When it comes to her golf game, Taylor Collins has always had more than her share of doubters because she stands only 5 feet, 1 inch tall.
But as Collins likes to say, “If you’re good enough, you’re big enough.”
Monday night, Collins showed golf fans everywhere just how huge she and her game are.
Collins, 23, of Davie, won the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Mexico,” defeating Matthew Galloway 2 up in their 18-hole match at IBEROSTAR Playa Paraiso Golf Club in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
The reality show victory is worth more than $100,000 for Collins, who gets $50,000 cash for winning, plus another $30,000 from show sponsors Macanudo Cigars, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Adams Golf, which also is providing an endorsement contract.
In addition, she receives $10,000 in Avis Car Rental credit, $15,000 in travel credit from Travelocity and an all-expenses-paid return trip for two to the IBEROSTAR resort.
Collins, who is in her second season on the Symetra Tour, also gets a sponsor’s exemption into the LPGA Tour’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November.
“I thought that was the best prize of all,” Collins said, although the opportunity to have Adams golf equipment also is a big deal.
“I’m using the same clubs I’ve had for five years. And I’ve never been fitted for clubs. That’s why I went on the show. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Collins did a good job of keeping that excitement to herself. She actually won the two-week competition that featured six men and six women in February. Collins and the other participants were not allowed to say anything about the results until after Monday night’s finale.
How did she keep quiet about it for more than five months?
“We signed a contract,” Collins said, noting that the financial penalty for leaking information was extreme, “so that keeps your mouth shut.”
She ended up watching her victory by herself Monday night. Collins was in Orlando so she could appear at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday on “Morning Drive” on the Golf Channel. Her parents had booked a vacation in Mexico this week, and Collins couldn’t say anything, so there was no way for them to watch the episode together.
The final match was tense throughout. Collins won the first two holes, but Galloway, a minitour player from Tampa who has caddied for two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Jantzen, won the third hole to keep the match from getting out of hand.
Collins went 2 up three more times, then Galloway won holes 9 and 10 to even the match. He won the 14th to go up a hole, but Collins won 15 with a birdie to get back to even.
She also birdied the 16th to go 1 up. Galloway missed a short par putt on 17 that would have evened the match. Collins hit her drive left on No. 18, hit a good recovery shot 50 yards short of the green, pitched to 4 feet and made the par putt to win the hole and end the suspense.
“I just told myself, ‘You’ve been messing around all 18 holes, it’s time to step up and get it in the hole,’“ Collins said. “I wanted to get this shot up and down to prove a point to myself.
“It seemed like whenever the pressure was on, that’s when I seemed to play best.”
Playing well has been a hallmark of her career. As a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas, Collins was the South Florida PGA’s Girls Player of the Year. She was a member of three national championship teams at Nova Southeastern Universityand she won the 2011 NCAA Division II individual national title her senior year.
Collins said she’s played golf ever since she can remember. She started by taking lessons from Bob Toski, who is still her teacher and who, despite weighing only 118 pounds during his PGA Tour career in the late 1940s and early ’50s, regularly drove the ball 250 or more yards.
“I learned everything from him,” said Collins, who spoke with Toski on Sunday and Monday and meets with him Wednesday. “He was saying he was proudand he can’t wait to watch the finale.”
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