You will never know just how good this feels to be writing about minigolf once again rather than try and track coverage of the televised Canadian Putt-Putt Championships from yesteryear. Although, that was a pretty good day. For those that don't know me, I'm Steve Lovell, I've been a touring pro on the British Minigolf Assocation tour since 2013 and been blogging for almost five years. For those that do know me, I can only apologise but... here I am again. Thanks for reading and the feedback.
Tuesday 25th: Today is my birthday and I got to spend it with my dad at breakfast, who had been up for four days staying with me. At this time in life, this is all the gift that I want, to spend time with my surviving parent, although the sandwich toaster was a marvellous addition to my kitchen. After seeing dad on his way, I jumped straight in the car to the venue of our first tournament of the year, which was to be played the coming Saturday evening at Dorridge in the West Midlands. My anticipation levels were high, but my middle-aged tendencies kicked in by watching the miles per gallon a Ford Mondeo can do. When I arrived, I took a moment to just appreciate the majesty of one of the best courses on the tour. I had also performed well previously here, finishing second and fifth. Time to relearn.
I honestly believed that it would be just me of the field today, but over the coming hours, there would be others. First up was James Hollinrake, who was using up some break to make an impromptu tour of courses. Monday Cardiff, Tuesday here. And he had gifts, a cheese sandwiches with a choice of pickles. The boy knows me. Next was Seve who is living a minigolfer’s best life with his own course under construction and due to open in the coming months. Finally was Chappers, who presented me with his new ball of fame from his 2020 British Championships triumph. I stayed for six hours before remembering I was meeting friends in the pub back home. All in all, this has been a great birthday, far removed from twelve months prior, chatting most of the day in a chat room.
Saturday 29th: It’s finally arrived after seven months. We knew it would do eventually, but it made all the sweeter because it was this day. I had a tee time booked of 2.40pm, so I spent the morning going for a short walk and relaxing at home. A healthy field of 39 were down to play, tremendous numbers which shows the competitive side of our sport was not only maintaining levels but growing them too. Initially, a limit had been placed of 30 but restrictions were lifted enough to consider all. It had the feel of the first day of the new academic year when were excited to get in and show off your new trainers and pencil case. The wait to tee off was bearable for this reason, allowing me to see course manager Andy and rolled out the Putt18 mat. “Ooooh yes,” Martyn exclaimed. As we got on to play, my Wasps teammates of Ed and James Shaw were busy learning lines, along with a number of other players. Far too many to mention. It meant play had sometimes two or three groups on the tee. We have been fortunate as a tour that no cases of Covid had been reported. For that, we are grateful.
Tournament time arrived and my playing partner was newcomer, retired bank manager Richard, who had impressed so many people with his consistency, willingness to learn and ability. I had been looking forward to finding out how good he was. As you can tell, two into 39 doesn’t go. What this meant was there were 19 pairs and one single with a related scorer going off in two groups. With one half of the field starting on the course and playing a full round shotgun before the second half started in a rolling start from the first. As far as I was concerned, this hadn’t been abundantly clear, and I wasn’t alone in this, as this is the first time in eight years I had seem anything remotely like this. So, while half the field had come straight from practice into tournament, the other half warmed down. For anywhere from half an hour to almost an hour. The reason being because of Covid and it would make the tournament move faster. Far too overly cautious, considering the field had been safely mingling in groups of at least five or six, and no. It did not. I respectfully disagree. There were a couple of other moments which didn’t sit too well with me, and others, but this isn’t the place to bring this up. I have raised what I have written already.
Myself and Richard got under way, quickly establishing we had both worked for the same bank at different ends of the country. Richard was indeed showing what I had heard about. Great attention to detail and holing out some difficult second putts. I wanted to make a steady start, but dropped one at the third, which shouldn’t really be a problem. Richard had reached three under through the first seven, with both of us encouraging the other. One thing I do is share in the delight of others, it is not often someone comes on tour and gets minigolf quickly as this. Andrew Edmonds was probably the most recent example in 2019. He was inspiring me. As for myself, there was the usual stack of near misses and with five to play and most of the real chances gone, I was one over. Then, at last, my first ace of the year. Anything around par is more than acceptable. Par is what I had. Richard was two under, three off the lead by Matt, who tied my course record that I held with Chris Harding. “That’s my lowest tournament round,” sighed Richard with relief. Well deserved.
We waited around ten minutes for round two. This would decide whether we would be in the mix, or another also ran. My four at the third would effectively move me too far out of contention and Richard’s drop on the same hole was a minor setback. It was another round of nearly for both of us and at Dorridge, nearly is pretty to watch but way too many tap ins, rather than the ball out the cup. I did rally to finish making the long penultimate hole for one over, with Richard two over. Too far back from the new leader Michael, two clear from Andy Wilde and Matt Dodd. Time to see it through and play for a minor place, as I was only four back of fourth. I made the start, aceing the first and not dropping at the third for once, although I subbed that in at the fifth. It wasn’t until the tenth when the putter finally zeroed in with three aces in four holes. I was less than an inch from making five in a row during that period. Richard was hanging in and would hang on for a top ten finish, his second in his short career. I posted a 33, which left me two under, the same as last time, in a tie for fifth and in a playoff for the final cash spot. Chappers roared in at the first extra hole. I tamely surrendered, probably feeling the length of the day a little. I chatted with Richard for around five minutes after, telling him just how well is doing and seeing potential in someone that he could really achieve something in this sport. More importantly, Richard is decent person to play minigolf with and look forward to more in the future.
The day was a success in the end as we were once again putting. There were faces old and new which had simply been missing from my life for such a long time. The vaccine programme In Britain has moved at a phenomenal pace, it has made today all the more possible. I look forward to my second jab in July, just grateful the real winners of the day were all of us. Like most countries with events, minigolf is a family. One close knit family. Like most families, we share special moments, we argue, we eat and drink together, we travel hundreds of miles because of this unique interest. We knew all too well that when we lost a member of the minigolf family two years ago, we pulled together as families do. To see new people join the family and get why we do this is impossible to explain to those outside the family. Our family continues to grow and when all this is done and we can become the world family again, people will see that our family, here at home, is strong and will be going forward.
Overall, sometimes this frustrates me, sometimes it drives me insane, sometimes it gets me out of bed before the sun is up. Overall, I am extremely glad I got drunk over eight years ago one night in Brighton and stumbled across the British Minigolf Association via social media. I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t walked that first step.
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