I want to start this blog with a quick correction from my last one. I mistakenly said we were playing 8 rounds with a cut after 6 at this year’s U.S. Open. I was thinking of the last Open here and 8 rounds stuck in my mind. We are actually playing 10 rounds with the cut happening after 8. My bad. Now on to my long pre-tournament post.
The past couple of days have been an interesting time of practice. First, the weather has been iffy and at times has played some havoc. Wednesday morning it was particularly bad. Usually on a practice day I wake up around 7am and try to be at the course before 8:30am. On Wednesday I woke up to a torrential downpour and decided that I would not be going to the course too early. It would be almost 10:30 before the rain broke and even then it was only long enough to get in about 27, very waterlogged, holes. On the plus side, I figured out how to “float” a few putts into the cups if it comes down to it. During the next rain break I had time to change clothes, have lunch, catch up on a few minigolf related items, then it was back on the course at around 2pm. It would be a few hours of practice, then a break for some steak with Highlighter, then back on the course for some night practice. The owners were keeping the course open late to play under the lights so people could get used to it incase we needed to delay any rounds due to weather. Unfortunately, the rain would come again and instead of staying until 11 or so, we were off the course around 9:30. The highlight of the day was not the weather, however. It was definitely the snake that decided to jump out of a bush on hole six as we were walking by, slither across the hole and camp out in a tree by the tee box to hole 8.
Thursday was a much better day of practice, with the weather cooperating for most of the day except for a bit of a squall right around lunch time. Personally, I found Thursday better as well when it came to scores. All told, I played 16 practice rounds over the 2 ½ days I had and the first day and half the scores were way too high for my liking. However, on Thursday when I started charting more I found the scores dropping to slightly below my previous Open scores, which is where I was aiming. A nice part about practice the past couple of days was the classic rock over the speakers. It’s hard not to be pumped to putt when Twisted Sister is exclaiming their inability to take it or Rush battering out another hit.
The rain reared its head one last time on Thursday and cut short the Pro-Am event that was being held. The first 18 pros selected (of which I was one) got paired up with some local amateur players and any other pros who wanted to pay and play. The goal of the event was primarily to promote the sport but there was some competition involved. I’d rather not talk about my score for the one round that ended up counting before the heavens opened up, but I was happy that the two gentlemen I played with had a good time and genuinely wanted to talk about our sport. I was also paired up with Paula Gay so we were a good combination of ambassadors. It would be great to see one of those guys come out for one of the “locals” some time. That’s always a good first step to playing in bigger tournaments. Tony Varnadore picked up where he left off at the Master’s, earning the low pro for the Pro-Am shooting a 35 for his one round.
A few other observations before the tournament:
- I think a civil engineer or a traffic flow specialist should map out the movements of pro players during practice. The field is a good size this year (57 players) and it always felt like everyone would group up on one section of holes leaving 4-5 holes open. Part of it was the difficulty of some of the holes that are grouped together, but I think there might be something more to it as well. We need more data!
- It’s kind of crazy when I think about I’ve spent the better part of 2 days doing nothing but playing minigolf, eating and sharing stuff on social media. For all I know the rest of the world could be wiped out but we’d keep on complaining that we pulled a shot or misread a line. For those novices wanting to join our ranks, it’s not usually that crazy for a local tournament but for these big tournaments you definitely get into a minigolf bubble.
- With the US Supreme Court ruling that it was legal for States to enact sports gambling, I want to know when our tournament is going to be on a board somewhere. I promise not to be the Pete Rose of professional minigolf.
Now for the important part – predications and odds (I won’t be Pete Rose but I will definitely be some casino’s handicapper).
- I will make the cut.
- I will shoot better than I did in 2015 by at least a .75 average.
- I will make an ace in my first round.
- I will play at least one round with two aces.
- Over/Under Total Rounds Below Par - 15. In the 2015 tournament (8 rounds) there was only 7 rounds below 36. This would be slightly over double that. I’d bet the under, especially if the course is a wet (which it will be some tomorrow morning after this thunderstorm outside my window tonight will tell you.)
- Over/Under Winning Average – 37. In 2015 the winning average was 37.125. I feel like it will be close to that. If you take the over above, you probably want to take the under here.
o Olivia 2:1 – She’s defending U.S. Open champ and always has to be considered the favorite. She didn’t play on this course in 2015.
o Tony V 4:1 – Master’s champ and rolled good during the Pro-Am.
o Brad Lebo 5:1 – Defending U.S. Open champ on this course. That will bring your odds down.
o Matt McCaslin, Danny McCaslin, Gary Hester, Greg Newport: 8:1 – all did well in 2015 and are normally near the top of scoreboards.
- Look out for:
o John Powell – local pro who did very well in 2015
o Rainey Statum – did well in MSOP and has looked good in practice
o Joey Graybeal – 2016 U.S. Open winner and did well in 2015
With that, it's time for some rest and an early wake-up to be at the course before 7:30!