Saturday: Sleep pattern disrupted? Check. Watching videos of animals having accidents at 4am? Check. Up well before the daylight? Check. Everything seems in order for another minigolf weekend, this time the final event of the season at the Star City leisure park in the shadow of the Spaghetti Junction on the M6 in Birmingham. It is more picturesque than I paint, I promise. On the drive over, I reflect on everything thatís happened in the past year. Twelve months ago, I had deep anxiety problems, which meant I had severe issues putting straight and struggles with nerves. Everything else, you know about. I just want to enjoy this weekend.
I get to Birmingham around the time Star City opens, enjoying the luxury of free parking all day. I have to play the course from memory as I had forgotten my notes and didnít rewrite them. However, it is amazing how quickly you do recall lines. Iím not expecting too much success, Iíve never really played well here. Star City is by far from the hardest course we play but you lose so much ground with a steady, average round. I practice very well, my stroke is really holding up better than it has for a while. More importantly, Iím not tense and quite approachable. Around a dozen or so of the field are taking advantage of the closed session, including the novice, Rob. He played four years ago but it was his only event.
Star City holds a pleasant memory as it was in the 2014 edition, I formed my own minigolf club, the Splash Point Wasps, later the Sussex Wasps. It was in the corner table of the Harvester restaurant having been pressed by Sean Homer about which club I was joining. By way of a pilgrimage, Iíve had a meal in their every year since. In the afternoon, I drive back to Leicester to meet up with Ed and we go Christmas shoppingÖ for thirty seconds, before grabbing a milkshake. We get back just in time to see our bets failing but never mind. Itís nice to just relax for the evening with a pizza and get the festive period started by watching Die Hard, seeing Hans Gruber fall from the Nakatomi Plaza. Ho, ho, ho.
Sunday: Iím contemplating spending more time asleep on a sofa. I am actually rested the morning of a tournament. How is this even a thing. As Iím helping to run the competition today, my house and car have become the technical hub of the British Minigolf Association. Iím grateful for the assistance of others to help me get what looks like a ram raid of Tandyís upstairs. I help get set up within ten minutes and get a rhythm going. Many of the putters today have dressed in an explosion of colour as there is a prize for the Ďbestí dressed. Some look like theyíve had their wardrobe fired at them by a cannon but it adds to the occasion. With Scott doing the opening speeches, the time is upon us to close out the season.
My playing partner for the first two laps is Terry, who has made a great effort to get here. We could both do with a better run of things for the future. Starting on one of the easier holes, the third, I lip out and go down the hill. The next putt will probably set the tone for the rest of the day. This isnít what I wanted for an opener but I strike the ball well and in. The fourth is probably the hardest to ace but remarkably, I do so. At the eighth, I bag the most fortunate of holes in one. I take a layer of lacquer off the ball as it brushes the rock on the left but doesnít deviate, it rebounds off the far wall and into the cup only to bounce out again. I turn away to pick up my case only Terry to say ďI donít believe thatĒ as it fell back in after eight seconds. I get on an absolute tear on the upper level with four more aces and despite a dropped shot at the last and failing to get any of the so called easier chances, I score a 29. My best here by three. Iím second behind Michael.
I walk off the course in love with life, birds singing, lambs gambolling. I put it down to having all my good fortune in the same round. It canít happen again so Iím relaxed and being in a group with a good friend helps immensely. Not expecting too much here is actually having a really good influence on my scoring. Iím aceing on a regular basis, four in five holes at one stage. By the time the end of the second round arrives, Iíve hit another 29. Iím in a share of the lead. Woo-hoo! Poppadoms and mango chutney for everyone. That really happened. Iíve got into making my own curries and chutneys as a pastime and enjoy doing it. I received a number of great comments about my chutney. Today is a good day.
The last round and Iím in the final group with Michael and Rocky, so up against two absolute forces on this surface. Whatever happens, Iíve putted well today and I may have got a groove. At it turns out, Iím witness to Michael lipping out two in a row by doing full 360ís. Itís unbelievably bad luck. Iím also witness to Rocky putting on an absolute clinic. Meanwhile, Iím just marginally off my game but enough for nothing to sink during the round. The last six or seven holes is just a procession as Rocky pulls off his third victory of his career. He absolutely destroyed that last round. It was a pleasure watching. I guess Iím disappointed to have not put more pressure on but I would have never have won today. In all that Iíve experienced this year, Iíve never been concerned by more scoring, although others would be quick to point of the negatives. And they do.
The closing speeches were an emotional affair for me. Dave, David and Marion had very kindly donated their charity fund towards the hospice that looked after my mum in her final days. I just about kept it together. I am so thankful to the generosity of others and the support from the minigolf community through what has been my toughest year of my life. It still hurts, as you can imagine, but if I didnít have this outlet, I donít know where I would be. Overall, it has been a mildly turbulent year for the tour and despite a few knocks, we managed to run a number of events and had a full calendar. The future of the BMGA is bright, a number of newcomers have really given this a lift. I hadnít really envisaged being involved in running events but I know Iím more than capable and my mumís organised streak lives on strong in me. Mum, I miss you so much but youíve made me the person I am and always supported me. I will never let you down.
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