Interview with Olivia Prokopova
30 Aug 2018 at 14:37 | Published by: PatPenguin | Views: 3169 | News search
Steve & Olivia at 2017 World Crazy Golf Championships (Photo by Steve Lovell)
Over the past couple of years reporting for Minigolfnews, Steve Lovell has caught up with some of the great characters from our sport. Olivia Prokopova is next in the firing line, taking time to talk about her early beginnings, what itís like to see competitive minigolf as an occupation and her future goals.
Minigolfnews (MGN): Hello Olivia. Welcome to your Minigolfnews interview. Tell me a little about yourself.
Olivia Prokopova (OP): I am 23 years old and from Rakovnik, which is a small town about 60 kilometres to the west of Prague.
MGN: Tell me about your earliest memories of minigolf.
OP: My first experience with minigolf was eternit when I was three years old and my dad took me on course in Rakovnik, where he did an interview with my long-term coach, Marek äpidra. Immediately, this sport charmed me and I wanted to go there every day and from that moment, I was there every day. When I was six years old, I played my first tournament on eternit and when I was seven years old, I flew away to USA, where I fell in love with adventure golf. (Editor's Note: That was about the time I first met Olivia, at the Mini Greater Hartford Open. I remember being charmed by both her and her father.)
MGN: So they got you into playing minigolf. Did your parents play minigolf too?
OP: No. My parents had never played minigolf before, but they supported me from the first day.
MGN: Your minigolf career started in 2001, playing against children much older than you and winning. What are your memories of playing in the early competitions?
OP: These are beautiful memories. Everything was easy going and without any nerves. I think that a lot of things stayed with me, even to this day. I enjoy these memories from those tournaments. Since year 2003, I have started play with adults and these are nice memories too.
MGN: You went to America when you were seven to play in the US Open. You then finished fourth in the women's category and you made a load of TV appearances. That must have been very strange for someone so young.
OP: It was special and maybe at all sports, unusual, but I was so happy that president Bob Detwiler gave me chance to play with adults. Without that chance, maybe I havenít been playing minigolf. The interest from media was good but I wasnít very aware of it.
MGN: You came to play in the World Crazy Golf Championships in 2003 in Hastings and took the first ever shot. What do you like about the tournament as you have played in it 13 times?
OP: About the World Crazy Gold Championships, I had heard about British Open in 2003 at Hastings. Immediately, we were decided that I will play that tournament. From the first moment, it charmed me. It has different atmosphere than other tournaments. Whenever the date list comes out I would be happy to play there. It will be same in the future. I have many friends there who I like to meet.
MGN: With you playing minigolf so much, how did you manage to fit your school work in?
OP: From my first class at elementary school, I had an individual school plan. It was the same at high school and college, which I have just graduated there. So everything was built towards minigolf for me.
MGN: You have a minigolf course at your home. How many hours a day do you practice?
OP: I have a six hole putting green at home. I practice minimum two and a half hours per day but sometimes can be as much as six to twelve hours practice.
MGN: Your record of achievement is amazing, having the US Open three times, US Masters twice and the World Crazy Golf Championships twice. In 2013, you won all three. Which tournament win was the one you most enjoyed?
OP: I won US Open three times (2011, 2013 and 2017). All titles were amazing. I will never forget doing battle with Brad Lebo in the US Open 2011 when I fought with him to last hole. The US Masters 2012 title, for which I waited for three years from when I thought that I could do it. 2013 was so unforgettable, and I donít know how I did it. Winning every major tournament in one year is a dream. I am so happy about my two titles from 2017 when I achieved for myself that I could be back on top after my injuries. After these titles, I cried so much.
MGN: In 2014, you had the wrist injury, which left you out for a long time. Were you worried that you might not be the same player when you came back playing?
OP: I always believe that I could do it again. It is the same belief that I can win US Masters again.
MGN: Your family are your biggest fans and sponsors. How important is it to you that they are able to travel with you to tournaments? Tell me about your other sponsors.
OP: Yes, my parents are the biggest sponsors. I canít imagine that I will go to tournaments without them and their support although there are other members in my team. On the other side, I have many long term sponsors without I couldnít do it and I want to thank them for everything.
MGN: If you werenít playing minigolf for a job, what do you think you would be doing?
OP: Meanwhile, I donít know what I will do after my sport career but I want coach little kids, as I do regularly with my three that I coach now. One of them is twelve years old, Pavel Mayer, who is playing with us for two years in USA. Next year, he will probably play in Hastings. But for me, I donít to end my career for next few years.
MGN: At the World Adventure Golf Masters this year in Horni Bezdekov, you coached the American team. How did that come about? Did you think about playing in the WAGM at all?
OP: When it was clear that Czech national team will be picked only from players from HornŪ Bezděkov, I offered my service to the leaders of the USPMGA, especially to Bob Detwiler. I was convinced, that as a coach, I could be helpful to team USA. I know the course well in HornŪ Bezděkov, I won tournaments when I played there, I have a total of twenty two trophies from each category. Last autumn, I said that I will try my best and get my teammates to the best results. I knew that will be so hard for them, because tournament in Europe have different rules. In WAGM, they play with different balls and different putters than in the USA. There we play just with golf balls and golf putters. Meanwhile in Europe, they play with rubber balls and mini golf putters with rubber. From my past, I have probably ten putters and one hundred balls, that I promised to lend to the American players. Me and the WAGM? Never say never! Maybe I will try to be first lady who will win in overall category.
MGN: When you play in a big tournament, what is your routine? How many days practice do you normally have?
OP: That varies. For example, in England, I normally take four to six days. In USA, I love a longer stay, anywhere from two to four weeks. I wonít give away the specific of my preparation. That is just known to members of my team.
MGN: Tell me about your book and DVD. It came out last year. Did you find it hard to write about you?
OP: The book and documentary movie about me, I started to write in 2012, about six months before my triumph in the US Masters. I had to practically prepare two ends. The first one, when I triumphed, the other one, when I didnít. I donít want to disappoint authors, or wait for next year with another edition, so I won the US Masters (laugh). The christening of that book and movie was on my 18th birthday. I think that for the authors, it wasnít so hard to write that book because my dad has rich archives about my life.
MGN: Also last year, you made the USPMGA Hall Of Fame. Many congratulations. How does that feel to be in the Hall Of Fame so young?
OP: I am so appreciative of this achievement and also that I could be part of American national team. It is great to be in the company of that great players who are in the Hall of Fame. In addition, I can be their daughter or granddaughter.
MGN: Do you think that you get treated differently because you are a successful woman in a mainly male dominated sport?
OP: I am so glad in that I compete in the menís world but of course I have many great friends in ladies world. Also every player is part of my family and men respect me, although I beat them many times. At least I hope so (laugh).
MGN: Later in the year, you're looking to go to the MSOP in Las Vegas. How excited are you to try your luck against some of the best in the world and do you think putting for really big money will affect you?
OP: I canít wait for chance to play with best golf players. I am professional player, so I will do my best for winning some money back. Of course, I want to be successful at MSOP once.
MGN: Olivia, thank you for your time and good luck for the future.
Do you have a suggestion for someone in the minigolf community that you'd like to see interviews? Let our editor know at firstname.lastname@example.org.