Back from Stockholm: Interview with Paolo Porta
10 Dec 2011 at 17:32 | Published by: Hans | Views: 8911 | News search
Paolo Porta playing in Stockholm (Photo by Patric Fransson 2011)
Interview with Paolo Porta (PP), Italy and MGC Novi Ligure
This interview was done the 10th of December 2011. Interviewer is Hans Bergström (HB).
HB: First of all congratulations to the win in the Italian Masters final and a quarter final in the Match Play of the World Championships. How can you rank this season compared with other years in the past?
PP: Thank you Hans. It has been a very nice season. I’m also going to win the Italian national ranking (that includes all the tournaments played along the year) for the 6th time in a row so I think my season has been quite O.K.
Anyway I don’t usually judge my season only by “titles”, but also by my playing level and I have to say that in some tournaments I’ve probably played the best minigolf of my whole career so I am very happy about this season.
HB: Can you tell our readers a little bit who is Paolo when you are not on the Minigolf course?
PP: I’m a 31 years old guy who likes to spend time with friends, going out and drink with them, playing football (of course, I’m Italian ;)..I’m a FC Inter fan if anyone is interested about that), surfing on the web and watching all kinds of sport on TV.
Maybe it’s a bit boring but all in all a very friendly guy. I’m actually in the minigolf business and I will start in 2012 a bigger business that will still maintain a part for minigolf.
HB: What expectations did you had on your own and the Italian team before the competition in Stockholm?
PP: We went to Stockholm with quite a young team to make experience for the future. Our goal was to stay in the top 5 teams of the world as it happened every time in the last 6-7 years. My personal expectation was to reach the final match play day and win as more matches as possible.
HB: You started as closer in the Italian Team. But the start was not so good with 30-25. How did you feel after that start?
PP: It has been my first time as a closer for the national team (I’m usually in that position in my club’s team). I didn’t suffer any particular pressure for that but we as team arrived at the tournament days with not enough confidences on the courses. We came late to Stockholm (probably the last of the top teams), we just had two complete practice days (due to heavy rain that affected especially our training group) and we even didn’t play nations’ cup because we didn’t have enough money to do that.
So the first days were a sort of “practice inside the tournament” to find confidence with the course. I was personally finding the feeling with the course day by day. In fact I played very well in the last stroke play day and even better in the final match play day. If only we would have had a couple more training days…who knows?
HB: After two days your team ended in a somewhat disappointing 8th place. Can you tell us what went wrong in the team competition?
PP: As I said, the too short practice time was the main problem. Our coaches did a great job to find the best solutions with so small time but we had to change many balls and lines during the competition days and that’s not the best thing in a World championship, especially if you have an inexperienced team.
Anyway we had the 5th place as a main target and even if we finished 8th, we missed it by only 4 strokes…which is not too bad definitely.
HB: And then you made a brilliant double round (22-24) on Friday morning to just qualify for the last 32 on Saturday. How were your thoughts and feelings to meet Marco Henning on Saturday morning?
PP: On Friday morning I said to myself: “I can’t go home with this kind of result”. I was something like 57th after two days, even if I felt I was playing rather well. I had reached the final day in every Euro/World Championship I played so I didn’t want this to be the first fail. I gave all to reach the final match play day and with a very good 46 combi round I‘ve also been a bit lucky to get the last available place.
I was very happy to play against the top player of the first two days. In this kind of game I believe that anyone can beat anyone and anyone can lose against anyone…so I really played with the “nothing to lose” mood and It worked fine.
HB: Then you won quite easily against home player Gustav Björnberg and then you were up against Walter Erlbruch. Can you tell us about that game?
PP: The match with my friend Gustav has been very strange. I was already 5 up after 5-6 lanes and this kind of matches has no story in this case. Maybe Gustav was a bit upset about playing against me (joking… ;)).
I was very happy to play again with Walter one year later. In Predazzo he gave me no chance but this time I was strongly determined to let him have a difficult task ;). It has been a very close match. Unfortunately, I lose the last two lanes on miniaturegolf, two lanes where I never find the feeling along all the days.
But I can also say I had been a little bit unlucky before, because I miss the aces on “salto” and “bridge” with two almost perfect shots. But it is always an honour to lose against Wally…sometime I think I would have stopped something historical (the final with his little brother Harry) so that’s OK ;)
HB: Looking back on the Stockholm Championships what is the strongest memories?
PP: The whole match with Walter gave me intense feelings. But there’s one thing I will never forget: at the end of the match, Walter told me something like “I win but I’m very sorry because you have played much better than me”. I didn’t expect that and I find it a very fair play thing by one the most prestigious players of minigolf history. It will be surely the best memory of this tournament for me.
Of course, being on the stage at the prize giving during the closing ceremony, for the second world championship in a row, it is always a nice and unforgettable feeling.
HB: What is your opinion about the way the Stockholm championships were played with 2 days team, one day stroke play and one day match play?
PP: Team competition on two days is too short. I think the first two rounds of the third day could be used to complete the team event if the tournament program is on time. About the double title we could discuss forever about it: at first I was not so convinced but playing it, I find it better than expected. At least there a price for the players who played better along three days and that is very important.
HB: Then in November you once again proved to be a good Match player by winning the Italian Masters. Can you tell us about this?
PP: Well, I have to be honest. I’m not a great supporter of the match play system. I am a regular player who gives his best in long terms tournaments. But if I have to play a match play, I try to do my best as ever.
I have probably learned how to play “lane by lane”, only thinking about that lane, scoring an ace on it without thinking about what happened before or what happens later. That’s the only way to be a good “match player”. With the Italian Master I’ve won the last title I was missing here in Italy in my career, so this was a great happiness.
HB: How does your season planning look like for 2012 and onward?
PP: I need to find more and new stimulations. As I said, I have won all I could here in Italy, I have been twice on the top 8 of a World championships. I have reached the podium of a World team championship as coach last year in Sochi with “my boys” (our great junior team).
What I still miss is being on the podium of an elite team championships and I will work for that in the next years. We now have here in Italy a very young group of new talents and I’m sure that they will help us (not so much) “old” players to let this dream come true.
HB: What happens next for you in Minigolf?
PP: I will play my last tournament this weekend in Rapallo and then I will make the usual “Christmas” break. I will come back playing at the 10 round marathon in Vedano al Lambro next January.
HB: If you could recruit any player in the world, as long as it’s not a Italian, to play for your club who would you pick?
PP: Difficult question. There are different players that I like. If we talk about playing technique, I could say my “polar star” is Carl-Johan Ryner that is absolutely fantastic on all surfaces.
But if I have to pick one player for my club I would choose Walter Erlbruch, because his knowledge of minigolf materials, balls, lane preparation and ability to find every time the best ball and line on each line is absolutely fantastic. He can perfectly prepare the course for himself and for his team-mates and this is an incredibly difficult double task (I can say that because I do it in my club team and often I can’t do that as I would like to). I would be very curious to play a tournament with the course preparation made by Wally ;)
HB: Again a big congratulation to the great 2011 season and good luck in the future.
PP: Thank you very much Hans, and good luck you too with your new task inside the World Minigolfsport Federation board!