Soon after he was eliminated from "Big Break: Mexico," Chad Schulze found himself with another chance to claim the top spot on the Golf Channel's reality television show and win an exemption for a PGA Tour event.
Schulze, 34, of Cockeysville, was offered the chance to participate in the 20th season of "Big Break" right after the show in Mexico concluded. This time, it would be in Puerto Rico.
"It was the perfect scenario. I had nothing going on," Schulze said.
Schulze's familiarity with "Big Break" allowed him to make a smooth transition between tournaments and adjust how he would approach this season.
"In Mexico, I physically practiced hard for each challenge. … As far as Puerto Rico, I didn't try to physically prepare for anything, because you can't," he said. "That's what I learned from Mexico. … This one, I went in with an open mind."
Unlike previous seasons of "Big Break," in which there were two-person teams and only one person won the grand prize, this season has a twist. Each team consists of two past "Big Break" competitors — one man and one woman —as well as a former NFL player.
On the first day, Schulze found out he and Zakiya Randall would team with former St. Louis Rams and Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger. After the first two episodes, they sit atop the leader board.
"He was an exceptional golfer, so it was a good fit for us," Schulze said of Bulger.
Even before he found out that Bulger would be his partner, Schulze said, he was excited because of the rarity of being around a professional athlete.
"I didn't really care who my partner was; I knew he was going to be a great athlete and it was an opportunity to learn something from a professional player. Those opportunities are pretty rare," Schulze said.
The other former NFL players are wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, defensive end Chris Doleman, quarterback Mark Rypien and kicker Al Del Greco.
Bulger said he didn't know whom his partner would be until the first day, so creating team chemistry was hard with such a quick turnaround.
"We got to play a practice round with them, which was helpful," he said. "We got to kind of feel each other out for our strengths and weaknesses. Having that first day and practice round helped all the teams."
Team chemistry is more important than in past seasons because the entire team will win the grand prize this year. Both the male and female winners will receive $50,000 cash as well as a tour exemption and a sponsorship deal with Adams Golf. The male winner gets a spot in the 2014 FedEx St. Jude Classic, and the female contestant receives an exemption into the 2014 ShopRite LPGA Classic. The former player will get $50,000 toward a charity of his choice.
Schulze said he embraced the team concept compared with the format when he was in Mexico.
"I played on my team in college, so I have a lot of experience with team golf. … It's different. Some of these people aren't used to playing on teams, but I had experience in high school, so it's something that really helped me," he said.
For Bulger, the pressure for him and the other NFL players was different than in the NFL because of the downtime between holes.
"We were kind of out of our element," he said. "You sit around for a couple hours and you get one shot. … It was kind of like every shot was the first down of an NFL game. There's all the hype going into it, there's nerves."
"Big Break NFL: Puerto Rico"
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