Tuesday: As we’re quiet at work and I can only push a broom around a yard for so long, the boss kindly agrees to let me go two hours early, meaning I can make a good start against the rush hour traffic. Today marks the start of my fourth go at the British Open, which will be played on the Pirate Course at Hastings. I am keen to get back to the town of the best result of my career, the runners up spot in the World Crazies but first, I am once again going to take in the hospitality of Andy Exall, around 30 miles from Hastings. I come bearing gifts, a packet of bacon and some homemade bacon infused vodka in an unmarked soda stream bottle.
We sit down talking about the Czech Republic while watching the end of stage in the Tour de France where Peter Sagan gets disqualified for elbowing Mark Cavendish. Our choice of film is Train To Busan, a Korean zombie movie, which is fantastic, far better than the choice for last month, The Great Wall. Although I have the chance to have a lay in tomorrow, I tell Andy that I want to make an early start. Hastings isn’t the easiest place to get parked in for cost effectiveness so after the film, we call it a night.
Wednesday: I start to mull around about 5.30 am as the sun starts to peak through the curtains. The weather is set fair for today, not so much tomorrow. I’m away just before 7.15 am, noticing the heat already, I may have double the amount of clothes needed. I really need to get that right for future. Travelling down, the digital reception in the car disappears so I am constantly flicking channels finding anything to sing along to. At the course, I am the first to arrive. There is something magical about being around before everyone else is at the seaside with the calmest of conditions. It is a rare treat. After an hour, the contingent from the Czech Republic arrive. Daniel, Vaclav and Matej are becoming good friends. Matej, a loveable ten year old, and I work on a new greeting, which involves a crouch and a right hand slap three times in quick succession.
The first three hours are spent just trying out shots. I have picked up a few new balls since and with me being quite particular, I have reordered my case into bounce height order. As tedious as that sounds, it really helps if I am just out by a deuce. The heat is intensifying and the occasional blast from a water cannon for once is so welcome. You need to keep hydrated and protected. It’s simple but so easy to forget to do when minigolfing. I pick up a double hot dog, although I do try and limit my spending. From Friday onwards, all food and drink is heavily discounted, a great selling point to anyone wanting to try this competitively.
I stay until about 2.30 pm, at which point all of the overseas entrants have arrived and a few local characters. I head off back to Worthing to drop off a house warming present to one of my best friends. Although she isn’t in, I get to meet her son for the first time, who will be two at the end of July. It’s a great way to wind down, having fun playing in the garden. There is something about a child discovering new things that is so enchanting. As much as I want to stay to catch up, it’s more of a fleeting visit. I’m off to my parents in the next village for a night out. It’s at this point I have found I have left my glasses at Andy’s. It’s happened again. I’ll get them back on Friday.
After a quick shower and some food, I take my parents to a new micropub in Worthing which I had read about on Facebook. It is going to be one of the best drinking establishments in the area. I’m joined by my best mate and infrequent minigolfer, Steve Ragless, who is celebrating a new job. We’re joined by an elderly couple from the Newcastle area and it’s very pleasant. I’m completely carefree, enough so that I unveil my trophy from last month’s World Crazies and pour a drink in it. There’s nothing like having your own personalised goblet. When we get home, the dog has been sick everywhere. After a brief game of ‘where’s that smell coming from, we sit out in the summer house for a nightcap.
Thursday: There has been talk of thunderstorms on and off throughout the day, which puts Karsten Hein off, as he heads to Brighton for some sightseeing. The drive over is busy but would be much worse if I didn’t leave by 7 am. At the course is one of my team mates, Charlie Dart. Although Charlie won’t be taking part in the main weekend’s festivities, he is down for the starter, the Players Championship on Friday afternoon. We set about trying to make him competitive around here with his limited selection. Charlie is one of the most promising putters in the country, mark my words. Around 9.30 am, the rumbles of thunder emanate across the English Channel but the good news is they are drifting away from the shoreline. Soon, we are blessed with some of the warmest temperatures of the year.
We grab some sausage and chips, as well as a number of drinks from the chip shop across the way, chatting all things minigolf. Myself and Charlie play some rounds, in between explaining the rules to members of the public who don’t believe anything we tell them regarding the game. There is an underlying current of suspicion and awe by the uninitiated that I am almost tempted to print up a sheet of answers to frequently asked questions. Charlie is gradually getting his score down and it is great for me to see him learning how this works. It is different from turning up with a golf ball and a putter. This is a skill that you can learn and the kid has got it.
I spend longer here today but I’m off back to my parents around 4 pm. The local micropub in Lancing has a quiz night and with the dog trotting around as if nothing had happened, we have another family night out. We are appreciators of alcohol and enjoy it. To my parents, it’s like embalming fluid. Steve Ragless once again joins me. We enter under the team name ‘Lord Of The Onion Rings’, a tribute to someone’s status on Facebook I had seen. The last time I had entered a quiz here, I won with my mum at Christmas. We win the title again and with me coming second in the beer raffle, there is another cheap / free night out next Friday when I arrive for the Worthing Open. It’s been a cracking night and a good way to relax before the crucible of competition. Mum comes out with the quote of the year while trying to describe someone she met on holiday. “He was a man doctor”. As opposed to… and with that, we go to bed laughing.
Friday: I’m awoken to a text from Ed Pope, who says he has been called into work today. What this does changes my plans for the evening but I’ll make the best of the situation. The traffic this morning is smooth and the sky is cloudless. This surely can’t last. Charlie is again early to the course, along with another promising newbie, Jack Nixon, who has travelled down from the Midlands. I get to work showing him around, explaining that although his minigolf balls are all fine, the dozen or so golf balls aren’t. I lend him one of mine. His progress is steady but I think he’ll get this. Swedish globetotter Pauli Kuikka, rapidly becoming one of my favourite people from the world of minigolf, asks he wants to make a fourball. And we’re off, until the fifth hole where Charlie bounces a ball into the water, disappearing into the blue. Charlie would eventually wade in and fish it out.
My vice captain Derek arrives around 12.30 pm. I really want him to do well and Derek is about as determined as I’ve seen him. Pauli challenges me to a game for an ice cream. Never one to turn down a challenge, I accept. Half an hour later, I’m the queue with my wallet. The Players Championship in upon us and there is a great field at thirty people. Not sure why I come out flat but I labour to a 33, which is pretty much the agreed par here. It won’t be enough to make the top eight and with Derek also not making the cut, it allows us to have our Matchplay quarter final on the Crazy Course.
We had agreed to play here last month but with neither of us in the mood to play it then, we get it out the way now. Derek has some of the worst luck I’ve seen and the result of 5 and 4 doesn’t tell the full story. We shake on it and talk about it. I spend some time with Derek, just brushing up on some lines and shots. As a club captain, it’s important that I not only set an example but help out my team as much as I can. It makes me delighted to share in their successes. With this in mind, I chat with Charlie who has had a great day qualifying for the top eight. Although he lost in the matchplay element to James Rutherford, he has more than delivered. My other charge for the day, Jack Nixon, also makes the cut. That gives me a warm feeling.
With Ed still a number of hours away, I check into the hotel while making dinner arrangements. Derek wants to go down to the course in the evening and without Ed around, this is the best thing for me to do. We work on a couple of troubling holes before heading into some twilight rounds. There are a few others here, mainly from the Cambridgeshire and Essex club. Even after a couple of beers, I’m playing some of my best minigolf of the week, hitting a 26 and 27. I wonder what time Yates’s will be open in the morning? Never mind. Ed arrives around 10 pm and we speed around the greens. This is not ideal, it’s lit by spotlights which hide the hills well. After half an hour, we’re off the course and back to room, dreaming of the 20th British O