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Big Break and tough break for former Idaho golfer Renee Skidmore

Sat., June 28, 2014

Renée Skidmore nearly got her Big Break, but now she’s experiencing an unwanted break from tournament golf.

Skidmore, a former Idaho Vandal, made the semifinals of Golf Channel’s Big Break Florida. The final episode aired in May with Jackie Stoelting capturing the title.

Skidmore survived two elimination challenges – one on the first show of the season where she nearly holed-out with a wedge – before losing to Fiamma Felitch by one shot in a three-hole competition in the semis.

“Holy smokes,” Skidmore said seconds after she was eliminated. “That was intense.”

Big Break routinely produces nerves and drama, two of the many reasons it appeals to TV viewers.

“I’ve never experienced nerves like that,” Skidmore said. “Like hands shaking, legs shaking while standing over the ball. I had friends that told me their stories and I was like, ‘Oh yeah.’ Nobody gets it until you experience it yourself.”

Skidmore’s anxiety wasn’t caused by the presence of cameras or microphones.

“It’s just so different from golf itself,” said Skidmore, whose level-headed approach kept her out of the verbal sparring that went on among the Big Break cast. “When you play a round it’s 18 holes. If you make a bogey on the first hole you have 17 more opportunities to make up for that bogey.

“On Big Break, sometimes you only have one shot to keep yourself on the show.”

Big Break Florida was taped in October. By the way, Gonzaga Prep grad Annie Brophy and fellow Big Break Ireland alum Kelly Jacques provided commentary on each Big Break Florida episode for Golf Channel’s website. Many of the contestants are regulars on the Symetra Tour – the LPGA equivalent of Triple-A baseball – which runs from mid-February into September.

Skidmore was chasing Big Break’s top prizes – Stoelting claimed $65,000 in cash and received an invitation to the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic – but left the show with added confidence in her game.

Skidmore returned to her offseason home in Florida and hit the gym. She picked up strength, endurance and some extra yards off the tee, addressing one of her shortcomings.

It didn’t necessarily translate on the course. She felt better about the efficiency of her swing and increased distance but she missed the cut in two of three Symetra events. She pocketed $295 for a 67th-place finish at the IOA Classic in March.

Her season came to a halt recently when she aggravated a neck injury. She’s not able to swing at full power. She gets headaches if she tries to do too much on the course.

“I was in a golf cart accident a few years ago,” said Skidmore, who has been spending more time in her hometown of Everett. “I was on the passenger side and we got rear-ended and my neck went way back, whiplash. The guy was going full speed while looking at his cell phone.”

Skidmore has had occasional flare-ups but her neck locked up last month. She figures it was the result of numerous flights, working out and going kayaking for the first time.

“This will be the longest break I’ve had from playing in tournaments since I don’t even know,” Skidmore said. “Every summer I’ve played in tournaments since I was 11 years old, which is absolutely insane to think about.”

The 28-year-old Skidmore, who won four college tournaments as a Vandal, has played in Symetra Tour events since 2009. She has experience on a mini-tour in Canada and she won twice on the SunCoast (Fla.) Tour in 2011-12.

She envisions being stronger mentally and physically for the 2015 Symetra Tour. Her end-goal remains the same – qualifying for the LPGA Tour.

“I feel like I’ve improved every single year,” Skidmore said. “Before the injury, I feel like my game was the best it’s been.”

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