Big Break Florida’s Colorado Connection

Some of contestant Tonya McCall’s biggest breaks came right here

She grew up in Missouri, lives in Las Vegas—where her husband is Head PGA Golf Professional at Silverstone Golf Club—and is competing on Big Break Florida. But Colorado will always occupy a special place in Tonya McCall’s heart.

Some monumental life events have taken place in the Centennial State.

Growing up with a 9-hole course in her backyard, Tonya picked up golf at a young age. She dreamt of pursuing the game in college, but lacked the experience to play in a Division I program. Instead, Tonya Choate (her maiden name) found herself at Drury University, a small Division II school in Springfield, Missouri, where she excelled.

After three years, she wanted a change, and when the opportunity arose, she transferred to UNLV for her senior season. The adjustment to a new city, a new school and a more competitive golf program was tough, but Tonya had no regrets.

After all, she’d helped the Runnin’ Rebels make it to the NCAA Nationals and met her future husband, Reese McCall, there.

Post-graduation, she headed to Colorado, where Reese was an assistant pro at Cherry Hills Country Club. With his family in the Littleton area, Tonya practiced frequently at Raccoon Creek, Meridian and Green Valley Ranch.

The 2009 Colorado Women’s Open was Tonya’s first professional tournament, and during a practice round at Green Valley Ranch Reese proposed to her. Four years and two children later, as Tonya and Reese were driving from Nevada for the HeathONE Colorado Women’s Open, she found out she’d been selected for the upcoming season of Golf Channel’s Big Break Florida.

As anyone who’s watched the 11-year-old series knows, contestants are exposed to a series of weekly challenges, focusing on different aspects of their golf game, with the ultimate prize being a sponsor’s exemption into a professional Tour event.

However, it wasn’t the golf challenges that Tonya found particularly difficult, but the test of being away from her two young children. Because the show is taped months in advance and competitors agree not to share any results, Tonya had to rely on monitored 10-minute phone calls with her kids, who were staying with their grandparents. Luckily, the 28-year-old mom has experience juggling career and family, regularly caddying for the Wynn Resort and substitute teaching to help offset some of her tournament entry fees.

With a filming schedule of an episode a day, Tonya was ready to tackle the skills tests for which Big Break is notorious. Confident in her tee shots and short game, she focused on punch shots for the famous glass-breaking challenge, and noted that 75% of the challenges concentrated on short-game techniques. Her husband encouraged her to have fun, stay true to the game, and avoid the drama, which Tonya notes “was important, because when the time comes, I want to be able to watch the show with my kids, Mason and Molly, and have them be proud of me.”

Tonya looks forward to the future. While the outcome of this season’s Big Break remains unknown to us, she is focusing on playing qualifying events on the Cactus and Symetra tours, and hopes to pursue qualifying school in the fall.

She’s also excited to return to the Colorado Women’s Open, and hopes one day to win in it, making her relationship with Colorado only that much better.

Watch Tonya McCall and other contestants battle it out on Big Break Florida, premiering February 24th on Golf Channel at 7 p.m. MT and airing weekly on Monday nights.