“Why are you surprised that you won?”
It’s been the common response to me saying that I was a little surprised that I won this year’s Farmington Miniature Golf Tournament. It’s a fair statement from people considering I had won it twice before, was in the money at the O-Street $1,000 tournament a week earlier and it is at the course where The Putting Penguin was literally founded.
As much as all those factors are in play, I was looking at it from the aspect of having not practiced at all on that course other than one random round with my 4 year-old daughter. The course is quirky so I had no real background with how it was playing that year until I managed one round before the very early tee time of 7:30am. Against most of the field, that was going to be ok because they didn’t have much more practice or my experience would definitely work for me. However, there is the top group of local putters that I know were putting in the work and also had the skillset to grab the top spot.
This tournament also has some other quirky factors. You have to use a course ball, so that adds a level of unpredictability and it’s one of the few tournaments where all balls are in play after the tee-off and your groups are completely chosen by random. This leaves you with a variety of skill levels playing together, which means ball placements could be interesting and you end up with the option of keeping your new location or moving your ball back if you are hit. This would come into play at least once for me during the tournament in a positive way. Many “pros” might not find those conditions ideal for a tournament but I think having something like this on the schedule goes to help show you can succeed in different formats and conditions.
So with the random pairing, it was just by chance that I ended up getting grouped with, for the umpteenth time, my buddy Mark “The Highlighter” Novicki. As much as I like to think that I can play the same no matter who I am grouped with, I do think it's just natural to turn it up when you are playing directly against some of your competition and I think this did help me that day.
In this tournament, with it being a running start and the first hole having a good ace potential for the top putters, it’s one of those ones where the pressure is on right away, especially if you are in an early group with a lot of the field watching. So I was very happy, being in an early group, that I made it through the channel and ended up with a fairly easy 2 shot to start off the tournament. From there, though, It would be an up and down ride for the tournament. I took a 3 on hole 5, which has now become one of the harder ones to get a 2, which I would do in each round of the tournament and in each round I followed it up with an ace on 6. I thought I was in for a longer morning when I took a 3 on the castle on hole 9 followed by a very lucky 3 on the well after I had the tee shot roll back to me. But I knuckled down and ground out a 39 by the end. I was happy to keep it under 40 but thought it was going to be a hard morning to get to the top after I heard that Matt Liles carded a 36 in the first round.
The start of round 2 didn’t help the situation as I bogied the first two holes after making bad reads on the second putts, in part because I didn’t leave my tee shot where I should have. In the past, this could have signaled trouble and quick descent into a round in the mid-40s (or worse) but after the hole 5 & 6 combo, I managed to stick out the rest of the round with only one more 3 and card my second 39 in a row. It sounded like things were tightening up at the top with Matt putting up a 41 and some other scores all being in the neighborhood. With no re-grouping after the second round it would be tough to figure out where you stood, but I think on that day it was an advantage for me. It meant I could focus on practicing my mantra of “one hole at a time” versus scoreboard watching. It seemed to work as, while I had some threes still in that round, I also carded 3 aces which was the most of my three rounds only having previously aced hole 6 in each of the prior rounds. I didn’t finish as strong as I would have liked, hitting the door of the church on 18 so I took my last three to end the tournament (on a hole whereI once aced it to win). However a score of 38 was my lowest of the day so it felt good to end on that. Just like in NJ, I was in an early group so it was time to play the waiting game.
While I did, I took one of the rare opportunities I’ve had to do some filming this year and live-streamed some of the final round. This naturally brought me around to where Matt was playing and while I tried to not get caught up in listening to scores and doing math, the stats still came. As that group moved into the 17th hole and Matt had an unfortunate lie off his tee shot, causing him to miss the 2 and settle for the three, it was all but locked up for me up top. However, it wasn’t official until we got to the awards ceremony and the scores (and tie) for 3rd place were announced along with the announcement that there were no other ties. At that point came the relief and excitement. Starting the tournament I was all set to end up wherever the course took me and I stood there with the win.
Compared to some, I know I don’t have a lot of tournament wins under my belt but this was my 9th in 72 tries so I was feeling good about that. I was also feeling very excited about tying the record for most Farmington tournament wins (3), which meant any win from here on out and I could be the sole holder of that. It also gave me a sense of relief that no matter how I did in the remaining tournaments, I had a win under my belt for 2022 which meant the season was definitely going to be a success. That’s not to say I have to win to enjoy what I’m doing competitively but at this point in my career it is something I’ve set as goals, at least for some of my more familiar tournaments. It was also nice to get a win in an AMA tournament to put me up there in our rankings this first year.
I had intended to write this before I played in my next tournament (Dolphin) but I didn’t get a chance to finish it. So I can say that the write-up there will be coming soon, perhaps after the next tournament (Matterhorn) as they are backed up against each other. My focus on Matterhorn will be on running the tournament but I do have the pressure of defending my 2021 title, so I’m sure there will be an interesting story either way!
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