Back from Stockholm: Interview with Michael Smith
16 Dec 2011 at 07:45 | Published by: Hans | Views: 9399 | News search
Michael Smith the number 1 ranked UK player playing in Stockholm (Photo by Per Olsson 2011)
Interview with Michael Smith (MS), Great Britain and Kent Minigolf Club
This interview was done the 13th of December 2011. Interviewer is Hans BergstrŲm (HB).
HB: First of all congratulations to a splendid 2011 season and the UK nr 1 ranking position. Are you satisfied with your season?
MS: Thank you very much. Iím thrilled with my season. I won 10 titles in the UK, was 2nd in four other tournaments and finished as the top British player in the three WMF tournaments. The big target I set myself at the start of the year was to end the season as the British number 1 and I am really happy to have done it.
HB: What would you say was the season highlight this year?
MS: I was lucky enough to represent Great Britain three times this year which was a huge honour, but my personal highlight was being one quarter of the Kent Spitfires team which won the British Club Championship a few weeks ago.
Unlike many countries we only play in our club teams once a season. All the matches were played over just 12 holes which put a huge amount of pressure on every shot. To come through and win the tournament was a wonderful experience, particularly as we had a terrific final match against The Green, who played superbly and pushed us all the way. It was the best possible way to end the season for myself and the Kent Minigolf Club.
HB: Can you tell our readers little about yourself? Who is Michael Smith?
MS: Iím a freelance writer. I work on various non-fiction projects including occasional minigolf reports and Iím in the final stages of finishing a part fantasy, part coming-of-age novel. It is my ambition to be a published novelist.
I played my first minigolf tournament in January 2010 and was hooked on the sport from within the first 5 minutes of that event. I really enjoy minigolf and have been very lucky to make a lot of new friends. But I am unbelievably competitive when playing tournaments and set very high standards of myself. I get pretty mad when I donít play as well as I think I should.
Away from work and minigolf, I relax by spending time with my partner, reading, and watching sport on television. Iím a lifelong Blackburn Rovers supporter for which I receive a huge amount of stick in the UK!
HB: Letís go back to Stockholm in August. What were your personal and the UK team goals before the Championship?
MS: All seven of us had one simple target: we wanted to beat our previous best 8 round totals on the concrete and eternit courses. For four of us, that meant bettering our scores from the Nations Cup two months earlier. For the other three players, it meant bettering their scores from when they had represented Great Britain in 2005 and 2006. Iím pleased to say we all achieved that goal.
HB: You started off in style in Stockholm. You were actually leading the whole Championship after acing 7 of the 10 first lanes on concrete. After a slow finish you still made 27. Can you tell us about this round and the reactions afterwards?
MS: I have never felt more excited playing minigolf than this round. As I was the first player on the course for Great Britain, I had a lot of my team-mates supporting me and it was just an incredible feeling, especially when I scored 5 consecutive aces on lanes 2 through 6. It was very difficult to control the adrenaline and not get too excited.
Afterwards I was a tiny bit disappointed not to ace lane 18 but overall I was incredibly proud of my round. 27 was a new Great Britain record score on Beton which was a nice bonus and hopefully my round provided the rest of my team with some positive momentum as they embarked on their opening rounds.
HB: It seems like you were more comfortable on the concrete course where you had a sub-30 average than on the eternit. Is this correct?
MS: Yes thatís right. Personally I enjoy the challenge of concrete a lot more than eternit and that showed in my scores. It was a similar situation for the rest of the Great Britain team as the team found it easier to adapt to the concrete but struggled a little on the eternit course.
HB: So after your first two international appearances in the Nations Cup and World Championships what is your opinion about Minigolf on International level? Is it any fun?
MS: It is fun but extremely challenging at the same time. It is almost like playing a different sport from what we play in the UK. We have no concrete or eternit courses in Great Britain so when our players travel to events such as the Nations Cup and the World Championships, it is really difficult for us to adapt. But overall, it was a great experience, and minigolf is always fun, especially when there are lots of aces flying in.
HB: Now three months later which memories are the strongest from Stockholm?
MS: Three things in particular stand out. One is the sheer fear of stepping up to play the Jump with net lane on the eternit course.
The second was the phenomenal standard of play from the top Nations. It was a joy to watch the best players and nations in the world battling it out over the four days.
But the biggest memory from both tournaments in Sweden is how proud I am of my team-mates and coaches. Marc Chapman, Emily Gottfried, Richard Gottfried, Chris Harding, Marion Homer, Sean Homer, Tony Kelly, Scott Lancley, Ted McIver, Brad Shepherd, and coaches BjŲrn Dinau and Eirik Seljelid were all heroes. Their fantastic attitude, skill, and the spirit in which they competed in made me proud to be British. It was an honour for me to play in the same team as them.
HB: Your came third only three strokes from the title behind two German players in the first ever WMF World Adventure Golf Masters. Can you tell us about that competition?
MS: Entry numbers to the competition were understandably a little low as it was the first staging of the event, but the competition was a big success and great fun to play in.
The German team that came over was very strong and they played some fantastic minigolf to deservedly win both the team and individual titles. A lot of the foreign players who traveled over really enjoyed playing an adventure style course and hopefully this event will become very popular over the coming years.
HB: This season also saw a first ever win by an UK player in the British Open (Marc Chapman). Here you were on second position only two strokes behind. Can you tell us about this competition and if you are satisfied with the results you achieved?
MS: I have mixed feelings on this tournament. On the one hand I am very proud of the way I played, particularly over the first 5 rounds which was as good as minigolf as Iíve ever played. And 2nd is a great result as there was about 20 very good players at the event.
But as I was level with Marc after 125 holes and then scored a 4 on the last hole, I was very disappointed to lose out in those circumstances. I wasnít strong enough mentally to win and I felt that I had let myself down. However I was delighted for Marc because he is a great player who had not won as much as all his good play deserved in the year preceding the tournament. By scoring 33 aces over the seven rounds, I felt he had taken British Minigolf to a new level, and if I had to lose out in a tournament at least I lost to a player who played brilliantly and will undoubtedly hit the number 1 spot very soon. Only those players who played in the tournament can appreciate just how well he played to score 33 aces on that course.
HB: Very close to the titles in two of the biggest competitions in the UK this year. Is this a bitter thought looking back upon it now?
MS: No, not at all. I played really well at the World Adventure Golf Masters. I beat all the British players and some very good foreign players too. Iím very proud of my -42 total. It was a great learning curve playing all my rounds with Sebastian Kube and being in the final group on day 2 with Sebastian and Martin Stoeckle. Full credit to Martin for winning and Sebastian for finishing as runner-up, but I was extremely proud to claim the bronze medal.
The British Open was different. I was incredibly depressed in the two to three weeks following the tournament. I did feel a little bitter but I resolved to bounce back and finish the season on a high. I was able to win my next two tournaments, the Weymouth Open and the Planet Hastings Open, and then I won the World Crazy Golf Championship. Although that tournament is an event where all players play with just a standard course ball, for a lot of players it is the biggest tournament in the UK and it featured 18 of our 20 highest ranked players at the time. To come back and win such a big tournament, especially as I had to ace the last 2 holes to make it into a 3-way sudden-death play-off which I won with an ace at the 2nd hole, was very satisfying. Any regrets about the British Open disappeared with that victory.
HB: Can you comment on the development of the sport in UK?
MS: We have a major problem in the UK in that minigolf is not officially recognized a sport which means we receive no government funding. This makes it difficult to send teams to the big international tournaments and develop the sport and the British Minigolf Association as much as weíd like to. Until that situation changes or we receive some significant sponsorship, we are always going to be far behind the top minigolf nations.
But itís not all bad news. Marc Chapman has taken over the Development role in the BMGA and Iím confident that with his passion for minigolf and his track record in fencing, good times are ahead of us. Weíve got some very good junior players coming through including a future British number 1 in Adam Kelly, which is great news for the future. A lot of people play minigolf in the UK for fun, the challenge is to encourage greater numbers to take up the sport competitively.
Sean and Marion Homer have played a huge role in the development of the British Minigolf Association. They are about to step down from their roles and on behalf of all minigolfers in the UK, Iíd like to say a big thank you to them for all their hard work, dedication and success over the past few years.
HB: What are your season planningís for 2012?
MS: Itís a little early to say right now. Iíll be playing a bit less minigolf than this year but look forward to playing on the BMGA tour in 2012 starting at the Star City Open in January.
HB: So what happens next in Minigolf for you?
MS: Iím enjoying a nice break from minigolf. Over the Christmas holidays, Iíll conduct a thorough analysis of all the tournaments I played in this year. Iíve had a great season in 2011 but I know I have a lot to improve on. My rivals will all get better and I face a big challenge to stay ahead of Marc Chapman, James Rutherford, Sean Homer, Adam Kelly, Andy Exall, and the rest of our top players next year. My target is to finish as the number 1 player at the end of 2012. Itís going to be incredibly difficult but I look forward to the challenge.
HB: If you could recruit any player in the world, as long as itís not an Englishman, to play for your club Kent, who would you pick?
MS: Iím going to have to cheat on this question. BjŲrn Dinau and Eirik Seljelid were the most fantastic coaches for the Great Britain team in Sweden this year and are two of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet. It would not be fair to only pick one of them.
HB: Again a big congratulation to strong 2011 season and good luck in the future!
MS: Thank you. I wish everyone in the minigolf world a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.