Kiawah caddie hopes to get a ‘big break’

Brandon Hartzell is sworn to secrecy. The Ocean Course caddie competed in The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” reality show in September, but can’t reveal the results.

Hartzell, a 27-year-old caddie at Kiawah Island’s most famous golf course, was one of 12 golfers competing in the latest version of the reality program — this one titled The Palm Beaches — that begins airing at 9 p.m. Monday. At stake is $120,000 in cash and prizes, along with an exemption into the PGA Tour’s 2015 Barbasol Championship.

“Hopefully this is my chance to get the ball rolling forward again,” Hartzell said Thursday. “This is probably my top (golf) experience. It was a great cast and great group of players with high-caliber golf games. I felt like it was a great environment for me to be in.

“I felt like I learned a lot, particularly because how good the other guys are. It tells me where I have to get my game if I want to be as good as I can be.”

Other cast members include brothers George and Wesley Bryan of Chapin, who both played at the University of South Carolina, and Richy Werenski of Bluffton. The Big Break began in 2003. One of the most successful alumni is PGA Tour golfer Tommy Gainey, who grew up in Bishopville and at one point worked as a cart attendant at Dunes West while pursuing his golf dream.

Hartzell’s journey has been similarly circuitous. He grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and played college golf at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. He turned professional in 2009 after graduating and played mini-tours in San Diego and in Florida before moving to Charleston in 2012.

“I met a guy working at the Ocean Course, Zach Zachary, who was a former defensive back for Baylor. He mentioned the PGA Championship was coming to the Ocean Course and they needed caddies. I was a young guy and needed some money. I was already traveling so I decided to go,” Hartzell said.

Hartzell, who has won three mini-tour events, said he spent the first two years in Charleston caddying six to seven days a week, trying to earn as much money as possible to allow him to play in 2014.

“I played OK … but the money went pretty quick last year,” Hartzell said.

The Palm Beaches show held auditions for golfers at various tournaments throughout the country. Hartzell said he earned his spot at an Atlanta tournament, one he had not planned on entering.

“My brother is playing pro hockey — I come from a family of athletes — so I figured, ‘You never know.’ So I tried out,” he said. “I did the audition and I got on the show. It was sweet.”

His goal for 2015 is to play as many tournaments as possible and try to get into qualifying tournaments for the various tours, something he has never been able to do.

The “Big Break” is all about handling pressure, he said.

“It’s doing something you’ve never done before which adds to the pressure,” Hartzell said. “Being around good players, knowing where you fit it, you have a better understanding of where your game needs to go. You want to win, but in the end it’s all about getting better.”