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Not exactly, but the Lucidi-DiSanto tiffs were not unwelcome. "We knew those two wouldn't get along," says Kossoff. "We're trying to create tension, and it has worked beautifully."
The players' cabin fever was understandable, given how little contact they had with the outside world. Each woman signed a confidentiality agreement pledging not to reveal any details of the show, even to loved ones. To help maintain the code of silence, the players were allowed to phone home only in the presence of an eavesdropping Golf Channel staffer. After winning a new car in a skills challenge, one competitor called her significant other, who promptly informed her that back home her car had conked out. "I was dying not saying anything," says the flummoxed contestant. "It's so frustrating not to share what you're going through. You have just been part of this amazing, intense competition, and then you call home and it's like, 'Hi, honey, how are the cats?'"
The one place the players could let down their hair was the so-called Losers' Suite. Once eliminated, the contestants (for purposes of secrecy) still had to hang around Hawaii for the full 17-day shoot. To pass the time they snorkeled, biked, hiked, shopped, took surfing and hula lessons, went to the spa and generally goofed off. Every evening the eliminated would gather in the suite to welcome the newest loser. The general vibe was sorority girls run amok. In the suite the TV was usually tuned to Fox News, though one night the women happened upon a soft-core porn movie, and much hooting and hollering ensued. Strategically positioned throughout the suite were buckets of beer, not-so-subtle product placements for one of the show's sponsors. As time went by the product in question disappeared at an ever-increasing clip.
When watching Big Break at home, the viewer sees what looks like slickly packaged entertainment, as the golf action is set to jazzy music and continually interrupted by quick cuts to the taped interviews. But when you're on-site the challenges and, especially, the elimination matches have the tension of real golf. Even the jaded Golf Channel staffers get into it. As the final match is winding down, contestant coordinator Laurie Gannon stands on the edge of a green, dabbing at her eyes. "These are not simply characters on a show; they're real people, and their lives are changed forever," she says.
Yet the only competitive ripple a Big Break contestant has made came last fall, when Big Break IV's Tommy (Two Gloves) Gaines won the Tour Championship on something called the U.S. Pro Golf mini-tour. "Our job is to create a compelling TV show, and what happens after that is out of our control," says Kossoff, "but it would certainly enhance the reputation of the show if one of our contestants won something big. I think this is the group that will break through."
And if not?
"There's always another season," he says.