Peabody High graduate Catarina Rocha is best known as a track star. But Thursday night, she took her talents in a different direction — reality television.
The two-time, cross-country All-American at Providence College appeared on ABC’s summer reality series “Holey Moley,” an extreme mini-golf reality game show.
Think mini-golf meets “Wipeout.”
She finished one putt short of winning the $25,000 first-place prize.
Rocha was one of 10 competitors vying not only for the prize money, but for the Golden Putter Trophy and coveted Holey Moley green plaid jacket.
“How often do you get an opportunity like that?” she said Friday. “I had so much fun, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Even though I knew (how it ended), it was incredible to watch it with my family and friends. Everyone was texting me and posting pictures.”
Rocha has worked at Treadwell’s in Peabody since sophomore year of high school. She watched the show with family and friends, and partied with ice cream sundaes.
The 10-hole, oversized course features a variety of zany obstacles. From the Dutch Courage hole with gigantic, moving windmills that knock players off the course, to the Arc De TriGolf hole complete with a guillotine, “Holey Moley” is action-packed from start to finish.
Celebrities such as NBA star/executive producer Stephen Curry joined the fun, pinch-hitting for players on the Caddysmack hole. Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Kenny G played a cameo role as The Distractor in episode one.
Rocha’s first hole was Slip-and-Putt. She and opponent Chad Bennett, a Sacramento, Calif., golf professional, had to race to the top of an icy glacier. Rocha slipped on her first summit attempt, but aced the ascent on her second try. Her prize for being first to the top? A clear shot to the green through the legs of a large polar bear. She lagged the putt to about six feet, then two-putted to move on.
Rocha needed to overcome a nasty gash on her knee, suffered on the slide down to the green.
“This is just a blood sport,” quipped announcer/comedian Rob Riggle.
“The gel (covering the glacier) was really slippery and I busted my knee coming down, so there was blood everywhere,” Rocha said. “But I think the audience liked it and they were pulling for me.”
Rocha’s next hole, The Distractor, features different characters each week attempting to give players the yips. Rocha, displaying Tiger Woods-like nerves of steel, never flinched despite the best efforts of The Tickler, armed with a wand of feathers. Rocha aced the hole from 25 feet to advance to the championship round.
Mt. Holy Moley, the final challenge, is a steep volcano with three holes. Players must also soar over a lake on a zip-line and drop onto a floating dock. Rocha threaded the needle through the smallest hole, only to lose in extra holes.
“It was a little intimidating because so many players were pros,” Rocha said. “I didn’t expect too much, but thought that I might have the upper hand as an athlete. I was never nervous until the final hole. I just got lucky and had a couple of good holes. Toward the end, I did start to think about the money.”
Hosted by “NFL Monday Night Football” announcer Joe Tessitore and Riggle, “Holey Moley” is filmed at the same Santa Clarita, Calif., ranch where “Wipeout” was filmed.
Rocha applied online with a casting company to get on the show.
“An L.A. friend told me I should try it. I had a Skype interview in April, and a couple of weeks later, they flew me out to tape the show,” said Rocha. “I think I got selected in part because I was a college athlete and they liked the fact that I am from the East Coast.”
Unlike many other contestants, Rocha is not a mini-golf enthusiast.
“I had played some mini-golf, but now it’s become a competitive thing,” she said. “I’m competitive in every sport I play, so I definitely became more nuts about it after the show experience. I fell in love with it.”
Stay tuned for more Rocha television adventures.
“The show was so much fun. We all became friends, the players, the production staff, just everybody was awesome, said Rocha, who is a graduate assistant in the sports information department at Providence. “It was such a great experience that I will definitely reach out to other shows.”