Friday: With the now weekly event of another named storm battering the shores of our nation, my boss gave me the day off, which tied in nicely for me as it was my dad and brother’s birthday. It did mean a rushed morning to pack and remember everything I need to bring with me before embarking on 440 miles of the open road. It didn’t stop raining. In short, it was a great day. I got to see the majority of my family and we spent time going through mum’s old suitcase of memories, including a telegram in immaculate condition from 1942 from my Grandpa to my Grandma. Best day of the year to date.
Saturday: Now onto the sport. I left for Hastings before 7am knowing full well that the first couple of hours would be trying to play some minigolf in amongst clearing the course and taking cover. The wind was strong and with the tournament rules of using only one ball per course, it made my choice of ball really easy. It had to be heavy. Many had used a golf ball last year on the Crazy course with hilarious consequences. With drizzle in the air, I took a deep breath and stumbled on the complex. Five holes later, I was sheltering behind the hut. From there, I spied the first sightings of the others, Martin and Dee. Martin dresses for every day being August. Dee is starting to play in wet conditions. Minigolf’s chalk and cheese.
The morning wore on and the conditions improved. I wasn’t going to waste any time. As well as the competition the next day, the tour had its annual general meeting too. What I told myself was to concentrate on the Adventure course as it is the one we play the least. Every year, there are alterations but it’s up to you to spot them. The biggest change was the skull hole on the Pirate course, where the exit had been moved one foot to the right. “Dave, look”, I bellowed across to Dave. “What have they done?” Dave didn’t know either as it had only moved in the previous couple of days.
The AGM passed off relatively well, always good when we’re not discussing the merits of pipe holes. I headed straight back to see dad in the afternoon as he was planning to go to the pub in the evening with his two best friends. Dad had bought a new car, which he was desperate to show off. We went for a drive and quickly had to work out where the main beam was for night driving. It was the first time I had been with dad since Christmas. I needed this weekend.
Sunday: Due to the really early start, I woke when my alarm went off at 5.15am. I was already exhausted and I’m glad I didn’t go along with dad’s suggestion of a night cap. The weather was an improvement and we weren’t expecting any particular hell from above. Sure enough, we had a deluge. The other Martin’s ball had got stuck in a pipe hole so I coaxed it out with a Tupperware box full of water. Outsiders ask why we do this and to explain it, it’s almost impossible. You have to be the sort of person who loves a competitive, social event amongst people who will become friends. Whatever the conditions, why we do it will overcome the elements. Today, there are forty five entrants, an incredible amount for the first day of March with the temperature a few degrees above freezing in 30 miles per hour plus winds. It’s a hard sell to the unbelievers.
As I was on scoring duties today, I was in a two ball with young Eddy. As with my previous tournament, I made a slow start and was overcompensating for the damp felt. Eddy, on the other hand, was nailing putts like a boss. These kids have no fear. I eventually settled but my mission for the round was recovery. The 11th on Adventure was particularly costly as I took a four. Eddy had his radar locked in still and I think in a few years, we have the makings of a good player. With a few holes to go of the first round, we had a five-minute hailstorm, like someone had just chucked a bag of petits pois across the course. I settled for a 43. I never threatened my own course record of 32, which may never get beaten, if I’m honest.
We were now sun blessed for round two on the Pirate course, where I had one of my finest hours in the British Open nearly six months earlier. I needed to start making inroads as I was six shots back. It took a dropped at the seventh to finally kick myself into gear, making five of the next eight. My 33 could have been better but I’ll spare you the sob story and leave that for others to tell. It had been great fun hitting some shots with Eddy. When you give some advice on a shot and they then go and make the shot, there is no better feeling seeing a child work it out. For now, I was heading back to the hut to input the first couple of rounds. I got offered some help to which my reply was, “silence is the best help I can get.” Dark and deep.
I had cut into the lead and was now just three back, behind James and Andy. When I won here in 2017, I was two behind going into the final so thought anything could happen. With just five shots covering the top fourteen, this was wide open. I was grouped with Seve and Chris for the last round. Chris didn’t get off to the best of starts and didn’t recover. Myself and Seve quickly got a couple of aces and moved to one behind. Game on. My plan of the heavy ball had worked but in the more sheltered part of the Crazy course, I was now leaving putts short but a yard or so. Seve kicked on and was now the main challenger.
I hung around like a bad smell, but after failing to make it through the lighthouse on the penultimate hole, my tournament was run. Overall, despite the lack of pace in the mid-section of the Crazy course, my line was good and good enough for third place. After the action, we had the hole in one challenge, open to anyone who made seven aces or more on the day. Despite waiting twenty-six holes to make one, I had the joint most of the day with nine. Two hundred pounds was the prize for anyone aceing the obelisk hole. Despite a couple of near misses, it will roll over to next year. The highlight of the Planet Hastings Crazy Golf Open is the sheer lottery of the tombola. Absolutely anything goes here including a poetry reading. Chris shouldn’t have worried about his final round as his number won him £55. I took the other cash prize, which would cover my petrol back home.