Alumus to be contestant on golf reality show

Jay McNair is just a nice guy, no matter who you ask.

“He’s a well liked guy, real good with kids,” said Bill Gainer the head professional at Rogers Park Golf, McNair’s home course in Tampa. “Nobody has a problem with him.”

That’s part of the reason the 29-year-old FAMU alumnus was chosen to be a contestant on the second season of the Golf Channel’s reality show “The Big Break.” McNair, a 2000 graduate, was the only contestant chosen by the channels viewing audience, earning him the nickname V.C.–viewer’s choice.

The elementary school teacher said it was his even keel and mild temper that kept him from feeding into the stereotypical reality show drama.

“I was just a nice guy, the other guys were bickering,” McNair said. “Ten men is not as bad as 10 women though, I tried to mediate and not get involved in any of that.”

But had it been up to McNair alone, all of this probably would never have happened.

“My girlfriend told me about it last year,” McNair said. “She printed up the seven page application, I didn’t want to do it.”

McNair said he got e-mail in December 2003, inviting him to audition along with 100 other golfers at Doral in Miami. McNair said he just so happened to win $350 playing skins at Rogers Park to afford hotel and transportation.

“At the time, I was dead broke.” McNair said.

The season premiere will air on Sept. 28 and will include 10 of the nation’s best scratch golfers. At the completion of each week’s golf challenges one contestant will be eliminated. The last golfer standing will receive an invitation into four events on the Nationwide Tour, a subsidiary of the Professional Golf Association. The richest purse in on the Nationwide Tour this year was the $771,000 Jacob’s Creek Open in Australia this past February.

McNair said there were only four exceptional golfers in the first season of The Big Break. This season the competition was much more intense.

“We were all on the same talent level,” McNair said. “All 10 of us were standout golfers.”

McNair played golf for three years at FAMU from 1992-1995, including one year under then head coach and current assistant athletic director for NCAA compliance Johnathon Evans. Evans said McNair was a very good player with an immense amount of talent.

Evans also said McNair let his emotions get the best of him on the course sometimes and that he had some academic issues.

“His emotional side was also one of his better traits, too, though it gave him drive,” Evans said. “He always wanted to be a professional golfer, and I can see he’s doing that.”

It wasn’t just those issues that made McNair’s time on the Hill tumultuous. McNair’s grandfather, the man who introduced him to the game, died.

“We thought we lost him for a while then; you know, when he lost that force behind him,” Gainer said. “He lost perspective.”

From 2000 to 2002 McNair taught the fourth grade at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan while playing on a professional golf tour on the side.

McNair said there were some really good players on the tour and that he didn’t have time to put enough work to truly excel.

“If he was allowed to work on nothing but his game, he’d be great.” Gainer said.

McNair is currently a teacher at Oak Park Elementary School in Tampa. Oak Park’s student population is over 70 percent black, mostly who reside in the inner city.

The school earned an “F” grade and only 0.2 percent of its enrollment is classified as gifted.

McNair uses the game of golf and its philosophies when teaching his students about math and life. He said he brings scorecards into the classroom to teach his students to add a lot of numbers quickly.

But the teaching doesn’t stop in the classroom; McNair took a group of kids out to the course with him on a few occasions, even buying two kids a set of junior golf clubs.

“A couple of the kids really want to play golf, they want to go to the course with me all the time,” McNair said. “I had to tell them they couldn’t go all the time; your mother and father have to take you. But I try to introduce as many kids to the game of golf as I can.”

McNair can’t legally say whether or not this nice guy finished last, but he definitely has the confidence of his peers.

“He’s very good, very competitive,” said golf superintendent for the city of Tallahassee and professional at Hilaman Park Municipal Golf Course in Tallahassee, where McNair once worked. “He’ll give it his all that’s for sure.”

Contact Nick Birdsong at