Holey Moley’s season 4 finale had a first for ABC’s extreme mini-golf competition: Kathy Valyo, this season’s eventual winner, putted two back-to-back holes in one, and then also landed a hole-in-one on the final hole to win $250,000.
I literally jumped up and screamed both times—and when she won. So I reached out to talk with Holey Moley’s history-making winner, and learn about her experience.
Kathy’s incredible feat began on Holeywood, where she putted right into the cup from the Rob Riggle Drop Zone, negating the need for either of her competitors to putt.
The second round of the finale, on which the winners of the first three rounds faced off, was on The Parcade, a season-three hole that was not otherwise used this season. Kathy landed her ball in the giant pinball machine’s version of Uranus, and it rolled right into the hole.
Along with eventual runner-up Dylan Bolhke, Kathy then competed on a new version of The Distractor which was really the green from Holeywood reconfigured, plus the addition of the show’s costumed extras dancing around while Jeannie Mai sang.
Kathy and Dylan took turns, until Dylan missed and then Kathy landed yet another hole-in-one, one that was worth $250,000.
Kathy Valyo on her victory and more
I talked to Kathy this afternoon, and she told me that “I think I’m still on cloud nine. I played golf today and all the ladies and a couple of the guys from the pro shop are coming up to me. It’s just, it’s very, very exciting.”
Season four, which was titled “Holey Moley Fore-Ever,” actually filmed in early spring of 2021, right after season three, so it’s been well over a year since Kathy’s actual win was filmed.
Was it hard for her to keep the secret of her win? “It was in the beginning, because I was still so pumped up,” Kathy said. But she was so good at not revealing anything that “everyone is telling me if they ever needed to keep a secret, tell me.”
Kathy said she took the secrecy seriously: “I signed an NDA; I can’t say anything. Straight face, no smiles.” But she was also anxious for her season to finally debut: “I kept thinking, okay, when’s it going to be on?”
Kathy told me she already has requests from people who want to see the plaid jacket and bejeweled putter that she won, and also said a mother asked if Kathy could meet her kid.
“I’m so excited to be able to have people happy and smile, and it was just a nice experience to have her reach out,” she said.
From casting to injury to winning Holey Moley
Kathy’s nieces Misa and Maiya Tanaka were on the first two seasons of Holey Moley—and previously were a team on The Amazing Race 20.
Misa, who was on Holey Moley season two, encouraged Kathy to apply. “I said, I’m an old lady, I can’t do those stunts, I can’t do any of that. It took several calls with her to finally convince me,” Kathy said.
“There’s no way they’re gonna want this old lady on the show,” Kathy thought, but she received a call-back in the fall of 2020, and continued through the casting process until she was cast for season four. “I was overwhelmed.”
Kathy told me that she prepared by focusing on putting while she was playing her regular twice-a-week game. “I just wanted to make sure that I could putt to the best of my ability. [I] went out to the local miniature golf course and took that on a couple of times as well,” she said.
“What I didn’t prepare for was The Pecker and Parcade and the rest of that stuff. So I don’t think you can prepare for that except be 25 years old, in the prime of your life, and really fit,” she laughed.
I asked what it felt like to bounce off of Holey Moley’s obstacles, which is one of my favorite parts of the show, though now I feel guilty about that.
When she landed on the beak of the giant woodpecker, Kathy told me it was “brutal. I really thought, Andy, that I broke my ribs. I really did.” When she landed in the foam pit, Kathy said, “I’m thinking oh my god, I can’t breathe. This really hurts. I’m trying to get out and I’m thinking, This really hurts.”
“I ended up bruising my ribs, but of course I didn’t tell anyone because I’m competitive,” she said. The pain continued for “months. When I got back from Holey Moley, I went to my doctor. Do I have a broken rib? He’s like, no, they’re just bruised.” The treatment, he told her, was just “to live through the pain. I was in such pain.”
Kathy said that painful experience on The Pecker affected the way she approached other obstacles. “When I went through the other ones, you can tell when you watch it, I’m a bit hesitant, because I thought, I’m already in pain. I don’t want to break anything. I’m in my 60s.”
Another challenge for Holey Moley contestants is the California desert cold, which feels even colder after contestants fall into water. (Just look at how bundled up the spectators are on the sidelines.)
I asked Kathy about the temperature, and she said that, after contestants fall into water, producers “do a really nice job of having a little tent area where they have a heater. But a lot of times, you’re running to the hole, and you’ve got to put; you don’t have time to dry off, [even though] they’re trying to dry you off.”
But Kathy said that once she got to the hole, “I found that I was really able to block everything out and focus on my putts. At The Distractor [the final hole], I didn’t hear any of that. I didn’t hear people shouting, I didn’t hear anything. I had a strategy; I knew where I wanted to put the ball.”
“I just blocked it all out,” she added. “I was just laser-focused.”
By the way, when filming for that final hole began, Kathy told me, it was very late at night/early in the morning, and “the winds kicked up, and it started to rain, and it was so cold. They said, You know what? We can’t film right now. So why don’t you just hang out.” They went to a trailer where “both Dylan and I started doing the head bobs” because they were so tired.
When they were called to the set, “We’re both kind of like, Wow. Okay, what time is it? Where are we?”
Kathy’s laser focus helped her with her two back-to-back holes in one, and her general strategy was “to get as close to the pin as I can.”
“I think about addressing the ball, and reading the green. What do I need to hit so I can get the closest I can to the pin?” she said. “So for example, on the woodpecker, I knew exactly what where I wanted my ball to go. Of course, it didn’t go there!”
“I really focused on the fact that I’m a fairly good putter. I’m sure there’s luck involved. Even with the fishing hole, I knew that was going to be a really, really long putt, and I had to hit it really, really hard.”
That experience on Holey Moley, despite its extreme obstacles and wild putting greens, has helped her actual golf game.
“On Tuesday, I played, and someone was talking and they’re like, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to talk. I said, You can talk all you want. … It’s not gonna bother me,” she said. “It gave me that edge; I block everything out. It’s given me the opportunity to really focus and to be able to read a green better than I was doing before.”
During filming, Kathy said she got to know the other contestants over time, as they spent time in a holding area with heaters. But she said “you really don’t know who you’re up against until you get to the hole, and then you’re at the hole, and you introduce yourselves to each other, and then off you go.”
Holey Moley, Kathy told me, is “definitely not for those faint-of-heart, because the obstacles are difficult—and thank goodness I was in somewhat good shape. I’m 20-, 30-year-old good shape, but I was in good enough shape to be able to get past those. It was a great experience; except for my bruised ribs.”
“I really had fun, and the people I met were fabulous: from all over the U.S., all walks of life. Everyone had their story. That was really my first experience with any type of TV and I really enjoyed it. It was fun, and the people were just fantastic: the directors, the producers,” Kathy said.
“When I had to leave after I won, I said to Katie, who I worked with as my director, I said, Katie, what am I going to do tomorrow morning when I wake up and I don’t have wardrobe to go to or someone to do my makeup? This is really hard for me now,” Kathy laughed. “It was a lot of fun. It was a great, entertaining couple of days. It was an adventure.”