CSU San Bernardino Alum to Compete in The Golf Channel's "Big Break"

J.R. Reyes hopes his participation in The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” series that premieres on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. PT will lead to just that – his big break in professional golf.

Reyes, who played on Cal State San Bernardino’s golf team from 2001-02 to 2003-04, is one of 12 contestants vying for a chance to compete on the PGA Tour in 2010 by winning this event at the Walt Disney World Resort near Tampa, Fla.

“I am not your typical golfer,” Reyes declared in a video preview of the show posted on The Golf Channel’s website.

The 28-year-old San Diego native has acquired a lot of professional experience since he left CSUSB with a business degree and a lot of body art. He now bears 50 tattoos.

“The tattoos do not make me who I am,” Reyes stated in his Golf Channel biography. “I have them because I like them, but the portrayed character is not me. There are times when I play at a local golf course and people will want to play through or not want to play with me. They judge a book by its cover. I am down to earth and have been taught to be respectful to others and that everyone has a story. I just want to be myself and it doesn’t bother me.”

Reyes has had an eventful life since he graduated from CSUSB. He tried the pro min-tour circuit, felt burned out and left the tours to attend graduate school at USC. He later transferred to University of Nebraska-Omaha where he lives with his sister and works part-time at a local restaurant.

Waiting tables gives him time to practice four to nine hours a day, three days a week to get in shape for “Big Break.”

His passion for the game revived, he drove 20 hours from Omaha to audition for “Big Break”.

“I was happy to have the chance to audition,” Reyes said in his Golf Channel biography.

“The sites were so far away from Omaha that I had to drive 20 hours for two nights just to hit some balls for 15 minutes and speak in front of a camera. It sounded crazy, but it was an experience.

“But here I am. Winning could take me to the next level, because it would help me financially and let people know who I am. It also would help my confidence because it is tough out there.”

His hiatus from professional golf came after being paired with current PGA Tour star Camilo Villegas in a Hooters Tour event back in 2005. “I played two rounds with Camilo and after that I thought that it was not for me. I saw how is game was and I got depressed and decided to quit.”

Reyes stopped playing competitively for over a year, but then went to teaching pros Kevin Smeltz and the David Leadbetter Golf Academy and “got lessons for the first time in my life,” he told The Golf Channel.

Apparently those lessons have helped him improve his game to the point that he made the field for “Big Break.”

One of his competitors in the show said of Reyes: “He drives the ball straight and he putts awesome.” Another said: “He’s very cool, calm and collected.”

Reyes graduated in 1999 from Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego and attended Midland Junior College in Texas his freshman year, earning JC all-America honors.

In his sophomore season at Cal State San Bernardino, Reyes averaged 75.6 strokes in 30 rounds of golf and advanced to the NCAA Division II West Regional tournament as an at-large player where he finished in 26th place with a 54-hole total of 226 (73-77-74).

As a junior, Reyes averaged 75.3 strokes in 29 rounds of golf, earned all-California Collegiate Athletic Association honors by finishing eighth at the CCAA championship tournament and again qualified as an individual for the NCAA West Regional tournament. He finished 34th with a 54-hole total of 226 on rounds of 77-73-76.

His senior season was cut short by a wrist injury that forced him to miss the CCAA championship and limited his participation to six tournaments. However, Reyes was named the 2003-04 CSUSB Athletic Department Male Scholar Athlete of the Year award for his 3.55 grade point average. He also earned Verizon Academic all-West Region honors, an award sponsored by the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA).

The son of Thelma and Rudy Reyes now plays out of Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena but Shandin Hills Golf Course in San Bernardino was his home course throughout his college career and early pro days in 2005.

Asked by The Golf Channel what keeps him chasing his dream, Reyes replied, “I don’t know where my future is taking me, but I know that I love this game. So I just keep going with it until one day I reach a point where I want a family. It is tough. You go day-to-day and just grind.”

Tune into The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” and watch a former Cal State San Bernardino player grind toward what he hopes is a profitable career in professional golf.