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It has been nearly a decade since NBC’s Tom Abbott oversaw Taylor Collins’ win on the TV reality show “Big Break Mexico” in 2013.
Abbott joined Collins and 2020 champion Madelene Sagstrom at the recent press conference for the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio in which Collins earned one of two sponsor’s exemptions to play in the event.
“It was like a flashback,” Collins said. “It was like a decade since I was with Tom for the ‘Big Break’ and it was kind of cool that he is here. Maybe it will be an omen or something.”
Collins, 25, of Fort Lauderdale, said she heard about the sponsor’s exemption about a week or two earlier.
“It was wild. Crazy,” she said. “I pursued professional golf for so long and have to give up on it a little bit, not really by choice.
“To have the opportunity to sneak into a couple here and there because of what I am doing with PGA of America is almost the coolest way I can imagine it happening,” she said. “And if I can go back and talk to past Taylor, I would be, ‘Don’t worry, exactly what you want to happen is going to happen in the future.’ This is what I love and I have a passion for it.”
Collins, who is currently a PGA Teaching Professional at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, captured the South Florida PGA Section Championship in September at BallenIsles Country Club-East Course, becoming the first woman to win the tournament in its 42-year history.
The Nova Southeastern University Hall of Famer, who grew up in Davie, tallied 522.500 points to earn her first career national award from the PGA of America. Collins tacked on another South Florida PGA Section victory in the Section’s Tournament Series Event No. 2, also in September.
The other exemption went to Nishtha Madan as sponsor exemptions into the field. Formerly India’s top-ranked women’s amateur and a two-time member of the Indian National Team, Madan turned professional 2020 following a standout collegiate career at Sacramento State University. She finished second on the Cactus Tour money list in 2021 and has recorded five professional wins.
Collins said she is looking forward to playing in front of friends and family just a few miles from where she grew up. She is also anxious to see the junior golfers she works with following her on the course.
“It is not do or die out here like it used to be for me,” Collins said. “If I don’t make that cut, it is not the end of it for me, I go back to the job I love. I think that is my biggest advantage. I love my job, and this is a privilege for me to be out here.
“It is going to be wild having people watch me play golf again,” she said. “I just have to keep it cool for the first couple of holes and play it safe. I don’t feel like I will be taking the driver out until I feel it is a safe time to do so until I get my nerves in check. This is out of the ordinary for me.”
After a year in Lake Nona, the Gainbridge LPGA is making a return to the Boca Rio Golf Club Jan. 24 to 30.
The 2022 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio will feature a field of 120 players competing for a $2 million purse. It will be the second stop in Florida as the LPGA kicked off the year with the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, moving to a new host venue at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando.
World No. 1 and defending champion Nelly Korda, 2020 champion Madelene Sagstrom and fan favorites/major champions Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko, and Delray Beach’s Lexi Thompson headline a stacked field of early commitments for the 2022 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.
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“We are honored to attract the best players in the game to back to Boca Rio Golf Club for the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio,” said Lesley Baker, Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio executive director. “We are equally as excited to welcome back fans to the tournament this year and representing Southeast Florida on a global scale both in person and to television audiences around the world.”
The 2021 Gainbridge LPGA was contested at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando in late February, when Nelly Korda captured her fourth LPGA Tour win at 16-under par.
Tournament officials also announced a new partnership with Menin Development’s Delray Beach Market, the food hall with 150,000 square feet that includes 27 local and regional food vendors and bars.
Delray Beach Market will activate an on-site market at Boca Rio Golf Club, offering fans a VIP hospitality experience with views of the signature 17th hole as part of the Delray Beach Market Pass.
All service personnel, including military (active, reserve, retired, and veterans), fire, police, EMS, and front-line health care workers (doctors and nurses) will receive free admission to the 2022 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio by showing proper identification at Will Call in exchange for a daily grounds pass.
Ticket packages for the 2022 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio include exclusive hospitality and general admissions tickets offering entertainment and access. Tickets are available for purchase at GainbridgeLPGA.com.