Tuesday: It’s here again. The build up for the World Crazy Golf Championships is like no other minigolf tournament in the British Isles. As soon as the last tournament in Margate was over five weeks ago, I get my mind set for this. It isn’t just the event, it’s everything on and off the course. It is my favourite weekend of the year, bar none.
I finish work and throw my clothes in the general direction of the washing machine, thinking that the woodland animals will deal with it like in Mary Poppins. My bags are already in the car and have been for a couple of days. I’m heading south towards Crowborough, the home of one of my best friends on the tour Andy Exall. For a night’s board, Andy simply asks for a packet of bacon and I oblige. He has made a bacon pasta tonight, containing no less than FOURTEEN rashers of pig. We settle down to watch ‘The Great Wall’, which wasn’t exactly the historical re-enactment that I hoped for. And with that, it’s bed, dreaming of putting again.
Wednesday: As usual, I’m up well before the alarm, by around 45 minutes this time. We both have appointments today. Me with the course, Andy with an expensive packet of biscuits. As I start the drive through the forests and hills of East Sussex, I become bothered by the radio reception here. It’s patchy at best and non-existent as standard. I expected to get psyched up by sound, not wound up by the wireless. If that is the extent of my issues today, then it is plain sailing for me.
I’m on the course at 8.30 am, joining former winner Olivia Prokopova, priming her game for another assault on the title that she won in filthy conditions four years ago. We have the wind today, gusting around 40 mph, so anything close to par will be an achievement. My tactic for this year is just get myself in the zone of playing scored rounds. I know what I’m doing here having got in the prizes twelve months ago and have won around the track back in March. Slowly during the day, some other gluttons for punishment join us, including Scotland’s number one, Freddie Blackburn-Shaw, and newcomer Josh Clarke. I immediately take to the novice after Freddie learns he is from Glasgow. “It took a while but finally got rid of the accent,” Josh says, to much laughter amongst the throngs.
My practice is going well, despite the unrelenting breeze, nothing worse than a par but it is taking a lot of concentration to do this. We’re told that the wind will drop by the weekend. Let’s hope so, the tournament is already the most open event that anyone can remember, without the weather. I get my first food of the week, a sausage roll, from the kiosk. There will be no detoxing today. Or the next four. Not being filled up by the pastry, Freddie suggests another round before pie and chips. When we return from that, one of the tours great characters Terry Exall is here, spreading his infectious charm amongst those he meets. He truly is the Pied Piper of Hastings. “I’m hoping for nothing the forties, a few in the mid thirties,” says the chirpy Tel. I reply, “well that’s the women sorted, what about the golf?”
The weather isn’t improving so I call it a day around 3 pm and head to base camp two, my parents in Worthing, around 45 miles away. My plans for the evening have changed so I take them out to a local drinking hostelry. It’s always good to catch up with them, I give dad his Father’s Day present. At this stage of life, I treasure these moments. You never know when it is the last time. When we get home, mum falls asleep on the sofa with the dog and my dad pics up the remote and finds ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. Overall, a good day.
Thursday: As always with any minigolf day, my first thought as I wake up is to open the curtains and look at the sky. The sun is out and the wind is half of yesterday. Being the typical son, I root through the cupboards and try and get away with as much food as possible. With that, on my way into Hastings. I always try and get in for 8 am, if I leave an hour later, I can pretty much add a further hour to the travelling time.
Today is a media day. BBC are in town and will be down for a few hours filming for the Breakfast Show. The cameraman arrives first and starts shooting. A few people, including both former winners in the pack Chris Harding and Olivia Prokopova, are selected to do pieces to camera with host Mike Bushell, along with an unsuspecting family of four. Mike gets booed while setting up a camera on the second and unknowingly standing right on the line of an ‘ace’ from a small child. There is a thing with television personalities that they think the best way is to putt through an obstacle rather than around it. After several tries with Chris on the windmill, Mike eventually hammers the ball through, rebounds off the far wall and almost back to where it came. Chris would later say ‘he lacked control’. There was supposed to be a third person interviewed, last year’s novice champion Ed Pope. Unfortunately, he forgot to charge his phone and the due he was due to get up didn’t happen.
Throughout the day, around a third of the field would be on the course at one point. It would normally be busier but Theresa May hadn’t consulted her diary and called a General Election to clash with this. I voted by post so I could putt. The election is never too far away from the chatter on the course, one of the field had gone even further and had been invited to talk about it overnight in Manchester on BBC Salford on behalf of UKIP. Due to their poor result, we shall change his identity to Bill Connolly. It can’t be ideal preparation to get to bed at 8 am the morning before the biggest event of the year around 300 miles away but that is what Bill is going to do.
My scores today are going down as the conditions improve. The sun is out and I forget to put protection on. My ankles bore the brunt of it. Ed turns up around five hours later than planned, so we get to work on getting in the rhythm of playing rounds. I know the course, I feel this is the best way for here. At this point, I would be playing some of my best minigolf of the week, with a number of my scores in the low thirties. Ed volunteers to drive back to Worthing as his mum lives over there too. We re-ignite our love affair with Kisstory, even predicting twice what they would play next.
The plan for the night was to hit a pub quiz, formerly hosted by Paul Preston. Sadly, he couldn’t join us but a few of my local friends do. Around our table was about as much useless information that five memories could retain. Tragically, we fall short of winning by not writing down the answer ‘double yellow lines’. Around 10 pm, a monsoon hits town. Whereas everyone else in the pub was cursing it, I was delighted as it might slow the course up a bit. With the well wishes from around the table, Ed drops me back home and I fall into bed, slightly heavy headed.
Friday: I probably stopped drinking at the right time last night. I am on the borderline of my head knowing that I loaded up at the quiz. The traffic on the way in is good to us and we make Hastings before 8 am, parking in the shopping centre where we can leave the car five minutes from the course all weekend for £12. The wind is around half way between the two previous days, enough to effect most of the holes on the front nine by a fraction, but enough to make you miss. Today is all about having a mock World Crazies, the two of us would score seven rounds, including a crazy, crazy round at the end with all balls in play. I’m playing steadily, hardly dropping anything and picking up a few aces where I can. By the time we rope Freddie in for the crazy, crazy round, my score is marginally better than twelve months ago. Rather prophetically, I would shoot exactly the same final total as I would in 48 hours time.
Friday is the day that the food offer kicks in, with half price food at the outlets and a third off at the chip shop. Hastings always makes us feel welcome and for someone with my appetite, I will earn back the money I pay out for the membership of the BMGA. After lunch, a large number of the combatants are here, fine tuning their lines and pace. There is a really feeling this time that it is the most open World Crazy Golf Championships for a number of years. The atmosphere is friendly, although people are tending to stick their groups or club mates. After almost a day on the course since Wednesday, I’m done with practice and we check into our regular spot, the MIllifont. We probably know more about that room than the owner does. ‘They’ve put some new wallpaper up’, Ed remarks. I’m going to take his word on that.
We go to the local Wetherspoons for cheap fayre, which has become tradition for me the night before the event. As more arrive, we rearrange the furniture into one long table. Most of the meal is spent telling tales of past beer ups the night before, with event veterans Steve Gow and Scott Lancley memories making for a lot of fun. I suppose with this being my fifth World Crazy, I’m becoming a staple of this. Even Ed, who made his debut in this in 2015, had the night in here where he pillaged a fruit machine. For a change of scenery, Ed and myself wander through the Old Town to the Jenny Lind, where we meet the Cambridgeshire and Essex squad, Ted McIver and Yorkshire lads, Alex Hyman and Henri Myers, who are staying above the pub. Impressive work to have nabs that room. It gets to 10.30 pm and we think it might be good to make some effort to get some sleep. I set the alarm early, we’re led to believe that the BBC will show our piece around 6.30 am so we can see what the nation thinks of us.