Titleist Staff Member Paul Holtby Wins Big Break IVPaul Holtby, a PGA Teaching Professional at the Tom Barber Golf Center in Moorpark, California, and a Titleist Staff Member, captured The Golf Channel's popular "Big Break IV: USA vs. Europe" competition. The deciding round of match play at the famed Carnoustie Golf Club in Scotland was revealed on the season's final episode Tuesday, December 20. We caught up with Paul the next day when he could finally talk in-depth about his experience and future opportunities. For additional information about Paul, visit his web site at www.paulholtbygolf.com.
Q. How long were you in Scotland filming?
A. We were there for 14 days. We arrived on a Monday and began filming on Tuesday morning. Needless to say, many of us were pretty exhausted from the traveling. We finished filming on a Sunday, celebrated and left for the airport at 4:30am Monday morning.
Q. Had you ever played at Carnoustie or been to Scotland before?
A. No, I had never been to Scotland before, although my parents are both English, from Sheffield and Yorkshire.
Titleist Staff Member and winner of TGC's "Big Break IV: USA vs Europe," Paul Holtby
Q. How was the food in Scotland?
A. The best way to describe it is "unique." Americans are accustomed to a lot of junk food, like fast food, but we ate pretty well while we were there. All of our food was well prepared, lavish and elegant, it just wasn't really my style. We were treated to Hagis, the traditional food in Scotland, which I tried. Let's just say it left a lot to be desired.
Q. Off the golf course, what was your most memorable experience during the filming?
A. We were treated to a tour of the city of St. Andrews by a historian and the history was incredible. I really enjoyed this experience.
Q. Did you feel any more pressure playing in front of the television cameras?
A. I love cameras. This was very different than playing in front of 10,000 people at a Tour event. After about the third 16-hour day of filming we were all like friends and family so it was a comfortable setting. In a tour event you might know a handful of the 10,000 people and that is pressure, or at least it was for me. Now at Tour events I see the crowds as fans pulling for me rather than a lot of strangers with the fear of looking like a yahoo in front of them.
Q. What was it like being the senior member of the USA team in terms of age and experience?
A. I really enjoyed it. I have always been the team leader or captain of most teams I have been on, so I loved it. To be asked to be the captain by your fellow teammates is a privilege and an honor. It really came about unexpectedly. One morning at breakfast after we were down to four players on our team - Randall, T.J., Tommy and myself - Randall spoke up and said, "We just don't have any leadership on our team. I propose that Paul be our captain." T.J. and Tommy agreed, and that was it.
Q. The European Team was tough, especially in head-to-head challenges. Do you think they had a "home field" advantage?
A. Yes, I believe they had an advantage in regards to the style of course, weather, but most of all travel. Some of the U.S. players had been traveling for 30+ hours just to get there and it took some time to get adjusted.
Q. Who do you feel was the more talented "team"?
A. We were the personality team and they were the players team. We had one guy playing full time (Tommy) while five of their six guys were still playing full-time. Also, our auditions were done randomly throughout the country while their auditions were done at PGA European Tour events so they were drawing from a pool of players who were still playing competitively on a regular bais. I believe they were more talented as players.
Q. Did you prefer the match play or team competitions?
A. Golf is an individual sport. It is why I fell in love with golf and left all the team sports of baseball, soccer, football and basketball behind. Team events are fun, unique and different, but here in the States we have very few team golf events to play in. The recent Ryder Cups are good examples where the Americans do well as individuals and Europe usually does better in the team matches.
Q. Was the competition as difficult as you thought it would be?
A. Yes, the competition was good, but again when you have 12 years of experience over most of your compertition it is definitely an advantage. Put 12 guys together with similar experience and the competition would be very equal and competitive. For example, I felt if I was Guy and played his game, that last match with six or seven critical decisions to make, I would have beat myself. There is no substitute for experience.
Q. What was your most memorable shot during this experience?
A. All things considered in regards to the final match and what it was worth, it was the 12-foot putt I had on the last hole to win. However, to almost hole the pitch on 17 over the bunker with a tight lie will be a great memory for meany many years to come. I will revert back to that pitch many more times in my career.
Q. What was it like playing a golf course with so much history, including the memorable 1999 British Open?
A. The history of the venue was brought up a lot. We ate breakfast each morning in the Hogan Suite. And as anybody knows who saw the all-access show, the eliminated contestants met at what was referred to as the Van De Velde Suite. Richard on the European Team was from France and said if he played the 18th hole he would try to make 6 for his fellow countryman.
Q. How did your previous experience on the PGA and Nationwide Tours help you during this competition?
A. Again 10,000 strangers during a tournament round versus 75 friends and family doing this show, after the first three days I was very comfortable in Scotland. The times I got the most nervous was the anticipation of what we were going to do and not what we actually did.
Q. What aspect of your game do you feel was the strongest during the competition?
A. Without a doubt my putting. I had two three putts in the competition, but I also made a lot of putts. One of my strong suits is my speed control. I missed the putt on 17 in the final match for the win and that was because I am a soft putter and I chose a firm speed line. I instinctively went back to my soft speed and it dove on me. That downhill 3-footer broke almost six inches!
Q. As a PGA Teaching Professional, what is the number one tip you give amateur golfers?
A. There are a few; Never under club and never overswing. Golf is a game of misses. Your misses define the quality of the golfer. Simplicity leads to consistancy. Set up properly and the swing takes care of iteself. Stay out of your own way. My students become their own coaches.
Q. You are a full-line Titleist Staff player. How long have you played Titleist equipment and what is in your bag now?
A. I have been a Titleist Staff Member for 5 years now. I currently carry a Titleist Pro Titanium driver (9.5), Titleist Pro Trajectory 904F fairway metal (15.0), Cobra Baffler utility club, Forged 704.CB irons (4-9), four Vokey Design Spin Milled wedges (48, 52, 56, 60) and a Scotty Cameron 303 Tour Design putter. I also play the Titleist Pro V1, Titleist Players glove and wear FootJoy shoes.
Q. How has your association with Titleist assisted you in your game?
A. The Titleist (Acushnet Company) staff has been fantastic. Greg Cesario has always been there for me helping with equipment and his knowledge is a great resource for my game and he understands what equipment is most suited for my game. Bill Latch has become a great friend away from the golf, and he especially cares about me as a person. Kevin Barklay, Fletcher Pavin, Dan Gilkison. It is a company that cares about my success as a player and a teacher and I am fortunate to be affiliated with them.
Q. Have you been to the Titleist Performance Institute? If so, how would you describe your experience?
A. One of a kind. I went a couple of years ago and I really want to go back soon. Hopefully, I will be able to visit in January so I can start the year off right. Like playing Carnoustie, it is one of those experiences you must experience as a serious golfer.
Q. Have you been to the Scotty Cameron Putter Studio?
A. Yes, I went once and worked with Paul Vizanko who was fantastic. We went through the an entire testing procedure and he built a putter specifically for me. It is the same one I played with all year and the one I won the Big Break IV with. The Cameron Putter Studio is like playing St. Andrews, another special treat as a player of the game.
Q. You have had great success as a PGA Club Professional in Southern California and have played several events on the PGA and Nationwide Tours. Do you still have aspirations of playing full-time on TOUR?
A. I practice and teach every day in order to continue striving towards playing the game full time as a career. Teaching provides for my family and I currently am my own sponsor through teaching and playing. Financial help would be greatly appreciated.
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