in six months, and you’re sworn to secrecy.

You cannot tell a soul — not your spouse, your best friend, no one — or the subject of your secret will be forfeited.

“Not being able to tell was awful,” said Mark Silvers, the former USC golfer who could reveal last week that he had won the top prize in the Golf Channel’s Big Break Greenbrier program. “People would ask, and I would just shake my head.”

The competitors held viewing parties for the series finale Tuesday night, and those gathered with Silvers in his native Savannah figured he had prevailed. But Silvers could not say until the program’s end, and James Lepp owned a 3-up lead after 13 holes in the match-play duel.

Back came Silvers, who played the final five holes five under par with one par, three birdies and an eagle. A 5-foot birdie putt on the 162-yard, par-3 finishing hole wrapped up the reality show championship.

“I had never faced anything like that, on camera and in all-or-nothing situations,” Silvers said of the taping that required 15 days in June. “The tee shot on the final hole was one of my best ever, and playing under pressure like that should be a big help, long-range, in my career.”

Silvers, who finished USC in 2009, needed a similar rally in the three-player semifinal after which the top two would play for the title. He made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, then parred the final hole with a 40-yard chip to within six inches.

“The (12-player) field was really strong,” he said. “James had the best resume; he made All-American four times (at Washington) and won twice on the Canadian pro tour.”

Silvers’ credentials were not shabby. He qualified for the 2010 U.S. Open, has accumulated 15 mini-tour wins, and this year finished third in earnings on the NGA Pro Series. He got his place in the Big Break program after interviews at a NGA tourney.

His father passed away shortly before the Big Break competition began.

“As soon as that last putt went in, the first thing I thought about is how proud Dad would have been,” Silvers said. “Dad told me that all he wanted to do was see me happy and doing what I want to do. I’m sure he has a big smile on his face.”

After the taping finished in mid-June, Silvers carried his secret through NGA events, then advanced to the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying school. He played steady golf in the six-round showdown, but his putting betrayed him. “I turned some 5-under rounds into 2-under, and that’s never good, especially at that level,” he said.

Silvers will begin 2013 with conditional status on the Web.com tour, another step up the pro golf ladder.

“Overall, I had a good year, but I didn’t always play as well as I would have liked, and obviously I would have liked to have qualified for the (2013) PGA Tour,” he said. “But all you can ask for is the opportunity, and I have that.”

Chip shots

Silvers joins Tommy Gainey, a current PGA Tour pro who lives in Camden, as players with South Carolina connections to win a Big Break competition....

The Carolinas Golf Association will receive the Tom Fazio Service to Golf award, and Rick Miller of Pawleys Island will be recognized with the Charlie Drawdy Distinguished Service award at the SCGA’s Golf Day on Jan. 5. The Members Club at Woodcreek and WideWood has been chosen Club of the Year. ...

Dustin Johnson (Columbia/Coastal Carolina) and Kyle Stanley (Clemson/Bluffton) will be among the eight participants in the Tyco Skills Challenge, which will be televised on NBC on Saturday and Sunday.

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