Emily Talley’s golf career got a big boost when she won one of the Golf Channel’s “Big Break” reality series last year.
Now Talley is trying to translate that success to the real world of the Symetra Tour, where there are fewer cameras but just as much pressure to perform.
Talley found herself back in the spotlight Friday at the Symetra Classic, shooting a 5-under 67 to move into contention for her first win on the LPGA’s developmental tour.
After struggling to a 1-over 73 in the first round, Talley bounced back with a bogey-free round for the best score of the day at Raintree Country Club, making five birdies to finish with a two-day total of 4-under 140.
“I made way more birdie putts,” said Talley, a second-year pro from Napa, Calif. “Yesterday, I hit the ball really, really well from tee to green, but nothing was dropping. Today, I finally was dropping some putts. I had some that I left out there, or (the round) would have been a lot better.”
Since turning pro last year, Talley has taken part in two of the “Big Break” series – “Big Break Mexico,” which was taped in January 2013, just before she made her Symetra Tour debut; and “Big Break NFL Puerto Rico,” taped last June.
Although she was eliminated early from the Mexico event, Talley – teaming up with NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and fellow pro Isaac Sanchez – won the NFL event, taking home $50,000, an endorsement deal with Adams Golf and a sponsor’s exemption into next week’s LPGA tournament in Galloway, N.J.
It taught Talley how to deal with pressure, especially when there’s big money on the line.
“I never felt those kind of nerves before,” she said. “That’s what hurt me last year. I never found myself in that final group, but if I did I would probably have had a mental collapse. I’m a completely different player this year.”
Now Talley finds herself among the lead groups at the Symetra Classic, three strokes behind Great Britain’s Olivia Jordan-Higgins, who shot a 3-under 69 Friday to move atop the leader board at 7-under 137.
Krista Puisite of Latvia and U.S. pros Kendall Dye and Brittany Altomare are tied for second at 6-under 138, while Mallory Blackwelder is two shots out of the lead at 5-under 139. Talley is among four players another stroke back.
Cheyenne Woods, the niece of PGA superstar Tiger Woods, barely made the cut – the top 70 and ties advanced to Saturday’s final round – with a group of players at 3-over 147.
Among those missing the cut were Charlotte natives Allison Emrey and Laura Wearn. Emrey, an Ardrey Kell graduate who plays for Wake Forest, finished at 6-over 150. Wearn, a Charlotte Country Day and Furman grad, closed at 9-over 153.