WATERLOO, ONTARIO – Jackie Stoelting had a secret she estimates was worth upwards of $100,000.
Secrets are always the easiest to keep when no one knows what you’re hiding. But Stoelting’s was the answer to the only question anyone was asking.
Are you still on the Big Break? Did you win?
Her husband, Travis, an assistant golf pro, serves as her caddie and swing coach and got the question so often he finally had to put a sign on his desk that he couldn’t talk about it.
“Honestly, it’s been a little crazy with the show and golf has kind of been my escape,” Jackie said. “On the golf course I can just play golf, I don’t have to worry about anything else, so it kind of actually helps my game.”
The reality television show’s meant to serve for the winner as the final nudge over the hump to the LPGA – the influx of cash, exposure and opportunity needed to make it on the LPGA.
But the show finishes filming six months in advance of its final airing, leaving that lingering question that wasn’t unveiled until the season finale on May 19.
“The Big Break has opened up a lot of doors for me. It's been a great exposure for my career,” she said. “Obviously, how I played on the show really helped my golf game and helping my nerves.”
The exposure takes the biggest adjustment. Long able to live in relative anonymity in a town of a little over 15,000 – Vero Beach, Fla. – the circumstances had changed when she returned home last week to practice for the tournament this week.
“I think we went to three different places and every single place someone stopped me and I had no clue who they were. I do come from a small town, so I guess a lot of people watch it,” Stoelting said. “It’s just been a little crazy with people coming up to me and I haven’t quite registered all of it, but it’s been really positive. “
But mostly the Big Break’s afforded her opportunities she might not have ever had – like a guaranteed spot in this week’s Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. Stoelting had conditional status on the LPGA this season but up to this point had chosen instead to focus on finishing top-10 on the Symetra Tour this season, which would guarantee her fully exempt status on the LPGA in 2015.
“I think I would have gotten into two events so far and I would have been alternate a couple times, first alternate on site. Both those times if I would have gotten in, but I would have gotten in last minute and I would have had to risk not playing a Symetra Tour event,” she said. “Because I’ve been playing so well, obviously the Top 10 at the end of the year get full status out here and actually that status is better than Q School status. So I just thought I won’t get in enough events out here that could change how I play, or I guess my status for next year. So also I thought that it would be kind of neat as this is my debut for this year.”
While it may sound surprising that Stoelting would pass up events she had a solid chance to get into, Gerina Piller – a fellow former Big Breaker who also came up through the Symetra Tour – remembers the struggle coming up and thinks she made the correct decision.
“I did the same. I had highly conditioned status one year. I had seen some of my friends that had dual status and they tried to do both and it kind of kicked them in the rear in the end. They were doing well on the Symetra tour and then they would leave and go play the LPGA and try to get in there and then they were kind of out on both tours and she fell out of the top 10,” Piller said. “So I just told myself if I don’t have full status, I’m just going to stick it out with the Symetra Tour and play my way in that way, and that’s how I got my card.”
That’s Stoelting’s plan, too. She currently ranks 7th on the Symetra Tour money list, which if the season ended now would guarantee her full status on the LPGA for 2015. The nerves of jumping to the game’s biggest stage for the first time aren’t a concern for her.
“I played in the U.S. Women's Open, and on the show it is much more nerve wracking than playing in the Open,” Stoelting said. “Even if I'm paired with the No. 1 person in the world this week, then I'll be okay. I mean, I'm just going to play golf.”
Topics: Stoelting, Jackie