And weíre off. The alarm springs me into life after of lethargy brought on by a bout of influenza. The Christmas period for me has been mixed and despite the freezing temperature leaving my house shortly after 6.30am, nothing will stop me making the 280 mile round trip for the tenth running of the Cup Cake Classic down in Hastings. I needed to get out of the house, Iíve had cabin fever, Iíve lost count of how many football matches and films Iíve seen in the last week. Today is perfect.
Despite the cold, itís at least dry and for a January day by the coast, you canít ask for more than that. Indoors perhaps. I arrive at the course at 9am to find the kiosk closed. I dump my bag out of sight and get putting. I think Iíve got my putting stroke right again after a troubling six months or so and whatever happens today, itís a good opportunity to see if the magic is still there. The first person to arrive is my team mate, Martin, who has become the new Brian Smith of the tour, clad in just a polo shirt and shorts. We practice together using the Kent Decade ball, the only ball in use today due to the tournament specific rules. Itís a very good ball, Iím torn between that and the Chappers Ball Of Fame as to my favourite British ball.
Weíre playing three rounds, starting on the classic Arnold Palmer Crazy course before moving to the Pirate track. We finish back on the Crazy with all balls in the group in play. Starting at 11am, thirteen people have made the trip down, many living within an hour of the course, contending with a brisk easterly wind, unusual for the area. Iím group with Scott and John, we go out last. This means we get the scraps of the sausage rolls, kindly provided by Sean and Marion. Although Iím putting well, I donít get many to drop. Quickly, talk turns to off course activities. After a decade, Sean has stood down as the chairman. With Scott being one of the executive committee, itís a great chance to ask a couple of non-probing questions. I have to say that I was more reassured afterwards than I was before. The tour is in transition but I think will be just fine. I score a 38.
Straight over to the Pirate Course, which will be tougher with the restriction of balls. Once again, Iíve got my rhythm back without the luck of a drop so what I had hoped from the day was happening. At least Iíll be going home in a good frame of mind, although my feet were starting to suffer from the breeze. A 37 isnít a tremendous score but as the rounds were collated, Iím only seven behind the surprise leader, Terry. Now, where are the sausage rolls.
In the final lap back on the Crazy, I carry on with John and David, a member of staff at Hastings. David so nearly won the World Crazy novice title last year and watching him putt, I feel he could be one to watch for the future. Now with all balls in play, it adds the element of chance to proceedings. In reality, this format only affects two or three of the holes. The wind has picked up notably since the first round with a number of putts on the outward nine flying past the hole. Again, Iíve found my touch on the felt, with a significant number of putts landing within a foot or so. I close out the tournament with another 37, ending in 7th spot. Terry holds his nerve for the win, which leads to one of the more entertaining victory speeches Iíve witnessed. Walking back to car with Terry and his brother, Andy, the trophy fell apart. We think we found all the parts.
The drive home is smooth enough, I have the FA Cup commentary as my soundtrack to the journey. Iíve travelled double the distance of anyone else today and Iím appreciative of the comments from everyone of the effort. My sixth season of minigolf is underway in the only way I want it to be. Amongst friends. Anything I achieve will be a bonus. The main thing is minigolf in Britain will continuing on in good hands.
Picture courtesy of Marion Homer (KMGC)