Today's interview is with Charlotte Campbell, who with her brother Rob, were the winning team on The Golf Channel's inaugural Highway 18 reality show.
Charlotte graciously gave us a few minutes to share some insight on the experience of being on Highway 18, her collegiate playing career, and explaining just what a Blingo is. We hope you enjoy the interview.
The Sand Trap: First off, congratulations to you and your brother for winning the inaugural Highway 18. How did the both of you decide you wanted to participate in Highway 18? Could you describe the process of getting on the show?
Charlotte: Thanks so much! It was a dream come true to be on it, and then to win it! I'm sad that it's over, but life goes on haha. I was called in December of 2007 by a producer and was told they were thinking of doing a new show and while they didn't have too many details, they wanted to know if I was interested, and if I had a good partner in mind.
At first I was hesitant, but Rob immediately came to mind and I knew it was an opportunity of a lifetime. We then auditioned with about 15 teams in January in Orlando and played trivia games, had dinner, played golf etc. We got the call a few weeks later that we had made the show and it would tape in April. We had no idea what to expect, but we were determined to win it all!
TST: Did you know any of the other crop of reality show talent that has come from the ranks of the Duramed Futures Tour and did you discuss with them about their experiences prior to agreeing to subject yourself to a reality television show? What positive and negative experiences did they share with you?
Charlotte: Yes! I currently live with a previous Big Break winner and she shared her insight with me. I also played a round with Rachel Bailey from BB6 and her main advice was that "the microphones are on AT ALL TIMES!" I really kept this in mind during the entire two weeks we taped because the last thing I wanted was a sound bite that I didn't mean to say… Other than that I was just told to have fun, and be myself… I think I did both of those pretty well!
TST: The producers of Highway 18 seemed to pull a few "tricks" on the viewers such as two-strike eliminations, superlegs, etc. How many of these "tricks" did you know about before the episode was filmed? In addition, the producers didn't tell us about some background elements of the show (such as "bad driving" time penalties); we found these out from various interviews and blog posts. What were some other events that took place in the show that we don't know about?
Charlotte: Yea as far as the "tricks", we had no idea what was going to happen each day but as the show progressed we sort of guessed what was coming. When Rob and I got lost in Daytona and were given a ball in the end I don't know if that was planned so that a team wasn't elimated on day 3, or if that was going to happen all along.
I was frustrated because I didn't want to get a strike due to poor driving, and the producers stressed that "good golf" was the key to doing well on H18. As far as the time penalties on the road, there were a lot of them, myself being included, and I don't really know why those were not shown on TV…
It would have helped allow the show to flow better and make more sense as to why some teams were so mad at others. We were not allowed to speed (not even 1 MPH over), and sometimes it got ugly with some teams "telling" on another…
TST: Did Highway 18 make most teammates closer or more distant? Also, did you make friends with some of the other contestants, or was it purely competitive? By all means, feel free to share a little gossip!
Charlotte: I think I'm a naturally guarded person, and as the show went on, I knew that Rob was my only real friend and that it just wasn't worth it to get too close to anyone else. I know there is a lot of strife among other teams right now, but to be honest I don't know enough to share or I would! I think since Rob and I won, it's easy for us to remain neutral with all of the teams which is good. I don't know how I'd feel had we lost.
TST: It seemed like you did a lot of the driving while your brother was the navigator. What was the reason behind this? It also seemed that there may have been some temptation to speed, or otherwise drive a little reckless to make up some time. Was driving safely stressed by the shows producers and was there anyone who drove a little too aggressively? Jay injured himself due to running in spikes, too - was there too much emphasis on speed? If you take away speed, you just have Big Break, so what would you do to make Highway 18 safer for all contestants?
Charlotte: I think it looked a lot worse on TV than it actually was. At times I thought it was almost more dangerous because we were driving the exact speed limit in busy cities rather than just keeping up with the flow of traffic. The producers were really strict about our speed and each team had a production assistant in the car that was responsible for speed among other things. As far as Jay's injury, it was early, uphill and slick… when seconds matter, you had to sprint. It could have happend to anyone.
TST: Have you been surprised how much you are being discussed on various blogs and forums? What's been your reaction to reading what people write about you? Understanding there is a price you pay when you sign up for a reality TV show, do you think the experience was worth that price?
Charlotte: I really thought the forums and boards would be worse than they were. I actually liked reading them because people had interesting opinions and thoughts. Of course I did read some extremely harsh things about myself and Rob, and the other teams, but it was just more pathetic than anything that someone would rip apart someone that they don't even know.
It got to me at first and then I didn't care as the show went on. Most people had great things to say which was a confidence booster! However, it made me realize that saying something bad about someone else can really hurt their feelings more than you would think. I have learned to think about what you say before you say it…
TST: While most people might know you as part of the winning team, you had a very impressive collegiate golfing career at Rollins, winning national player of the year four times and winning two national titles. Give us a little background on your collegiate playing career. What was that experience like? How good was your competition? What advice would you give to both female and male golfers who are looking to play at the collegiate ranks?
Charlotte: Playing at Rollins was unbelievable. I was an okay junior player, and Rollins was really the only school that saw something in me. Each year we got better and better, and as a result I was able to grow as a player and person. My coach taught me so much about the game and that's the reason I turned pro.
Playing in school was so fun and it allowed me to travel to some of the greatest places and play some of the greatest courses. I also played in big amateur events during the summer and just learned to love golf more and more each day. My biggest advice to someone who wants to play in school is to go somewhere with a coach who believes in you, and a place that you will get to play.
Don't redshirt, or be a walk on if you're better than that. Division II may not be as "cool" as some other places, but what I got to do there was a million times better than what I would have done at a school that I would have had to fight for a spot on. I learned to win tournaments which is invaluable.
TST: After college you turned professional and started to play on the Duramed Futures Tour. Do you feel this was a good choice at the time and do you have any regrets about trying your hand as a professional golfer? Why or why not?
Charlotte: I stayed an amateur for about six months rather than rushing out on tour. I played the U.S. Open, the U.S. Am, and the British Am in the few months after I graduated. That was great! I am glad I have turned pro and play on the Futures. I have all of my friends out there that struggle or succeed with me. It's so fun and I have plenty of time to work somewhere else in the future.
Playing golf is the same as being a doctor, you have to go to med school before you are a big timer. The Futures Tour is like graduate school. Golf brings so many opportunities, not just playing week to week.
TST: It's no secret that the Futures Tour is not quite the equivalent of the Nationwide Tour. You're not playing for a lot of money, you have no television coverage, and the only spectators are members of the host course and some family members. Some say the depth of quality players isn't nearly as deep. What is your take on the Futures Tour? Should it award more exemptions (10 compared to the Nationwide Tour's 25) to the LPGA Tour? And what do you say to those who believe that the Tour isn't nearly as deep with talent as the Nationwide Tour?
Charlotte: I would say that womens golf isn't as deep as mens golf… Would I choose to go to a WNBA game over an NBA game? No… But, I believe that 47 of the top 50 on the Futures money list made it to final stage of LPGA Q-school. Therefore, the future of golf is on our tour so that is good to know. Women's sports just aren't as high powered but hopefully that will change in time. I do think more spots should be given based off the of the money list, because those girls are likely going to make it anyway.
TST: Do you feel more pressure now to perform in your golf game than you did previously, given your increased exposure now in the golf world? Does the fact that more people potentially will be now be following you from here on you make you more nervous about your game?
Charlotte: This year was extremely tough because I went and won H18 after our first event on tour. I played well on the show and thought that would carry over and I would have a good year. I held that secret for the entire season and my game just got worse and worse. I had glimmers of good play, but it was just a rough year.
I struggled off the tee and that's something I've never done before. I was in spots on the course that I wasn't used to, and it was just a growing year. Most people don't really know how you are doing on the course, which is what I've realized. They care more about if you are having fun, and so forth. I love playing in pro-ams each week because no one cares if you are 120 on the money list, or 5, they are just excited to meet and play with a good player.
TST: Any plans if this competitive golf thing doesn't end up panning out?
Charlotte: What's the supposed to mean? Just kidding… I don't know… I've thought about it, I think I'd like to coach, maybe at Rollins… Or just work somewhere. I really enjoy working and being productive, so I would have no problem retiring from the links and starting something new, but most likely in golf.
TST: Tell us the story behind the Blingo Ballmarks as they seem to be starting to pop up everywhere. What inspired you to make these? Do you personally make each one? Any plans to expand this line of business and have you been approached by any companies or retailers looking to market the Blingo ballmarks?
Charlotte: Blingo started as an accident when my mom's friend wanted one to match her outfit. I designed what is now a Blingo, and she wore it and loved it, and then her friends wanted them, and their friends wanted them, and pro shops got on board and so forth.
I mainly do them for member-guests and since a lot of the girls on tour wear them, it's great exposure because they'll go home to their courses and people will see them and contact me. It's purely a grassroots movement. I hand-make each and every one and don't know if I trust anyone else to make them because I'm such a perfectionist. Check out Blingo Ballmarks for more info!
TST: We understand you have a long-time boyfriend, a college sweetheart. We won't pry for details, but perhaps just asking this question will help curtail some of the marriage proposals and cut back on some of the creepy letters you've gotten. Do you think it'll work?
Charlotte: I think it will work!!! Haha… the creepy emails were interesting, that's for sure! But hey, I give people credit for putting themselves out there… I guess…
The Sand Trap would like to thank Charlotte Campbell for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck to Charlotte, Rob, and the other contestants on Highway 18 in the future.