Where There Is A Will
27 Apr 2017 at 15:29 | Published by: Sheila | Views: 2871 | News search
Will Donnelly wins his second Kent Open in 2016. (Photo by KMGC)
In the latest of a series of interviews with characters from the world of minigolf, we caught up with teenager, Britain’s Will Donnelly, who has set up a society for fellow students at university as an introduction to the sport.
MinigolfNews (MGN): Hi Will and thank you for your time. Your first event was in London at Hither Green on the old Swedish felt indoor course. How old were you then and what did you particularly enjoy about the day? Were there others your age taking part?
Will Donnelly (WD): My first event was the Club Championships representing my local club, The Green Minigolf, when I was just twelve. In the four player team was also my dad, Dave, and two fellow junior players, Julio Kent and Guiseppe Rugierro. We came sixth out of eight, which was quite a good showing for everyone’s first event! Everyone was very friendly and encouraging to us on the day, which was great. Such a welcoming group of people, which certainly encouraged me to keep going with it even though I was miles behind everyone else at the time.
MGN: Since then, you have played in over fifty events on the British Minigolf Association tour and a number of international events. What key ingredients are there that keep making you want to play?
WD: Everyone on the BMGA is always friendly, encouraging and supportive. We have such a great bunch of people who play in Britain that make it all worthwhile. I have been playing now for six and a half years. I always want to improve my shots, performances and results from previous events.
MGN: You've had two tour wins, the Kent Open in 2014 and recapturing the same title in 2016. It is a single ball competition. What is it about Sidcup that gives you an edge?
WD: I have played at Sidcup for a considerable number of years now, ever since it opened which was a similar time to when my minigolf career started. We have had many BMGA competitions there in the past as well, as a considerable number of friendly events so I would say that I know the course very well. I have probably played the course more than anyone else in Britain. It helps that it is only fifteen minutes from home.
Having played there on such a regular basis and the design of the course probably play to my strengths. The key with Sidcup is to ensure you don't drop shots because you will always pick up a few aces (I know Martin Greenhead disagrees with that). As long as you are a few shots under par you will always be in with a chance of winning. There are certain holes that you need to play for a two on and move on such as the eighth. Don't try to be too clever. Only go all out for aces if it is statistically worth playing for it. In many ways, it is similar to Worthing. I came second in the British Masters a couple of weeks ago and the main reason for this was that I dropped shots on just two lanes all days. The closest behind me was dropping shots on five lanes. The same applies that you will always pick up some aces. That combination is the best way to succeed at such courses.
MGN: What's the best course you have played and what is your favourite surface?
WD: I have always had a particular liking for the European minigolf courses (felt, eternit and beton) which probably stems from the fact that I started my minigolf career at The Green, which was the only felt tournament standard course in Britain. I always do my best to perform as well as I can and try to get a place in the national team because that is the best way for me to get a chance to play these surfaces once again.
I think my favourite course I have ever played would be the beton course in Vizela, Portugal. It was the first time I had ever played concrete and I felt that I adapted to it so well. In the European Championships, I averaged under 30, which included a 25. This equaled the British record at the time (although Adam Kelly would better it later in the event) in only my second ever competitive round on concrete. I look back on it now and still think about those few shots that I should have picked up which could have reduced my score even lower. I scored two on both lanes 15 and 16 with an "ace" from the tee on my second attempt.
MGN: You're in your first year of university. Where do you study, what are you studying and what career path do you hope to pursue?
WD: I'm currently a first-year student at the University of Essex in Colchester, where I study economics. I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do in the future yet, although I am very political and a massive Crystal Palace FC fan, having had a season ticket for thirteen years now.
MGN: Since starting university, you have started up a minigolf society, believed to be at least the first in the country. What are the aims and goals of the society?
WD: It took a while to get started up but we are going now. Ultimately, I would like to get as many people as possible to have the chance to play minigolf and enjoy the wonderful experience offered by the BMGA and the sport in general. I feel that the university is a massive potential target audience (around 15,000 students) so I'm sure there will definitely be some who would love minigolf. Next year, we will hopefully grow because we will be around at the start of the year so on a level playing field with all other societies at the university. This way we can advertise ourselves to new students at the start of the year which will make a big difference. I have recently created some society business cards, which includes all the key information about us so is ideal for any newcomers.
MGN: Do you hold society events and how easy is it to get people from outside the minigolf sphere to firstly, involved, and secondly, to see minigolf as an activity other than a trip to the seaside?
WD: We have had a few social events already, including meals, nightclubbing and joint socials with other societies. Joint socials are a really good way of meeting new people and advertising ourselves to potential new members that didn't know anything about us before. We have hosted one event on the university campus, where people could use professional minigolf equipment on a putting mat for free in order to let people know more about minigolf. We also have had one trip to a course, which we hope to repeat in the future. At our age, transport can be a problem. I am also hoping to do a presentation to students to teach them about minigolf, the world that exists within the BMGA and the plans for the society at the university. We have recently had some good news as we have been shortlisted for an award for new societies at the University of Essex Societies Guild.
MGN: Are you hopeful that after you finish your course that someone else from the university can take it on?
WD: I am hoping that the society will remain a permanent feature at the university. Next year, I will be looking for students, who will leave after me, to lead the society going in to the future.
MGN: You have recently been elected onto the executive committee of the BMGA. What do you think you can bring to the role and do think there will come a time where it might affect your play?
WD: I'm delighted to now be a member of the BMGA executive committee. I am currently involved in lots of different execs, political and minigolf, so I feel that I have a good understanding of the best ways to run societies or organisations as well as the key part of attracting new members. I've been a BMGA member for seven years now so I feel it's a good time to contribute and follow up the work I have done in reshaping the BMGA ranking system and the order of merit. I did quite a few videos and clips from the British Masters event in Worthing a couple of weeks back, which received some great feedback and was pleasing to hear. I am hoping to get in contact with a few media outlets so we can sell the BMGA to a greater number of people including the creation of an introduction to the BMGA and minigolf article for the website. Organising the tournament seemed to help my performance at Worthing so I hope that is always the case.
MGN: What are your hopes for the future of minigolf, on a personal level as well as a sport?
WD: It would be great to minigolf to be an officially recognised sport by Sport England one day. We aren't there yet but if that could happen it would be amazing. I am hoping to continue playing in Britain and improving my results while hoping to win some tournaments along the way to add to my two Kent Open victories and two British Junior Championships. This year I hope to progress up the rankings further, win the British Junior Championships for a final time and hopefully win an event (or two) too.