When Bishopville native (and University of South Carolina fan) Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey won in his second try on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” reality series, it launched the long-time factory worker onto a career on the PGA Tour that seems like something out of a fairy tale.
Mark Silvers, who took a more conventional route to professional golf – he was one of USC’s top players from 2005-09, earning a degree in finance before turning professional – hopes his own victory on “Big Break: Greenbrier” last year eventually gets him to the same destination. For sure, he says, the TV series taught him about handling the stress of playing well before the camera.
“It was a very unique experience, more pressure than I’ve ever felt on a golf course,” the 26-year-old native of Savannah, Ga., says. “I was fortunate to play really well, and it turned out to be a great experience.”
Big Break is perhaps best known for its interaction between contestants and its often-wacky competitions: breaking panes of glass with golf shots or putting balls closest to a target. Fortunately for Silvers, he performed best during the Greenbrier series’ most conventional trial, going head-to-head in the finals with his fellow survivor, James Lepp of British Columbia. “Just 18 holes,” Silvers says. “I shot a 65 and came back from three (shots) down with five holes to go.”
While the TV series doesn’t easily translate to the PGA or other tours, Silvers says it led to some good things for him. He won $10,000 in cash and matching amounts in Dick’s Sporting Goods and Avis Car rentals, plus a spot in the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic. The notoriety didn’t hurt, either.
“It’s been nice to be recognized by my peers,” he says. “It turns out quite a few people watch the show, which is really neat. It gave me a little confidence moving forward, which I’ve been able to build off.”
Silvers’ final outing of 2013 at the NGA Tour’s Woodcreek Classic
came at the end of a wild ride. He played in two PGA Tour events – the Greenbrier and the Sanderson Farms Championship – missing the cut in both, and six times on the Web.Com Tour, the PGA Tour’s developmental league, where he managed just one cut, finishing 30th at the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tenn.
He had more luck on the NGA Tour (formerly the Hooters Tour), winning once in 2012 (plus five times on the NGA’s Summer Series), and making two of three cuts this year.
Silvers, who has won 15 times on various mini-tours, mostly was looking forward to relaxing after the tour. “I get a little time off, which is much needed,” he says. “I didn’t play well at the beginning of the year” – he tried to Monday-qualify for Web.com events, with mixed success – “but when I did get in at Knoxville at the last minute, I played pretty well.
“I played all four corners of the country, so I’m looking forward to some time off. Then I’ll start getting ready for Q-school,” with a goal of full-time play on the Web.com in 2014.
“I hope I’ll be fulltime there, use what I learned this year.” That includes handling the fame that came with his Big Break victory. Silvers saw it work for Gainey; he hopes it’ll do the same for him.
All-American and SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year (2009) at the University of South Carolina; turned professional that spring and played the NGA Tour; qualified for the U.S. Open in 2010; advanced to the first stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in 2012, earning conditional status on the Web.com Tour.
Won Golf Channel’s “Big Break: Greenbrier” reality series in 2012 to earn a spot in the PGA Tour’s 2013 Greenbrier Classic; won four times on the NGA Tour’s Carolina Series in 2012, then won that year’s Avoca Classic on the NGA Pro Series; finished third on the NGA money list with nine top-10 finishes; tied for 30th in six Web.com events in 2013 and had four top-25 finishes on the NGA Tour.
Where I play:
“Growing up around Savannah and in the (S.C.) Lowcountry
, I played at Secession
a lot. I love that place. (During the NGA Tour’s Woodcreek Classic), I really enjoy playing out here (at The Members Club at Woodcreek and WildeWood
); these (NGA) guys tear it up during tournament week, but it really is a great layout, a lot of fun to play, and the last couple of years, it’s become a really high-end course, always in perfect shape. I’ve played at the (Web.com Tour’s) BMW Charity Pro-Am
and I really like that course. At the beach, I love TPC Myrtle Beach
, there’s a good one. I’ve played it a handful of times and it’s one of my favorites to play. Around Hilton Head
, it’s hard to go wrong with Harbour Town
. That’s a pretty cool experience every time you tee it up there.”
Where I eat:
“Most of my eating (in South Carolina) is around Columbia. Devine Foods
is my go-to place whenever I’m in town. My favorite thing there is Shrimp Better Wednesday, I can’t miss it. And their big oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, you can’t beat that. It’s unreal. And I love Blue Marlin
, it’s hard to go wrong there.”
What I do for fun:
“I’m a water guy, grew up in the Lowcountry, so anything involving the water, I pretty much stay there. But I think the mountains here are amazing
. That’s one of the things I love so much about the state of South Carolina, that you can be in the mountains and in a couple of hours be at the beach. I played at (The Reserve at) Lake Keowee
when I played in the BMW, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed spending time up there. I’ve only been on Lake Murray
one or two times; usually if I’m on water, it’s the “big body” (Atlantic Ocean). I’ll do some fishing if someone shows me what to do.”