Silvers finds no big break at U.S. Open qualifier

Mark Silvers made his way around Monday’s U.S. Open qualifying tournament at Marietta Country Club with just two interested people tracking him: his playing partner and one curious spectator.

It was slightly different than five months ago, when more than 300,000 TV viewers watched him win “Big Break Greenbrier,” the reality show/golf skills contest broadcast by the Golf Channel. Silvers, a Savannah resident, rallied from three holes down with five to play to defeat James Lepp at the Old White TPC Course at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

But the putter that helped him go 5 under during that five-hole stretch that day went cold on a windy Monday. Silvers posted three birdies, but missed a score of other makeable ones to shoot a 1-over 71 on the tight 6,793-yard course. Silvers, who played at South Carolina, failed to earn one the eight spots advancing to the sectionals for this year’s U.S. Open, which will be contested at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia.

“I hit three or four putts that I thought I made, but none went in,” Silvers said. “When you only have one day to play, you need those to go in.”

Richard Swift, an Australian who lives in Tucker and plays out of Berkeley Hills, was medalist with a 3-under 67. He was in the first group off and said the wind didn’t really kick up until his last six holes.

“I was in play most of the time,” he said.

Among the others advancing after shooting 69s were: Auburn’s Dominic Bozzelli and ex-Tiger Patton Kizzire, Georgia Tech’s Bo Andrews and former Augusta State golfer Mitchell Krywulycz. Kennesaw State’s Jimmy Beck and Georgia’s Lee McCoy are the two alternates.

Silvers got some good news after his round. He moved up a few alternate slots for this week’s Tour stop in Greer, S.C., and predicted that he would make the field. He earned conditional status on the Tour by finishing 95th in the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament. That came after the taping of the “Big Break.”

Silvers had to stay quiet about the outcome for six months until the show’s finale aired in December, repeatedly answering “I don’t remember” whenever asked if he had won.

And then at a finale party in Savannah, when he fell behind on the show, he said some guests began looking around, wondering why a party was being thrown for the loser.

But he completed the rally, finishing with a birdie on No. 18 to clinch the match.

Silvers said he still gets recognized in public, which he said is pretty cool, but he hasn’t yet been able to take advantage of some of his endorsements. He went to a Dick’s Sporting Goods to use some of the $10,000 he received as part of a shopping spree with the chain, but someone ran into his car, nearly totaling it, while he was trying on sneakers.

In addition to various other endorsement deals with Adams Golf and Avis car rental for winning “Big Break,” Silvers said the win improved his confidence, but didn’t change his life.

“It told me a lot about myself, not necessarily monetarily,” he said.

He needed that confidence on Monday. He birdied his first hole, No. 10, and then double-bogeyed his second when a chip shot skidded through the green and down a hill. He followed that with a good bogey on the quirky, snaking par-5 13th after his drive rolled through the fairway and into a creek.

“I got over par early on a tough golf course and you’ve just got to tell yourself that you can make some birdies and get it back to respectable,” he said.

He did just that, birdieing Nos. 14 and 17 to get to even par at the turn.

A short birdie putt on No. 1 lipped out. Another birdie putt flirted with the cup at No 3 and a par putt on No. 6 refused to drop. Finally, a birdie putt on No. 9 burned the left edge, leaving Silvers out of the top eight.

“Unfortunately in these things, shooting 71 or shooting 90 gets you to the same place,” he said.