Note: Being one of my all-time favorite student-athletes to work with, and easily the most quotable I’ve ever worked with, I figured the best way to write about Emily Talley’s adventure on Big Break NFL was to let her do it herself, thus it’s a Q&A. Enjoy. – Curtis Snyder, Associate SID.
BOULDER—Fresh off her amazing win alongside teammates Jerry Rice and Isaac Sanchez on Big Break NFL with the season finale airing on the Golf Channel Tuesday night, former CU All-American Emily Talley was kind enough to stop by for a Q&A about the show, to recap her 2013 season and find out what she’s looking forward to in what will be a busy 2014.
Talley was on two seasons of Big Break in 2013, first Big Break Mexico where she was the first one eliminated, making her performance on Big Break NFL that much more satisfying for her fans. With the help of CU coach Anne Kelly and her boyfriend, CU Nordic skier Andreas Hoye, the two had a watch party for the finale at Fate Brewing Company in Boulder last night.
CS: Was it harder keeping this one a secret knowing you won?
ET: “I think with Big Break Mexico, it was a little embarrassing being the first one kicked off the show, so you don’t want to get people’s hopes up. I wasn’t going to have any viewing parties; it wasn’t great golf, any of that stuff. For Big Break NFL, we filmed it the first two weeks of June, so it’s been six months, that’s a long time to keep a secret.
“I told Andreas right away and my parents, to see if they wanted to have watch parties and that kind of thing. This was a tough secret to keep, especially with Jerry Rice and Isaac, but it was a fun secret to keep. A lot of people tried to get it out of me. People would say ‘Congrats!’ and I would say ‘About what?’ and I could tell they were seeing if I’d slip up. It was just a hard but fun secret to keep.”
CS: Are you relieved now that it’s over?
ET: “As of last night, my Big Break run is over. Normally it’s two and done, I’ve done my two, and it’s over and it was a blast. It’s been a year since I found out I was going to be on the first one, it’s been a fun and wild ride.”
CS: Last year around this time we were talking about how good 2012 was for you, was 2013 better?
ET: “Yeah 2012 with graduation, being and All-American, going through Q-School and finding out I was going to be on Big Break, that was spectacular. This year, two Big Breaks, I was top 50 on the Symetra Tour money list; I get my Symetra Tour card again. Then meeting Isaac and Jerry, they are the two best teammates ever. This was a great year.”
CS: Team Rice came across as the closest team on the show in my opinion, what was it like in reality?
ET: “We definitely had some chemistry. I talked to Jerry last night, I talked to Isaac last night; I texted them both today already. We shared a really special day with Jerry at Jerry Rice Appreciation Day when the 49ers played St. Louis on Dec. 1. He extended us that invitation and still thanks us for being a part of that. That was the most amazing day for us. I feel like I have lifelong friends from this.”
CS: Team Rice had the first or second strike on the show, what was it like having to deal with that the rest of the way?
ET: “We filmed the entire show in 11 consecutive days and on Day 2 we have a loss and if we want to get to get to the finals, we have to make a run for eight straight days and not lose. I look back on it now and am thankful it played out in our favor, but our odds weren’t looking good in the beginning.
“Maybe in the end knowing what a loss felt like helped us. But Team Doleman was able to stay away from the losses throughout the show and they had gone to a lot of strike challenges and were able to come out clean, so that could’ve played to their favor, too, they knew how to not lose. Fortunately, in the end, we did it.”
CS: What was your favorite moment with each of your teammates?
ET: “What I remember from Isaac was his amazing golf in the semifinals. Jerry and I were sitting on the bench, it was so emotional. Jerry’s quote was always ‘This is the Big Break NFL, you never know what’s going to happen.’ He had these spurts of wisdom, he was really into it. That’s what I remember most about Jerry, he was always in the moment and he wanted to do his part, play well and be part of something great. He had such a great respect for Isaac and he wanted to help him succeed in any way. You saw this great side of the most decorated athlete out there. That was really humbling, to see somebody who has accomplished so much that still wanted to give back and help others. He helped both of us, that was awesome.”
CS: This season of Big Break opens, you find out you’re going to play with an NFL player and then you’re last in line to find out who it is, what was going through your head?
ET: “Well, we were the last team, we were wearing red. In my head I was thinking it was weird. Maybe it’s weird of me to think, but I know the Golf Channel people liked me and I thought they wanted me to be prominent in the show, I thought I was somebody they could market pretty well. Then they put me in last place, I thought maybe they didn’t like me anymore.
“They started naming the NFL guys, and Isaac is elbowing me, he said ‘Emily, we’re both from Northern California, we’re both wearing red, we’re 49er fans, we’re going last. We are going to get Jerry.’ It was so funny, he’s doing these little guesses and putting two and two together and he was right. Meanwhile, it was all over my head.”
CS: What was your favorite thing that didn’t get on air?
ET: “We were all throwing the football around and Jerry turned straight to the camera and said ‘Hey Steve (Young), she’s got a better spiral than you do.’ The show complemented my football throwing skills, but they didn’t include that little shout out to Steve, which I thought would’ve been cool.
“I got really competitive in this show, a lot more than last time. Maybe I felt like I had more notoriety now, and I felt like I could talk more now to defend my team and defend myself and I they didn’t put any of that stuff in there. I could’ve been portrayed more competitive in a negative light, so I’m glad they didn’t show that, but it’s in the moment. I told Brian Cooper to back off one time, and he got into my face three more times that day how I should never talk to somebody like that.
“I’ve never had these altercations before. We all wanted to win really badly and it brings out a different side of yourself. I felt like I could let loose a little more this time. You have to be a fighter out there; you can’t tiptoe around other people’s feelings when they shouldn’t matter. You have to do it for yourself and your team.”
CS: Now that you’re a Big Break winner, is there a fraternity element there?
ET: “It’s not a fraternity of winners, it’s a fraternity of Big Break people overall. A lot of time the winners aren’t supposed to be the winners. I met one of my best friends, Stephanie Kenoyer from Team Del Greco and Big Break Mexico, we just became close and traveled together last year, I stayed with her family last week, I talk to her every day and she’s wonderful. Out of the six girls at Big Break NFL, four of us are on the Symetra Tour and we are all full cards, so every week you’ll see that person. A show like Big Break, we are all girls who they designated to have good personalities and it’s fun to golf with people like that.”
CS: Talking about Symetra Tour, how did your rookie year go?
ET: “I started my rookie year off in February, there were 15 tour events and I played in all but two, I missed two or three cuts and I finished 45th on the money list. I was top 10 for rookies for the year. I met a lot of good golfers; I got over a lot of my nerves and am starting to feel comfortable shooting under par and getting lower. I like winning money, playing for money is different, it’s my job now. I have sponsors now, so that’s taking a load off my shoulders.
CS: Any regrets from 2013?
ET: “I did make a big mistake in not signing up for Q-School. I was exempt to second stage after last year and I thought second stage had a different deadline than the first stage so I missed it by four hours and with the LPGA it’s black and white, you’re either in or you’re out.
“It was a big learning curve this year, a lot of times throughout my life I would be given a second chance, and this was a good year to understand you don’t get second chances in the real world. I learned the hard way, but I finished the year strong. My last three or four tournaments I went under par, I made the most money the last few tournaments and moved myself from the high 60s to 45 on the money list. I was on the borderline, if I had finished outside the top 80, I would’ve missed my card for this year and had nowhere to play this year and that would’ve been really bad.”
CS: What’s on tap for 2014?
ET: “They’ve added five more Symetra Tour events next year, and I’m planning on playing in 19 of the 20. That’s going to be a huge jump, the goal is to get to the LPGA, absolutely, but I’m going to have fun while I’m doing it.
“If you play the most tournaments, that’s the best chance you have to get the most money. I’m missing one tournament for Andreas’ graduation, there’s a rumor that’s the biggest purse the entire year, so we’ll see if I actually miss it (laughing). I’m going to play in the LPGA Shoprite, I get into that by winning Big Break, that’s in May, the nice thing about that is I won’t miss any Symetra events.
“It will be busy. Before the Shoprite, I’ll have six tournaments in a row, that’s a week people would normally have off, then we have three more in a row before the Fourth of July.”
CS: Will you try for the US Open this year?
ET: “The qualifiers for the US Open are on Monday’s and Tuesday’s, and we have tournaments right before that so it’s hard to do a practice round. A lot of Symetra Tour girls show up and play the course for the first time, if you’re really organized you’ll play a practice round there two months in advance, so when the dates and locations come out, I’ll see which ones work best. I haven’t tried to qualify for the open the last few years; I will give it a whirl this year.”
CS: Aside from Symetra Tour, the U.S. Open, The LPGA Shoprite, what else is on tap in 2014?
ET: “I’m going to just play a lot. I may try to Monday qualify for some LPGA events that don’t come in contact with Symetra Tour events. That would be a huge plus. I’m also going to send out sponsors exceptions to tournament directors.
“There are so many more Symetra Tour events that there are more events coinciding with LPGA events. The players that have LPGA conditional status, they’ll really have to pick their battles; they may miss some Symetra Tour events trying to qualify for LGPA events. Or a lot of girls will try to do both and spread themselves pretty thin, they could be back at square one by the end of the year. You want your full LPGA card or your Symetra card, you don’t want anything in between, because then it’s this thing dangling in front of you and asking for you to spread yourself too thin and asking too much from your body.
“I don’t know if there will be any LPGA events I can do, but if there are I will be writing those letters. I may also look at some European Tour events. I’m in this to make money, I can’t say I’m too tired this week, it is my job. I have a good feeling about what the tournaments will be like this year and I’ll be going back to them feeling like I know a little bit more.
“But knowing it’s going to be such a busy year, I’ve been enjoying my offseason right now. I’m going to try and take all the time off I’ve had now and remember that next year. I’ve had some really relaxing days, and I’ll have to remember the three of four weeks I didn’t touch a golf club. At the same time, I’m really excited to get back to the tournaments and start making money. I feel like I’ll have a bigger fan base this year and people will want to come watch and support me, that keeps me going, you don’t want to let your fans down, it’s fun to have attention out there.”