Big Break\‘s pretty woman: Blair O\‘Neal
By BILL HUFFMAN
Every Monday night is party time for friends and family of Blair O’Neal, the former Arizona State standout and sexy cast member of the current Big Break XI: Prince Edward Island.
O’Neal, a 27-year-old model and mini-tour player from Scottsdale, has made it successfully through the first three episodes of the 12-part reality series that is airing on The Golf Channel every Monday night at 6:00 o’clock. If she can keep from being eliminated in the next nine weeks – one contestant among the six men and six women is ousted each week — O’Neal will win $100,000 for her efforts.
Just don’t ask her to divulge the outcome early. If she did that, according to her contract, she couldn’t collect the 100 grand.
“I can’t say too much about the show, and I certainly can’t talk about the winner,’’ said O’Neal, a former Arizona high school champion when she attended Corona del Sol in Tempe.
“Since we filmed it last September, and since I’ve never seen the final version, only a preview, I’m looking forward to watching what happens each week just like everyone else out there in TV-land. Yes, I know (who wins), but it’s interesting to see how (The Golf Channel) portrays all of us.
“It was a very unique group of characters in a very unique competition – guys vs. girls – and there might even have been some sexual tension during the filming. All I can tell you: There are a few twists and turns along the way.’’
So far, Blair is looking pretty. Or as one male member of the Big Break cast describes her during a “teaser’’ for the show (and before he was eliminated): “She’s hot. She’s very, very pretty.’’
Even better, O’Neal can play. Like in episode three, where Blair hits the best shot among the 10 players left during an elimination contest, and rival Brenda McLarnon quips: “Wow! Blair is not just another pretty face.’’
But being attractive is nothing new for O’Neal, who has been a runway/sports model ever since she graduated from ASU in 2003. Among her many exploits along those lines, she was honored as “One of the Hottest 40 Athletes of All-time’’ by Sports Illustrated in 2008, and recently was voted one of the “Four Hottest Athletes in the World’’ by www.ingamenow.com.
. “I don’t have a problem with being ‘sexy’ as long as I’m comfortable with what I’m wearing and what we’re shooting,’’ said O’Neal, whose very first project was a calendar for Golf Digest.
“There are a million beautiful women out there, but not all of them can play golf.’’
And not all of them have a perfectly toned body that stretches 5 foot, 10 inches and looks like it belongs on the cover of Vogue. It’s one of the main reasons O’Neal recently appeared on the cover of Scottsdale Health magazine under the headline: “Blair O’Neal: Get Her Hot Bod.’’
“That was a funny deal, because one day I just started getting all these random text messages from my friends saying, ‘I want your hot bod!’ ’’ O’Neal said, laughing at the thought. “I had no idea about what they were talking about because I hadn’t seen (the magazine) yet.’’
It’s kind of like Big Break XI: Prince Edward Island. Even though she remembers the filming, she never knows exactly how The Golf Channel is going to edit the final version.
“For the first (episode), about 30 of my family and friends got together at my boyfriend’s house for a viewing party,’’ O’Neal noted. “Everybody thought it was pretty cool to see me on TV and the competition I was up against.
“So the tension was pretty high when I made my first shot, and right as I was taking the putter back and bringing it through for a 3-footer to keep from going into the elimination round, I yelled, ‘I’m going to miss it!’ Everybody went: ‘Oh, NO!’ Then I made it and that turned out to be the big moment of that evening.’’
If you think that O’Neal likes to keep it light, you’re right. She has a lively sense of humor and loves the attention her new-found Big Break status has brought her. Or as she puts it: “I’ve got my autograph down pat now.’’
“Like recently I played in a fund-raiser in San Diego for the Navy SEALs and their families, and when my car pulled up (at the golf course) I was met by a whole lot of (autograph-seekers) just like I was a movie star or something. I don’t take it too seriously, but it was kind of a kick.’’
O’Neal, whose claim to fame was that she twice won the women’s NCAA long-drive championship with booming blasts of over 300 yards, played all four years at ASU for three different coaches – Linda Vollstedt, Micky Yokoi and Melissa Luellen. Never a winner but always among the top finishers, Blair served as team captain her senior year.
“I love modeling but I consider myself a professional golfer first,’’ said O’Neal, who grew up playing muni-type courses like Ahwatukee Lakes and Dobson Ranch and calls ASU Karsten her home course. “I have not been to LPGA Q-School yet, but I have played in Asia, a little bit on the Futures Tour, as well as on the West Coast and right here in Arizona on the Cactus Tour.’’
The plan, O’Neal said, is to keep playing the Cactus Tour this year, give Q-School a shot this fall, and to keep modeling “even if golf is my first love.’’ Along those lines she is looking for some sponsors to help her with the golf end, “and if I’m successful on the course the modeling jobs will always be there, too.’’
O’Neal is not the first golfer from the Valley to compete on The Big Break. Scottsdale’s Katherine Roberts was the original co-host, and the Scottsdale siblings of Laura London and Benoit Beisser both appeared in the series along with Phoenix’s Brian Kontak, who won The Big Break VIII when it was contested in Mesquite, Nev.
London, for one, said she is not surprised at all with O’Neal’s success on and off the course. The two played junior and high school golf against each other, and London said when they were paired together recently on the Cactus Tour "we realized we shared a big bond through the Big Break.”
"Blair just kills the ball. She’s really, really long,” London reported. "It doesn’t hurt that she’s also really, really smart and nice and good looking.
"Seriously, you wouldn’t expect some one who looked that good to be that normal. But Blair is all of that.”
London also said that O’Neal’s background in modeling is a real skill that might even be a built-in advantage when it comes to winning this Big Break.
"Doing the Big Break is an intense two weeks of filming, from early in the morning to late at night. It’s a real grind and it helps to be mentally prepared,” London said. "Because she’s been a model, Blair has that ability to focus in on just herself, which is a great trait to have in that situation.
"What I mean is , models understand intensity. How else can you explain sitting around all day in, say, your underwear or a negligee while everyone else who is watching you has their clothes on?”
To date, The Big Break XI: Prince Edward Island has drawn rave reviews. O’Neal said she thinks there are several good reasons why, and neither has to do with her being the Big Break’s sexy star.
“I think the first reason is because we have a lot of characters, and you never know what we’re going to do or say next,’’ she said. “Another reason is the girls are playing the guys straight up, or without getting any type of help (different tees, shorter yardages, etc.).
“And for the first time ever in The Big Break, we’re playing for real money. In the past it was mostly prizes, but this is the first time they’ve actually put up cash – a lot of cash!’’
Meanwhile, the excitement is building at O’Neal’s viewing parties each Monday night around the Valley. And O’Neal, whose website www.blairgolf.com has gone bonkers, is enjoying every minute.
“The hardest thing about the entire (filming) was hitting that first shot with all those cameras on you,’’ she said. “Cameras can make you really uptight.
“But after that, you get used to it and then you’re just in there battling to win. So I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and so have my family and friends.’’
No kidding. True to her fun-loving nature, Blair ends each party by declaring to her faithful: “Woh-hoo! I’m not kicked off yet!’’
Who knows? The way O’Neal’s red-hot career is going these days she might be in line for a $100,000 jackpot.