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Argentina  INESfun

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

It's Just a League Thing
07 Dec 2020 at 13:15 | Posted in: Competition | Views: 451 | Comments: 0
It
Final Putt18 2020 scores

For my readers in Europe and the folks who are close to Putt-Putt courses, the concept of minigolf leagues is probably not novel. However, in the Northeast United States we haven’t see a whole lot of organization around multi-week leagues. Prior to a couple of years ago, I only remember hearing about one that my friend Gary Shiff ran down at Odetah campground. This past summer, COVID and all, I knew of at least 5 across the Northeast. While that is still not a big number for a larger geographical area, there does seem to be more appetite for that type of entertainment, akin to a darts or bowling league. I’m not quite sure why there isn’t more of this but I suspect a large amount of it has to do with course owners not having anyone who knows how to/willing to run a league, coupled with potentially not wanting to take up valuable course space in what is already a short earning season.

Fortunately, one of the leagues is at Matterhorn Mini Golf, which hosts our September tournament. The league here is a weekly “drop-in” league, which means there is no season long standings, just a weekly winner of the two rounds (similar to a lot of Putt Putt local leagues). While it can be hard to distinguish this from a two round “tournament”, I think the key differentiators are the money that is on the line and the size of the talent pool as a tournament normally draws more people. With COVID-19 restrictions in place this year and my not being able to travel for work, I was actually around most of the summer to make nearly all of the league nights, which started in early July and ended the week of our tournament. I think COVID also worked in our favor this year, coupled with the fact that this isn’t the first year of the league, as overall our league nights saw the most participants we have ever seen. In the past we were happy to get to double digits and this year we routinely got over that amount. Even better was the fact that there were quite a few new faces that played. Some were on a one-off basis – Autumn (course owner) was great at convincing people to play the league on Tuesday nights as they got two rounds, and a possible cash prize, for $15 while the one-round cost hovered at $10. So if you had the time to do two rounds it made for a great deal. Others ended up being multi-week participants, though we still are seeing difficulties converting some of those folks to tournament players.

My approach to this league is that it is a great combination of a) practice for the tournament and b) a way to get out of the house and talk minigolf with other people. The competitive side of me wants to win, but the way I approach the two rounds is different than the tournament. I find myself trying more alternate shots during the league since the stakes are lower. I also don’t stress as much about deuce putts, playing them more naturally versus checking notes and trying to build up the mental muscle memory of how various portions of the course react. What it all results in is that I win a few weeks, make the top 3 for most of the rest of the weeks and occasionally put up a stinker. This year I actually carded my worst ever course competition round during league, but it didn’t phase me much given there wasn’t much money on the line and I learned a ton of “what not to dos”. It was also nice to see some folks excelling during the league this year, watching as people who have played a while start to find their stride in a competitive arena. One of the things we’ll be looking at next year is potentially adding some season-long awards into the mix as an added benefit for those folks who play multiple weeks. Anything we can do to encourage more people to play and potentially get a taste of winning/awards in the minigolf venue I see as good long term because they are more likely to be converted to competitive players for a longer time. If you have never played competitive minigolf and see a league at a local course, especially if it’s a single week drop-in, I encourage you to give it a try. There’s not a lot of pressure and you can see if its something you might enjoy further in the future with no obligation.

The other league that I was a part of was the Putt18 virtual world league. You can catch up on Putt18 a bit from my post earlier in the year around the Virtual 4 Nations Cup . With the pandemic and lockdowns continuing for most of the world, and the organizers being in their winter, the idea was floated to hold a 7-week virtual league. As far as I know, it’s the only one of its kind when it comes to putting. The concept followed similar to the previous tournaments. Every other week, everyone would play 4 rounds with a 20 minute timer, all streamed live on Facebook. Instead of straight scores, a scoring system was put in place that awarded both good rounds and good overall scores. The league would see 20 players in this inaugural season – 7 from the US, 4 from New Zealand, 4 from Australia and 5 from the UK. With the spread of time zones this meant we could watch competitive putting at all hours of the day when it was league.

I think I can speak for the entire American contingent in that we didn’t much know what we were for in terms of competition. To myself, almost all of the names were familiar from following the world minigolf scene but I had no idea how good of putters some of these folks were. The first week of scores blew us out of the water as I had the top US score at 26 points and the top score overall was 93 points. So we knew where we stood right off the bat! I don’t know if it was because we knew we probably wouldn’t be shooting for the top spots or if its just part of our American nature but a noticeable difference between us and the rest of our competitors as the weeks moved on was the entertainment value we wanted to bring. Even from the beginning we were conscious that a difference in this league was the streaming aspect and we had more self-commentary that most of the rest of the players. For some of us this would morph to filming our rounds together and providing graphics and scoring. You can see an example of the final product from week 7
here. I don’t think we were creating anything especially viral but I think we added something to watching someone just take 72 putts at static targets in their house. Somewhere in that there is a seed of something that might be web-worthy, especially given the international context.

I don’t think all of this “extra” stuff much played into the results. I’m sure there were some points that the distraction of being your own commentator took away from the deep focus of the next putt but I don’t think I would have enjoyed the experience if it was 72 putts in silence. I was happy with where I finished in 8th, just a few points out of 7th and what could be called striking distance of the next two spots had I not slipped a couple of weeks. My first and second weeks were my worst and best respectively and after that I mostly had around the same score each week. The story of the league was Matt Ansley out of New Zealand who blew away the competition and could have skipped the final week and still won. It was an impressive performance each week, and the consistency of which he rolled those putts into the target was a sight to behold. Shouts out to Dave Gomm who has some similarly great runs including the world record on the mat during the league. It looks like the next iteration of the league will take off once we get in 2021, which will be nice for use in the Northern hemisphere given we’ll be deep in the heart of our winter at that time. Hoping to see a few more folks get in on the league and for us to work on some good ways to expand the ease of tracking scores, etc so it’s not so heavily on the organizers. Which, shout out to the Putt18 league committee and everyone who threw in some help validating scores and tracking them.

Up next from a blogging perspective will be my annual recap. Despite some challenges 2020 ended up being an interesting year for me personally and I think it goes to show that our sport is something that is well position to be responsive to conditions. Happy putting!

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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