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Finding the Groove…Part I
03 Sep 2022 at 14:17 | Posted in: Competition | Views: 3833 | Comments: 0
My AMA crew
Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to build up my skills so that in many tournaments I’ve either been in contention or at least in the money. So in June, while I finished a very respectable 5th at Odetah, I was still disappointed that I didn’t make it into 4th on a course that was one of my “home” ones. Coupled with my finishing well below my expectations last year at the O-Street $1,000 tournament (going from 1st in 2020 down to 15th) and I had some motivation headed down to New Jersey this year. However, I would call it realistic motivation - I wasn’t going to spend hours on the course nitpicking every putt because a) I didn’t have time for that, b) Tee Time, while true to many putts, isn’t really a course where that would help and c) I think I over practiced last year and ended up getting into my head more than helping. So my plan was a little practice on Saturday, some Sunday morning before the tournament and then go for it.
I thought that was going to be the highlight of my August and was feeling pretty good about that. But then Farmington happened. More on that in part two.
For O-Street it was another trip to the Jersey Shore and another example of where you can really take advantage of a tournament like this if you are a minigolf fan, even if the prices for everything seemed outrageous this year. Despite a fairly horrific drive from Connecticut to New Jersey on that Saturday and giving up on trying to practice Tee Time in the afternoon due to the horrific parking conditions in Ocean City, I did manage to meet up with co-penguin Mandy, who was coming in from Maryland. We decided to pop over to Atlantic City for some putting first before practice at Tee Time. I hadn’t been to AC in years and somehow managed to spend a few hours there without gambling a dime.
What we did do, though, was hit up the two courses that sit along the boardwalk there. We first stopped by North Beach Mini Golf to try out their new course. In the 2021 O-Street tournament Mandy and I actually played with the guys who opened the course so we were thrilled to have a chance to play it. After doing reasonably ok there, we went on over to Atlantic City Mini Golf which sits right in the middle of the action. Whereas I used my own gear at North Beach, I opted for course ball and putter at AC and then managed to drop a 35 in the round. I guess I felt like I was putting pretty good.
But would that translate over onto the Tee Time course, especially some of those holes that stuck in my head last year? Well we didn’t have too much time to test that on Saturday night. We met up with my Puttcast co-host Tom for a quick round and then it was on to meet up with AMA co-founder Aaron and his wife Moira for a round at yet another course. It ended up as another 35 for me, so now I was thinking that maybe it would be a good weekend. Also, I should probably mention at this point that the $1,000 tournament was one of our big American Minigolf Alliance (AMA) tournaments of the year and that there were some serious ranking points to be earned.
Sunday morning for the past two years has been one of the nicer tournament mornings due to the later 11am start. Mandy and I got to the boardwalk in Ocean City about 8am and spent an hour just having a leisurely coffee and pastry looking at the ocean and chatting with the Torronis who were there early as well (Dave would ultimately come up for Farmington). Again, one of those camaraderie experiences from a tournament that we all love that goes way beyond what happens on the course.
However, at 9am it was time to be on the course and I went through some normal practice routines, just working my way through and deciding how I wanted to attack some holes. I decided I was taking the safe route on the alligator (hole 7), probably playing backdoor on the mill (hole 6), going safe on the clock (hole 16) and going more aggressive on the dynamite (hole 15). I would end up sticking to plan on all but hole 6 where I changed spur of the moment in the tournament to the front shot, which ended up working well for two aces. The rest had mixed results and only on 16 do I look back and think I should have played the more aggressive route as it wouldn’t have hurt me.
I was placed in one of the first groups, being put together with one father/son and one other younger gentleman. I think it ultimately worked out well for all of us as we got a chance to talk about competitive minigolf a lot and Matt (son of the father/son duo) would actually end up shooting a great first round (34) and have a chance at the aces title, ultimately losing in a playoff to Justin Seymour.
As for my rounds, they both started out with the pressure of making sure you don’t mess up hole 1 given it’s almost a guaranteed ace if you get it in the octopus (107 of 116 aces). Once you get past that you can settle down a bit. I did, working my way through the front 9 with a 15 on the first round, my plan going well so far although there was an ace or two more I would have liked to have. The hippo played nicely with me and after that I moved my way through the rest of the course with just one hiccup on 16. I played the safe route and still managed to hit the clock pendulum and had to take a 3 there. But I finished strong and felt pretty good having carded a 33 in the first round. It was a good score and seemed right around some of the other low scores coming in.
So it was off to round two, which followed a very similar pattern to the first hole though I finally managed to ace the windmill only to be offset with a 3 on the gator even though I went around! But I still ended up with a 15 and the best combined front 9 score (30) of the tournament). The hippo reared its ugly mouth again this year as my ball took what I can only describe as a bad bounce out the tooth and the clock nicked me for the second time that day. However, through all of that I managed to keep it together and slide in the end at a 68. After that came the waiting game/trying to figure out everyone’s scores game. I knew it was a good score, but didn’t know how good. At the very least I found out it wasn’t going to be 1st place worth as I watched Justin ace out the last 3 holes to card a 66, which we’d find out was good for a share of the lead.
However, with just one other person sneaking in at a 67 it looked like I had at least a shot at 4th but it was going to take some work as it ended with a 3 way tie . One of the three was David Biggy, who I had lost to before in a playoff, but had beaten in his “Can You Beat Biggy?” series. The other was Harrison Chipkin who I wasn’t familiar with. It was to be a 3 hole playoff where we each got to select a hole to play. Harrison selected hole 19, which was the boat hole that had a decent shot at an ace with a good bounce but also gave a lot of twos. I selected hole 8 because I had aced it twice during the tournament and I felt confident on that hole. Biggy went big and used his confidence to select hole 7, the Gator hole. With it first numerically, it would be the first we played. With the tournament only paying to 5 places, two of us would end in the money and one would be out.
I was up first on the Gator and there was no decision for me. I was going around and hopefully not messing up like I did on the second round. I was successful, clearing the tail and leaving just a short putt that was only slightly tricky because I had to putt left-handed due to the way it was against the wall. Harrison would have a stroke of back luck and end up with a 4 while Biggy came through on his confidence and got the ace. This put him in the driver seat and I was feeling ok about landing in the money. The next hole was supposed to be my strong one but after Biggy got the two I ended up pushing it too fast and past the hole, which is not ideal given how the ball can move behind the hole. It was made worse by it being on the side of the hole that was up against the building wall so to putt the ball right-handed meant a very awkward stance. So I took a risk and went left-handed to hit it off the back of the putter. Now with a blade it’s one thing to knock in a six-inch putt that way but this one was more like two feet. I just had to have the confidence to make it and take my time ensuring I made good contact with the ball. I did and dropped in the two. Harrison would match and we were onto what might have been the final hole.
Right from the bat it was possible the drama would continue as Biggy didn’t get the best bounce after making his tee shot in the boat and had to card a two. On the flip side, I got better luck and mine dropped in meaning we were now tied after the 3 holes. Harrison was the odd man out at that point with no way to catch up and would settle for sixth - but he still got a Putt 18 mat which is a good prize! With us both sitting now on a sudden death starting on hole 1, all that went through my mind was just get it in the octopus and hope I wasn’t one of the 1 in 50ish where it didn’t go in the hole. Both of us kept our luck going and aced the hole.
At this point, we were at an interesting contrast. Clear Biggy, while competitive, was having the most fun and I honestly feel like he would have been happy with any result. But for me, now that I knew I was safe at least in the money - I wanted that top spot and started focusing knowing this had the potential to go on for a few more holes if it didn’t end on 2. This hole was a simple bank shot around the elephant but like most holes at Tee Time you needed to hit it softer than you thought. Biggie got the right bounce but was a little too fast past the cup. I hadn’t aced it either round earlier so I told myself to take a little off it. I did and it went in, sealing my 4th place. While it wasn’t first I was very happy with how my day finished.
I ended up doing very well on my predictions:
- My aces were 12, over my bar of 10
- The winning ace count was over 12, coming in at 14
- I dropped my score by 5 strokes, meeting my goal of at least 4
- The winning score I was off on as it came in at 66 instead of 65.
- My second round I carded three 3s instead of the one I was shooting for
- Someone from NJ did NOT win - it was Justin again from CT
So that’s it for a long part one. Part two will be coming soon and cover what turned into an epic Farmington tournament!
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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