I’m barely done documenting my last tournament when it’s time to turn around and get ready for the next one. I guess this is the life of a “touring pro!” This one will be a little different, though, as Mandy and I are running the tournament via The Putting Penguin. It’s the first time in 4 years we’ve run a tournament so we’re excited to bring a “tour date” back on the schedule, even if it’s just a “local” at this time. This does mean a whole other set of challenges on top of preparing for the play, which Mandy and I will both be taking part in.
First, the course. Matterhorn Mini Golf is the result of a lot of hard work put in by Autumn Sutherland who determined the theme after spending many years living in Switzerland. The love affair paid off as the course is one of the best Connecticut has to offer. It’s been open for 3 years now and we were involved a bit in the beginning as a sounding board for Autumn to pitch some ideas. The result was a course where all 18 holes have a unique design and every one of them tied to Switzerland in some way, including a large Matterhorn mountain. The depth of variety will make it interesting for the players to prepare their game to be on for all 18 holes. There are very few consistent ace holes on the course but a good half of them give you a fighting chance. There’s three holes (7, 9 and 18) which will be struggles to get deuces on so any ace is a godsend to offset those likely bogies. The most unique (and lowest skill required) hole on the course is #8 which uses a rubber matting instead of carpet to simulate the smoothness of a “ski slope”. You can ace it but it’s all luck of the bounce.
From an administrative perspective getting the tournament ready has taken a lot of time, especially since this was the first year. We’ve had to think through divisions, format, rules, not to mention advertising and getting people to sign-up. We settled with two divisions – a more expensive (and bigger cash payout) Pro division and a cheaper (non-cash prize) Amateur division – hence the “Pro-Am”. The amateurs will play 3 rounds in the morning and end their tournament there. The Pros will play a total of 5 rounds for the title. Autumn has been great in supporting both the cash prizes and an excellent goat-topped trophy for the winner of the Pro division, along with a copy to keep at the course with the winner’s name ala the Stanley Cup.
As of right now it looks like we’ll have between 15-20 pros and at least a dozen amateurs which is a great number for a first year local tournament. In the pro division many of the names are either USPMGA pros and/or players who have experience at the other local tournaments. I’d expect a very close competition given the names we have playing and the fact that no one can be “too” experienced at the course. From the admin side I’ve been spending most of this last week prepping what we need to bring over to the course and just making sure everything is in order like my talking points for the opening rules meeting. It’s a lot of pressure to make sure everyone sees the tournament as both “professional” but also has fun. We want people to come back next year.
From a player side, I was able to get six rounds of practice in over the summer to start getting used to the course and to start mapping my plan. The Friday before the tournament is free practice and that’s where I honed in on the specifics. The course plays similar to the US Open course in that there can be some variety in how you approach your tee spots versus Farmington or Maine which have a more narrow range of options. There’s also very few tee shots that have “close” aiming points, unlike Maine or Farmington where many of your first bounces were only a few feet away. While the deuce shots are generally not tricky there are a couple that can bite you if you pick the wrong speed.
One wrinkle in this tournament that is unique in the US is that we are allowing ball changes during a round, so that it will play more like a European style tournament. I’m not sure anyone beside me will take advantage of it but I know there is one hole where I will be forgoing the traditional golf ball and be using a FunSports #5 that I have in my basic starter pack. Hole 10 is where I will be playing it for sure as it’s a downhill slope to the cup. It’s hard to ace it off the back and going front door normally causes a golf ball to bounce out given the speed – but #5 drops right into the cup if you hit it coming down the hill. Picking up an ace there could be to my advantage. I’m also considering using it on hole 2 and possibly FunSports #3 for the first hole given how it dies off the bounce. I’ll make the executive decision on those holes tomorrow.
Prior to today I was hovering in the low 40s for the four additional rounds I played last weekend, but I started to pick up the aces today. Four of my first five practice rounds today were under 40 which would put me in a really good position if I could replicate that tomorrow. The other two were just a hair above 40 and I was seeing aces in all my rounds, which was encouraging. However, I don’t think it will give me much of an edge as the other pros were playing well too. I was also very happy to see a lot of the amateurs out on the course today taking the practice for the tournament seriously although they won’t be playing for the big money. We’re hoping to turn some of these amateurs into pros for upcoming tournaments.
Given I’m getting this one in before the tournament starts, I’ve got a few predictions:
1) The winning score for the pros will be between 197 and 203 for the pros or just around a 40 average. I think it will be hard for the pros to drop below that consistently with the pressures of the tournament. I’m thinking the amateur scores will be an average around 45 for the top four spaces.
2) John O’Leary will make the top 3. He was lights out at Farmington and did well in Maine and the US Open. He’s also been practicing very well.
3) I’m going to be in the money. I’ve been on a roll and I’m feeling good about continuing that streak here.
4) I think 9 aces or below will win the hole-in-one title. It doesn’t seem to be consistent enough to average 2 aces a round but I hope I’m wrong because it means we should be seeing some good scores.
Can’t wait for the tournament to start tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be great and everyone is excited to play. I’m hoping to turns out great for everyone!