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View from the 'ville
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

By Al Myatt

ECU scored a Big Break in hiring Lewellen


Whether it's modeling beachwear or trying to make it to the next show, East Carolina women's golf coach Kim Lewellen is getting significant exposure on the Golf Channel as one of the competitors on "Big Break V: Hawaii."

East Carolina women's golf coach Kim Lewellen is mum about the outcome of her reality show excursion on The Golf Channel.

Photo: The Golf Channel

The production, taped in Hawaii last October, is golf's answer to the "Survivor" reality shows with cast members eliminated weekly based on their responses to various golf challenges devised for the program.

"There's a lot of pressure on each shot — whether you're going to be on the show or not," said Lewellen, who has played on the European and Futures tours. "I've never had that kind of pressure."

A fresh episode of the series airs tonight and the last show is set for the second week in May. Lewellen won't say how long she lasted or if she won. She hasn't even let her parents, Smith and Xandra Byham of Raleigh, in on the final result.

The 34-year old former UNC-Chapel Hill All-American admits to confiding a little more in her husband, John, an Episcopal minister, but says even he doesn't know all the details. Among the prizes for the program's winner are exemptions into selected LPGA Tour events and a new car.

The show's competitors not only played together but stayed together. A companion show, Big Break All Access, takes viewers behind the scenes with the golfers.

"None of us knew who else was going to be on the program until we got to Hawaii," Lewellen said. "The people on the Golf Channel wanted that to be a surprise. I did know several of the girls previously from the Futures Tour."

The program taped the golfers extensively on and off the course.

"You were miked from the time you got up until you went to bed," said the Lady Pirates coach. "It was very interesting, a different experience, but by the third day, you forgot about it. It was old hat."

Even though the players were trying to beat each other, Lewellen said they got along well.

"By the time we left, it was like the sisterhood of Big Break V," she said. "We relied on each other for support and energy to keep going each day."

Lewellen had watched portions of previous Big Break shows, III and IV, and had a girlfriend who encouraged her to go for it. She sent in an application last summer and was invited to audition in Orlando. She hit different shots for about 30 minutes in the audition and was contacted about two weeks later. Then it was on to Hawaii.

She was hired by ECU AD Terry Holland in January to replace Kevin Williams as women's golf coach. Williams coached both the men's and women's programs at ECU before becoming head pro at Walnut Creek in Goldsboro.

Lewellen said she advised Holland during the interview process about her Big Break experience and that she might have some tour opportunities — be it LPGA or Futures variety — in the summer. Holland was fully supportive, she said.

"I follow Coach Holland's vision of having a nationally-competitive program while achieving academically," Lewellen said. "The women's golf team is outstanding academically."

The ECU women golfers recently were recognized by the NCAA for their Academic Progress Rate and their performance on the links has been worthy of respect as well.

The Lady Pirates began their spring season under Lewellen by finishing second among 12 teams in the Papa Johns Intercollegiate Tournament in Miami. ECU was eighth among 19 teams in an event at Pinehurst going into the final round today.

"The team played real well this week and I'm excited with the outcome," Lewellen said after the tournament in Miami, in which the Pirates finished ahead of No. 12 Virginia. "Kevin (Williams) left this program in great shape and we have the sky as the limit for what this team can accomplish this season."

Williams helped the Pirates locate his successor and Holland indicated that Lewellen's arrival was a big break for ECU.

"Kevin Williams has always done a terrific job of recruiting men's and women's golfers, but helping us find Kim Lewellen may be his best recruiting effort of all time," said Holland at the time her hiring was announced on "We believe this is a hire that will have a lasting impact on our women's golf program and our whole athletic department.

"Kim is everything we could hope for as our women's golf coach — she is a terrific competitor and still plays at the highest level. She has head coaching experience after coaching both the women's and the men's programs at The Citadel, and as a former student-athlete at the University of North Carolina, she represents the very best of what intercollegiate athletics can and should be.

"We are very fortunate to have Kim and her family as members of our community and we welcome them to ECU and Greenville."

Lewellen, whose family includes sons Jack and Simon, moved to Greenville from Wake Forest about three weeks ago. She has been amazed at the local support for the ECU program. The Pirates practice at Bradford Creek but also have cooperative agreements which allow them to play at Greenville Country Club, Ironwood and Brook Valley.

"It's a wonderful situation," Lewellen said. "The community is very supportive."

Big Break V is pretty special, too. Lewellen and family are rapt viewers when each edition of the show comes on. She doesn't know what will be aired from all the hours of tape shot in Hawaii.

The weather was superb with sunny skies and temperatures in the 80's. One day, with a monsoon-like downpour, was the exception.

"It's the best experience I've ever had in golf," she said. "The Golf Channel treated us like divas."

For more on Lewellen's visit to the 50th state, go to and click on Big Break from the menu on the left side.

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Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:30:01 AM


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