Gunnar Shoots His Way to World Glory
02 Oct 2017 at 20:27 | Published by: Sheila | Views: 2575 | News search
Gunnar Bengtsson rejoices after sinking his final shot. (Photo by World Minigolf Sport Federation)
I’m sure anyone in the minigolf world could not have failed to notice the celebration of the sport that went on at Zaton resort in Nin, Croatia in September. The World Adventure Golf Masters provided a quite remarkable spectacle, from the extremes of the gargantuan rainfall on the Monday to the one of the tightest finishes ever on the world stage. Minigolfnews reporter Steve Lovell caught up with the new World Adventure Golf Masters Champion and the man in the suit, Gunnar Bengtsson, on his return to Sweden. » Final Result of WAGM
(SL): Gunnar Bengtsson, would you please introduce yourself to the world and tell us a little bit about you.
(GB): Hi everyone, my name is Gunnar Bengtsson and I'm 41 years old. Like many of the other Swedish MOS players I'm from the western part of Sweden and live in Goteborg (Gothenburg). I'm married with two children, girls of 11 and 7. For work, I run an internet marketing business.
(SL): When did you get into playing minigolf?
(GB): My first time getting into the game was 2003, I started playing in Askims BGK on the beton and eternit courses. I really took to the league team play we have in Sweden the most and played quite a lot for a few years. In 2009, I took a break from the game for a few years while my girls were small, and got back into it again in 2013. Since then I've really started playing more seriously, and worked on improving my game.
(SL): You seem to excel at the MOS style of minigolf. Is MOS your favourite surface and how are you on the other surfaces?
(GB): You’re right, my special talent seems to lie at navigating MOS style courses. It has grown to be my favourite surface over the last few years, and it’s where I’ve had most of my success as a player. I’d say I’m a semi-decent beton player, having once won the annual Askim international beton competition. I’ve posted three competition rounds of 18 on eternit so can hold my own there too with enough preparation. Felt is a different story, and it’s the surface I’m struggling the most with. I do love to play it though as I feel it improves my stroke and helps me on the other surfaces.
(SL): This was your second WAGM, finishing third in the male category in Kosovo. What memories do you have of that tournament last year?
(GB): Kosovo was great. Gracious hosts that are anxious to join the international community of minigolf. For me it was the first time playing in a national squad of any type, so I’ll always treasure the experience for that reason alone. Other than that, I’d say the extremely long holes would be the main take away from the event, and taking home the team gold. I can honestly say I was oblivious to my own score until after the team competition had ended, and didn’t even realize I took home the men’s bronze until it was pointed out to me.
(SL): Onto Croatia, can I just say congratulations on becoming the new World Adventure Golf Masters Champion. How does that feel and has it sunk in yet?
(GB): Thank you Steve, it feels great. I guess it’s starting to sink in by now (Thursday morning, two days after the competition ended), but the whole experience still feels a bit unreal to me.
(SL): How many days before did you arrive for the tournament?
(GB): We in Sweden 2, which was in actuality a pure club team from Askim, arrived late Wednesday afternoon, so we had four and a half days of practice, not counting rainouts.
(SL): Did you have much help from your Swedish teammates? I believe Jens Bergstrom had played the course before.
(GB): Jens had indeed played the course at last year’s Croatian Open with an eye towards this year’s WAGM. This was helpful as we had a firm starting point on every hole and Jens had put together an impressive package of material to study before the tournament. Jens, me and teammate Robert Skyttberg practiced very deliberately every day for as long as possible to give ourselves the best chance possible. We had a ritual where by the end of each practice day we looked at all our scores for the day and graded each other's play on each hole, spelling out where each player needed extra practice the next day. I think we all felt this helped improve our game and is something I'm going to look at repeating for coming competitions.
(SL): So it gets to the day of the competition and then it rains like never before. How did you pass the time?
(GB): This is an outdoor sport and on some level, you are always prepared for delays and rainouts. I hate waiting at the course though since I feel that once you get to the course, you get into your mental state of preparedness without actually releasing that energy into play. I have to give props to Pasi Aho and the tournament jury who delayed the start time early enough that we could stay in the apartment during the morning hours and just stay loose and relaxed. Later in the afternoon we played cards with Sweden 1 and just hung out, not really expecting to see play at all on day one.
(SL): How did you cope playing in the near darkness on that first evening?
(GB): I was super focused and amped up for play, but the conditions made acing very difficult. It wasn’t only very dark, which none of us had played in, but the course was still very wet after all the rain. That made the balls stop unexpectedly and not roll as they had previously. I was quite unhappy with my 34 but after seeing that I was only two strokes off the lead, I figured it wasn’t too bad.
(SL): You played very well throughout, dropping only three shots. When did you think that you were in contention to maybe win the whole thing?
(GB): Yes, thank you. MOS is often about minimizing mistakes while capitalizing on the best ace chances. I feel I played well enough that I had reasonably easy putts for two whenever I missed the ace, but I did have a few long and difficult putts to save the two as well. We charted the most likely deuce putt locations Sunday afternoon but could have done a bit better job at that, since I ended up in places where I wasn’t quite sure how to hit it but managed to sink it anyway. I knew I was in contention from the beginning really, but after round four was when I knew the chance was real. I had tried to avoid excessive scoreboard watching as I know that is detrimental to my play, but before the final round it was hard to avoid knowing I was in the lead. The time before the final round felt like it dragged on for hours. I just wanted to get out and play and get it over with.
(SL): Coming to the last few holes, did you start to feel nervous? Were you aware of the situation at the top of the leaderboard?
(GB): Since I felt I was “in the zone” as it were, I told coach Pauli Kuikka I didn’t want in-round coaching for the final round. It wouldn’t help me to learn if my lead was growing or shrinking hole by hole, as that might make me more nervous. My playing partners for the tournament, Greg Newport of USA and Karl Lakos of Austria, helped me stay focused for the final round. We were counting down the holes and hoping we’d get our round finished before the inevitable rainstorm. I felt like they were rooting for me and like we were in it together somehow. I never got really nervous until at the final 18th hole. Standing there though, I was thinking about the fact that I hadn’t missed it the whole tournament, not even once in practice. That’s not a good thought to have running through your mind. I pulled the first shot slightly left of the treasure box entrance for a miss. I tried not to think too much about it, just teed it up again. Refocused for a few seconds and hit a pretty bad stroke for two. It was not the cleanest finish, but in the end, that doesn’t really matter, does it?
(SL): Zaton resort looked amazing. Did you get a chance to enjoy the facilities? What did you think of Croatia?
(GB): It was a very large resort with loads of things to do. Many of us thought it would be a great place to vacation, especially with kids. Unfortunately, we didn’t really enjoy any of the facilities other than the golf course.
(SL): Will you be looking to defend your title in Horni Bezdekov, CZE, next year, a course you played back in June?
(GB): I’m already looking forward to next year in Horni Bezdekov. I know Daniel Vlcek will be especially difficult to beat on his home course, but I want to give him a real run for his money. When we played it in June this year, we had some holes we misplayed, and we’re going to correct that by next year for sure. I’m hoping to see everyone at WAGM 2018 in the Czech Republic, and that includes you, Steve! It’s going to be a blast.
(SL): Oh yes, I will be there. Thank you for your time, Gunnar, and once again, congratulations.