So its Wednesday the 13th of September, the day after the adventure masters, the morning after the closing ceremony. Its now time to change my focus from the adventure golf which I am used to, to the unknown world of felt and eternit.
This is what Iíve been preparing for with all the youtube videos and research Iíve been doing for the last 3 months.
I venture out on the felt for the first time and after a couple of putts Iím surprised on the speed of the surface, but also feel a little comfortable as it reminds me a of a regular golf green that Iím used to, good weight and slight breaks from right to left. The ball selection I brought with me is okay but it know Iím going to need more (which I end up spending a couple hundred euro on by the time the tournament is complete). Luckily I donít have to work blind, Will Donnelly from the Great Britain team has stayed on from the adventure masters and has also played on these surfaces before, we work through some ideas of how to play the felt lanes.
Tuesday the 14th, the day before the first offical practice, team New Zealand (currently just me at this point) and Team Australia are lucky enough to have a little one on one training so to speak on the eternit with Past Aho, he offered to run through the lanes and give us ideas of balls and lines. Again Iíve watched plenty of youtube on these but standing over them is another story, learning how fast they are, like the felt, and even more so than the felt the ball selection is pivotal. Neither team is prepared in terms of the correct balls to use on the eternit, the joys of not having a course and potentially the closest being somewhere in Asia.
As the offical practice days start the rest of the New Zealand team start filtering into Zaton, they all go through the same reaction of what have we gotten ourselves into. New Zealand sent their first team to the world champs in Finland two years ago and built up a relationship with Vincent Huus from Denmark, he helped guide them through the lanes, luckily for us and the Australian he was more than willing to help again. He supplied the team with a ball for each lane on the the Eternit (he was also a much deserved winner of the first WMF FairPlay award given out at the World Championships for his willingness to spend time helping and training our teams).
The draw for the teams at the opening ceremony was made, and with India not able to make it too Croatia in time meant our mens team were grouped with Germany and Austria. My playing partners for the first 2 days would be Christian Gobetz who Iíd seen play in some of those many videos Iíd watched and the defending mens champ from Finland, Marcel Noack. The later of which I was stoked to be able to play with as I had spoken to him a few days earlier around the final day of the adventure masters and was willing to answer questions and offer advise on this whole new world iíd stepped into.
The first day of competition was here, and I have a 10.30 tee time, so nervous 2 and a half hour wait after the start of play to hit my first putt in the world champs. The first round is on Eternit and other than a bit of a blow out on lane 9 (the pipe) which I had a 5, and a total of 30, I was happy enough with the start to my first world champs on these systems. Round two on the felt was my best total score on the felt (with the practice rounds Iíd played) id shot, no silly blow outs. Three 3ís and a bunch of aces for a 31. round 3 back on the eternit was my best on this surface as well, even with a miss placed 2 on the labyrinth lane 18 with a pushed first shot I carded a 25.
Day 2, due to the high winds on day 1 and the slowness of play they had started some groups on their 4 rounds the night before which meant there would be no reseeding of the groups and we would continue playing with the same people, which I wasnít going to complain about as they were both great people to play with and helped me lift my game. Round 4 on the felt was a 35, and other than a blow out on lane 10 the German ledge which I card a 5 it was fairly solid. Round 5 back on Eternit again was solid, for a beginner on these surfaces, other than a terrible 3 on the first lane and a 4 on lane 14 (straight lane with gate) I came in with 28. Just before starting the final round of the day on felt I realised that it was the final round of the teams completion and being that I was playing with Marcel and Germany in the lead that there would be a bigíish crowd watching. This is fine for them as they are used to it, but for me in my first completion was going to be a little crazy. Even though the final scores wonít show it this was by far my best round of the tournament. The play was slow and I was trying to keep focused by humming music (warren Gís regulators for some strange reason) in my head. we got to lane 13 (the gentleman) right in front of the grandstand full of people, the Swedish player in the group in front having just carded a 5, all that was in my head was donít take 7 whatever you do. I walked away with an ace and a double fist pump. Down to the last lane needing an ace for 29. I came within 2 inches of what I would call my perfect round. I carded a 4 and a total of 32.
Day 3, after being seeded we played our final round on each surface, neither would be amazing though I had put myself in a position going into the gentleman on felt to chase that 29 again, however this time it would not be my friend and I walked away from it with a 6 and a total of 36 for the round.
My final position was 75th which as much as I am happy I didnít finish last I saw enough potential in how I played to have finished inside the top 70. It was a great experience and made me start thinking of how I can find or compete on these surfaces again soon and not wait 2 years again.
Final averages: Felt - 33.5 and Eternit - 28
The day finished by witnessing a world record of 20 on the felt by Swedenís Fredrik Persson
Day 4, even though I wasnít playing watching the matchplay was great, just watching the masters at their craft battle one on one. Then the closing ceremony which was a great way to wind up the week partying with new friends from around the world.
all I know if I thought I had caught the mini golf bug before the last 3 weeks in Croatia I was totally wrong, now all I want to do is compete more and more. Bring on the next tournament I can get myself entered into