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United States of America Patrick Sheridan's blog« See all PatPenguin's blogs

Virtual 4 Nations Cup – A View of a Minigolf Future?
25 May 2020 at 15:14 | Posted in: Competition | Views: 828 | Comments: 0
Virtual 4 Nations Cup – A View of a Minigolf Future?
My 4 Nations Cup Rounds

At 40, I wouldn’t consider myself old by most measures except the eyes of a teenager and am certainly not old in the world of professional miniature golf. However, back when we started reviewing courses for The Putting Penguin in 2001 there wasn’t much of an Internet presence for miniature golf - even finding information on local courses was hard. It is safe to say I never thought I would be competing in a virtual putting event, streamed live on the Internet, with people from 4 countries around the world. In fact, it seems to be another in a long list of “never would I have thought” minigolf related items that I seem to be continuing to add to.

The Putt18 mat first crossed my path early in the COIVD-19 quarantine era as I was looking around for a new putting surface. I only had a simple putting mat that I normally used when we were creating things like our Tailgating Minigolf and was now mostly just used by my kids for messing around outside. It wasn’t the best mat for practice but it offered something other than putting on bare floors. In looking at the available mats there were a few that looked like they would be good for keeping my putting game up but not a lot that had any sort of built in challenges or games. Putt18 was one of those mats and I considered making a purchase but then it kind of fell off my radar as I was working on some other #puttathome challenges. In short, the mat came with 3 “holes” that were bullseye targets and 6 tee-positions. Your score depends on your ability to hit the target and how close you could come to the center. The idea was you’d play 3 shots, one at each target, from each tee position to get in a round of 18. Simple.

Then Glenn Palmer from Putt18 reached out to me to see if I was interested in doing a virtual competition between the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia, which he was dubbing the 4 Nations Cup. The answer was a no brainer of course – yes! By that point I had been watching Josh Mars’ videos on the Putt18 mat and was again interested in trying it. In addition, since the U.S. Open was canceled I didn’t have anything competitive on my schedule for a bit, so having something to “train” for would be nice and fill some of the competitive urge that I was missing. Not to mention it’s always interesting to be on the leading edge of looking at new ways for sport to be had, and the idea of everyone doing something at home on the same surface had it’s draw. While we’ll eventually all be out of quarantine there’s plenty of times when this could come in handy, like over the winter months. I was game to be part of the group that pushed this forward.

While waiting for the mat to make it’s way through various customs and slower pandemic shipping as it traveled from Australia to the US, we had the chance to watch the Aussies and the Kiwis battle it out in the
Trans-Tasman Cup. Besides being in awe of some of the low scores, the immediate thing that crossed my mind was how I was going to film my rounds. It needed to be livestreamed, so I knew my best bet was with my phone. However, the length of the mat and the angle needed to appropriately score the putts was going to be difficult with my current set up – so off to the online shops I went to buy a decent little tripod. The added benefit of this is now I have another rig to help with some on-course filming, which is something I think I was lacking.

The big day came and the mat finally arrived. You can see my initial thoughts in my
unboxing video. The next challenge was finding the right place to set up the mat that offered a combination of playability and film-ability. I settled with my home office for a couple of reasons. 1) There was plenty of room to layout the mat and set up the camera. 2) The lighting was pretty good especially at the anticipated time for shooting. 3) The floor is relatively level. 4) It means I will have it set up in my office, which means plenty of practice while on conference calls!

After getting through that, I needed to make a few other decisions and I liked how it felt because it brought a bit of normalcy to the world since it felt like preparing for a “real” tournament. While we had to use the balls that came with the mat for consistency there were other things to consider. Which putter should I use? Should I wear shoes? Where in the tee box did I want to start from? How was I going to pace myself?

After those decisions were made there was the important part – the actual putting! My first dozen or so rounds were absolute stinkers. I was over adjusting with every putt, resulting in far too many bogeys. I think it was the combination of a few of things: 1) not having played a real round of minigolf in several months, 2) not having putted on a high quality mat in several months and 3) when putting at home not having used golf balls as most of my at home holes has been played using the Euro-style miniature golf balls. With my excuses firmly in hand I went about dialing in the putts just as I would any other tournament. It comes down to repetition and remembering to take a few practice strokes before I got to the official scoring.

Finally the big day came and I was just as excited as I would have been with any other tournament. While there was money to be won, there was importantly a couple of things on the line – personal pride and national pride. Because this was streaming on Facebook live, there was going to be a chance that more people would see my success or failure versus a normal tournament. It would be on the Internet as a historical record. I knew that I would likely not be able to clear all four hours needed to watch all the teams but I endeavored to watch as much as possible. My hope was at least to watch the UK as they were directly prior to us and then of course watch my teammate Tom.

Oh yeah – I forgot to mention that going into this I didn’t know what Putt18’s plans were for teams and was pleasantly surprised to find out my fellow Putt When Ready member
Tom Loftus (of A Couple of Putts) was going to be my Team USA partner. It was great to see him given a chance to play in a tournament like this as I know he didn’t have as much experience on this type of stage and was looking to up his game. We’d be up against Richard and Emily Gottfried from the UK, who I’ve been Internet minigolf friends with for a long time and who I got to play a round in person with back in 2015. From Australia it was going to be Josh Mars , a newer Internet minigolf friend and Cameron Couper , an Internet minigolf friend and Matt Ansley who we have heard about from tournament recaps but hadn’t had a chance to connect with. So we were teed up to have fun with this competition.

The official rules of the tournament were simple – complete 4 rounds in 16 minutes and all 4 rounds count toward your total team score. With the streaming format Putt18 had a set of judges who will watch to verify scores/make scoring decisions. Due to small change of schedule Josh ended up going first and set a good mark to achieve of a -7 for the four rounds. I was thinking that we’d see a winning set of rounds from one person in the -10 to -12 range (about 4 under a round), so this was moving in that direction. It gave me a bit of pause in terms of wondering if I could shoot that low. As I mentioned, right before us Richard and Emily took their rounds. Given they had the least amount of practice on the mat I’d say they did respectable but did open the door for Team USA to work their way up the standings. Then it was time
to tee off. Normally I don’t come off the blocks hot in any tournament but this time around I was happy that I did. Playing a round in four minutes is pretty quick – you only have about 13 seconds per shot plus you have to factor in time to retrieve the golf balls (I don’t think any of us used a helper in that regard). There wasn’t much time to think about what your cumulative score was but I did have a sense of how I did for each block of three. I also decided I needed to use a marker to help remember what tee position I was in because there was so much happening at once. Not only was there the speed of putting but I was also aware that I was on film, so I was trying to provide some commentary as I played so it wasn’t just 16 boring minutes of watching me putt at home.

With all that in mind, I did get off a good first round, landing a -5 and a scorching 29 for the back nine (that would be a low 9 for the competition). As the rounds continued I felt like I was being pretty consistent and knocking back a combination of birdies (and a couple of eagles) and not offsetting them too much with bogies. I was also staying out of the big double or triple bogey area. The scores played that out as well as I went even and -3 for rounds 2 and 3. Then comes the interesting part where I faltered. I had a timer going so I knew I was ahead of schedule and felt like I could slow down for the last round. I actually think this was an issue as I broke the rhythm I had and then all of sudden felt the exertion. If you don’t think minigolf can be physical, try taking 72 competitive putts in 16 minutes and see that are you aren’t sweating a bit and with a bit of tinge in the back and legs. I ended up slipping a bit and carded a +4 to finish it off. The damage was really done on the back nine where I carded bogies on 10-12 but all things considered to end up -4 overall I was happy.

In the end, my score would be good enough for 3rd of the 8 competitors. Tom gave a great effort on his side for this being his first international cap and Team USA would sneak into 3rd in the team competition. It would be no surprise that the NZ team took the top spot. They were hot in the previous competition and have had plenty of practice on the ma, not to mention they are just good putters. Which then leaves the Aussies as second. You can see all of the round scores
here.

Overall this was an extremely fun way to have a tournament and connect people from all over the world. I expect to see some more of it not only officially but perhaps as other groups of people get mats. I can see Internet challenges being thrown down by friends, etc. As I mentioned in my unboxing video I also see some variations of the scoring and play happening. I haven’t had a chance to yet but I definitely want to try a “rebound” only round, trying to send the ball back onto the targets after bouncing off of bricks. I rarely get to endorse specific products in the minigolf world but this mat is one I will definitely tell you to get!

The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the writer and do not represent the World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF), Minigolfnews.com or any other organization that the writer may be associated with unless expressly stated in the blog.

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