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Local wins Golf Channel reality show

Reached finals of LPGA Tour Qualifying tournament last year
By: Scott Johnston Special to Gold Country News Service
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What started out as a two-week vacation in paradise turned into a highly profitable venture for Roseville resident Kim Welch, who was revealed as the big winner last week on the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Ka’anapali” reality series. Looking for a nice Hawaii vacation, Welch, who describes herself in her Big Break bio as being “the most anti-social player on the (Duramed FUTURES) tour,” auditioned for show only after some severe prodding from family and friends. “It was just supposed to be a two-week getaway, I never really thought about winning,” said Welch, who defeated Ladies European Tour player Sophie Sandolo 4 and 3 in the 18-hole match play final. “I’d watched the show in the past, so I knew it was a lot about luck and chance,” she said. “The best golfer doesn’t always win. I don’t seek attention, so having my life blasted all over television for four months wasn’t something I’d normally do.” Filming wrapped up last December, with Welch then forced to take a sworn oath of silence for the next seven months, a daunting task, but one she grew to enjoy. “It was fun watching the show every week and messing with my friends,” said Welch, who said she faced a $1 million lawsuit and possible imprisonment if she let the results slip ahead of time. “I had a great time making people think I was getting eliminated every week, but it was nice to be able to finally celebrate with them, too,” she said. As with any reality series, cattiness is a key component, something that wasn’t lost on the Big Break when controversy broke out among the players over a perceived lack of etiquette by contestant Christina Lecuyer that brought down the wrath of fellow participant Lori Atsedes. “Of course it was played up,” said Welch, who jetted off to the CIGNA Golf Classic in Bloomfield, Conn., shortly after watching the show at Mikuni’s in Roseville with nearly 50 of her closest family and friends. “There was a lot of editing and it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked. I see four or five of those girls every week and we’re all friends.” Atsedes, who was pegged as the show’s bully, met Welch two years ago and has been a supporter ever since. “Lori’s a great person,” Welch said. “She was one of the big reasons why I even auditioned. She told me I’d be great for the show and so I decided to give it a shot.” A member of the Duramed FUTURES Tour the last three seasons, Welch is currently 11th on the 2008 money list ($18,036 in 10 events) and made it to the finals of the LPGA Tour Qualifying tournament last year before missing the cut. With seven events left, the top five players will receive an LPGA exemption for the 2009 season. Her prizes for winning the ninth edition of the popular series include exemption into the Sept 25-28 Navistar LPGA Classic, paid entry into all 2009 FUTURES events, an Adams Golf endorsement deal, including $10,000 in cash and a BMW Z4 Coupe, a slight upgrade from the Honda Civic she currently drives. While competing each week in the one-hour show, players were required to execute a variety of awkward golf shots in addition to playing some holes straight up; at the end of each episode, one player was sent home. “One of the hardest things about it was standing around waiting to hit,” said Welch. “Sometimes we’d hit one shot in an hour and we filmed one episode every day, so there was a lot of pressure, but you just had to have fun with it.” While her victory was a pleasant surprise to family and friends, Welch’s former coach at Washington State was anything but shocked to see her shine on a national stage. “She was a shy girl when she got here (in 2001),” said Cougar head coach Walt Williams. “But she never had any problem with the limelight and that was a good thing, because with her success here, she was in the papers a lot. She made it big here, she made it big on the show and she’ll make it big on the LPGA tour soon.”