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Stephanie Sparks, longtime host of Golf Channel’s reality series ‘Big Break,’ dies at 50

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Longtime Golf Channel “Big Break” host Stephanie Sparks has died at the age of 50.

No cause of her April 13 death was listed in a story about Sparks’ death on the NBC Sports website.

Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, to Robert and Janie Sparks, Mary Stephanie Sparks was an All-American collegiate golfer at Duke.

She won the 1992 North and South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst and in the summer of 1993, rattled off victories at the Women’s Western Amateur, Women’s Eastern Amateur and the West Virginia State Amateur.

Sparks represented the U.S. on the 1994 Curtis Cup team and had a brief professional career that was plagued by injuries. She began her pro career on what’s now the Epson Tour and played only one season in the LPGA in 2000 before chronic back pain ultimately ended her career.

Sparks played the role of three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Alexa Stirling in the 2004 movie “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” opposite Jim Caviezel.

In addition to the “Big Break” reality series, Sparks hosted the “Golf with Style” series on Golf Channel as well as “Playing Lessons with the Pros.” She also did some on-camera reporting at tournaments.

During her competitive days, Sparks wrote player diaries for Golfweek, offering an inside look into tour life.

Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott worked seven seasons with Sparks as a co-host on the popular “Big Break” series. Abbott, who is on the broadcast team this week at the Chevron Championship, lauded Sparks’ work ethic.

“She had been a professional golfer herself,” he said, “so she knew what it was like for the contestants, and she wanted them to succeed. She kind of rode their emotions in a way when we were doing the show.

“She knew how tough it was.”

Sparks’ Kepner Funeral Homes obituary page notes that she was an advocate for hospice care for the last several years of her life and supported Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation and the Barber Fund in Orlando.

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