The link between love and golf is apparent with Courtney and Kevin Erdman, two Altadena Golf Course employees who participated on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” series in hopes of earning coveted exemptions at a PGA or LPGA tour event.
Courtney and Kevin Erdman both teach at Altadena Golf Course near Los Angeles (PHOTO: Eddie Meeks).
Courtney lasted into the seventh week of the ninth season filmed in Maui and broadcast in the spring of 2008. Kevin made it into the three-man final of the 12th season, which aired Tuesday, December 15 and was filmed in July at the Disney Golf Resort in Orlando, Fla.
“First, getting picked for ‘Big Break’ was awesome,” Kevin said. “I thought, ‘This is going to be so much fun.’ And the challenges are fun. You’re doing certain things (skills tests) like you’d do if you were hanging with your buddies.”
But soon after arriving on location in Orlando, the harsh reality of reality TV set in. Being away from home and Courtney for two weeks and filming the entire season over that stretch was hard to handle.
“People don’t understand that it looks a lot easier than it is,” Kevin said. “It’s just unbelievable how the nerves can get to you.”
Courtney performed well under the pressure because she was acquainted with some of her competitors from the Duramed Futures Tour and other mini-tours. She’d been competing regularly for four years before the experience, and Kevin was with her all the way, serving as both her caddie and coach.
The Erdmans’ tournament-circuit lifestyle involved traveling in a van to save money. Courtney came close to qualifying for the LPGA Tour a few times, but dwindling finances forced the couple to put off the pursuit of her dream.
Courtney was fifth in driving accuracy while on the Futures Tour and it showed on “Big Break,” where her booming drives sailed effortlessly onto the fairways.
But her out-and-in swing prompted several viewer postings on Golf Channel's website.
“My dad didn’t teach me to take it inside like I do. It kind of naturally started happening,” Courtney said. “Kevin and I tried to fix it but I noticed that I started losing yardage. I saw Jim Flick once, and he wanted to fix it and I tried but it just never worked. Every time I tried to fix it, my game would just crumble.”
Courtney also became known for her easygoing nature, prompting some observers to question her desire.
“They make their judgments and perceive you the way they want to but, for me as a player, I’m very confident in what I do,” Courtney said. “I guess because I come off as very relaxed, it makes it look like I’m not very confident. I’m just relaxed. I feel very confident in what I’m doing.”
Rusty from the time he spent coaching and caddying for his wife, Kevin could only crack jokes about his inconsistency during the challenges.
“Before filming the show, I hadn’t played golf in four months,” he said. “I maybe played five professional tournaments in four years. It was definitely, like, find your game as you go. I wasn’t sure of myself and that’s definitely not a good feeling. So, I adjusted my mental attitude to expect to fail everything. That way anything that comes out of that (failure) is good — kind of reverse psychology.”
Kevin got labeled as “the funny guy” by his fellow competitors.
“I like to have fun,” he said. “You’re super nervous about everything, so you have to find a way to turn it around.”
The benefits of their shared adventure gradually came to light over several weeks. Courtney returned home performing better in media interviews and under the glare of the camera. Her TV exposure ignited interest from Altadena-area golfers who began seeking her out for lessons, and she discovered that she enjoys teaching. She likes it so much that she enrolled in classes to become a certified PGA teaching professional.
“Men tell me they want their wife or daughter to take lessons from a woman pro with whom they’ll feel more comfortable,” Courtney, 27, said. “I feel that I know what’s going through their head and how they might feel during the lesson.”
Kevin, 30, confessed being touched by the outpouring of support from the Altadena Golf Course community.
“They’ve always treated me well here,” he said. “We had a watch party here in the restaurant for the first episode, and it was raining. I didn’t think anybody was going to show up. There were 50 chairs and we got about 75 people.
“We always hear people say, ‘We’re rooting for you.’”
It’s easy to root for the Erdmans because of the support they give each other.
“I’m really proud of how well she’s done and how she’s helped some people really improve their game,” Kevin said of Courtney’s teaching ability.
Courtney noted that Kevin’s strengths as a coach are based on “how much he cares” about her and his desire for her to do her best.
“He does make it easier (as my caddy) because if I’m in between a club or something or the wind’s going it’s nice that he’ll say, ‘Oh take this extra club,’” Courtney said. “I don’t have to do all the work, he does all the numbers and yardages ... and 90 percent of the time he’s right. It does add to my confidence.”
Over time, Kevin learned how to temper his enthusiasm when it comes to caddying for Courtney during a competition.
“I’ve learned you can’t be angry and you can’t give a frustrating look,” he said. “I can’t say anything negative or even roll my eyes because it really affects her ... because she cares so much about what I think. I’ve learned not to be so hard on her and accept that things could be bad.”
In turn, Courtney has taught Kevin to adjust what once was a negative response to a golf hole going south.
“One thing she really helped me out on is my attitude about playing, because I really used to be a hothead,” Kevin said. “My mental game has definitely improved because of her.”
Courtney and Kevin met when she was 16 and playing on the boys’ golf team at Crescenta Valley High School and he was 19 and working at Altadena Golf Club while attending Citrus College. Their first date six months later was a round of miniature golf, and they married after a five-year courtship.
Now with their professional tour dreams on hold while they dig out of debt, Courtney is achieving other career goals. She was the winner of the Southern California PGA Women’s Sectional Championship in October, with Kevin “back on the bag.”
“On the first day I told him, ‘I’ll putt on my own; just leave me alone, I’m fine, I’m fine,” Courtney said. “The second day, I’m playing really well, but I’m just not dropping putts and Kevin’s like, ‘Let me help you.’ And finally I said, ‘Fine, go ahead, just line me up, whatever.’ And then I made three birdies after that ... but I just tell him he got lucky.”
Kevin hasn’t ruled out a run at professional golf but knows that he’ll need financial backing to do so.
“I would absolutely like to try,” he said. “The Nationwide Tour is more attainable than the PGA Tour, but you never know, you might get hot.”