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Fennelly: Durant grad Galloway looking for big break

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Published:   |   Updated: June 2, 2013 at 10:47 AM
TAMPA -

There's no eating a bowl of earthworms and no love triangles. It's not that type of reality show, yet. The reality is a dream that never leaves.

Lights, camera … golf.

“There's more pressure than you realize,” Matthew Galloway said. “You have 15, 16 cameras there, right on top of you, and a crew of people all looking at you. You know it's going to be on national TV. You don't want to embarrass yourself. You don't want to be the one to hit the bad shot.”

Galloway, 27, who was raised in Tampa and went to Durant High, is one of 12 professional golfers who make up the coed cast of “Big Break,” Golf Channel's popular reality competition. The show was filmed at a Mexico resort early this year. Three episodes have aired. Galloway is still alive. He can't tell you much more than that, contracts, confidentiality and all that.

He can tell you this:

“I believe I can play on the PGA Tour. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could.”

That's the big carrot for winners on this show. When the final cut is made on “Big Break Mexico,” the man or woman left standing gets showered with gifts, including $50,000 cash. Most important, there's a sponsor's exemption into a PGA or LPGA event, which for Galloway would mean the OHL Classic in Mexico in November. It would be Galloway's first PGA event.

That's no small thing to Galloway, who plays out of Buckhorn Springs Golf and Country Club in Valrico, where he learned the game and did all kinds of jobs, including washing carts. A former state amateur champion, he was a three-time All American at the University of West Florida and helped win a national title in 2008. Galloway turned professional the following year.

He has won nine times on the West Florida Golf Tour, where a typical one-day event costs $170 to enter and pays $1,000 to a winner. He has tried PGA qualifying school but has come up short.

So he works on his game and watches his money so he can keep playing. He's a caddie at Streamsong golf resort near Fort Meade. Last year, he was on the bag for his friend and two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen. Galloway has tried to make the Open. He'll try again Monday in a sectional qualifier in Maryland. He has no sponsor.

“I'm not living out of my car yet. I can pay rent so far,” Galloway said.

Last spring, Galloway filled out a “Big Break” online application. He was invited to an audition in Orlando. In December, as he returned from a one-day event, he got the Big Phone Call.

In January, he was flown to New York City, swept up by a limousine and lodged at the Waldorf Astoria, an upgrade for someone used to air mattresses in hotel rooms shared with fellow golfers to conserve funds. The show's producers told him to order room service, and: “Don't leave this room.” Before going to Mexico, Galloway's phone was confiscated. It was returned three weeks later. No Facebook, no Twitter, either. Secrets stay secret on “Big Break.”

“You get the Fear of God speech,” Galloway said.

He then joined Team Aztec: Matthew, Emily, McKenzie and Rob.

“If you look at the guys on the show, I guess I'm one of the more normal ones,” Galloway said with a laugh. “I think somehow my personality fits into the puzzle. I've kind of gone low key. McKenzie on our team is kind of outspoken. She doesn't like losing.”

Things didn't begin well. Team Aztec lost out and received a strike in each of the first two episodes. “It means when elimination day comes, two of us are going home,” Galloway said. But they rebounded in the third episode. As a reward, they got to make … ceviche.

Hey, it's TV, OK?

There are real “Big Break” success stories. One is Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, the first show alumnus to earn his PGA Tour card. Gainey won a PGA event last year.

The fourth episode airs June 10 on Golf Channel. Matthew Galloway and his friends will gather for a watch party at a restaurant and bar in downtown Tampa. And one more thing, again:

“I can't tell anyone who wins.”

What he can tell you is he has a dream that he won't let go.

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