I'm taking a bit of a break from writing articles for the site to hit up a few blog posts around the 2017 U.S. Open. Previously I had done this on The Putting Penguin site, but have moved over here to keep in line with our other blogs. A bit later I'll also be talking about the tournament we are helping to run and what goes into both sides of getting competitive minigolf off the ground.
This year the U.S. Open tournament returns to Bluegrass Minigolf in Oceanport, NJ for the 2nd time and the tournament will be held on July 21st and 22nd. It will be a 10 round tournament. The last time it was held here, Matt McCaslin took the top spot.
The U.S. Open has been the one USPMGA event I've played fairly regularly, especially over the past four years. The last time it was at Bluegrass, I finished my best to date (12th) and was actually pretty excited to move up from 20th on the last day of the competition. I'm hoping this year to do even better but I'm not sure if I'll be able to replicate some of the success my fellow blogger Steve Lovell has been seeing lately. Unfortunately, I have two things working against me in that pursuit: 1) the competition is tougher than it was in 2014 with some more players in the major USPMGA events and 2) I just don't practice enough (which generally results in me just not being good enough).
My plan to overcome point 2 started last week. Fortunately, work brought me to within a little over an hour from the course (it's about a 3 1/2 - 4 hour ride from my house depending on traffic - and if anyone has ever driven in NJ you know about traffic) so I took advantage and ran down to the course with a little bit of free time. I think this will help a lot. I already planned on expanding my practice days the week of the tournament from 1.5 days to 2.5 days but having these few extra hours, with almost no one else around, is going to be a benefit.
The course itself isn't that hard, certainly not as hard as Putt U last year, but it can be tricky. There are aces to be had but there are also a lot of opportunities to drop shots. One definitely needs to have a good record of not only how to take the tee shot but many of the deuce putts around the course. There are very few "gimme" putts and a lot of the fine breaks depend on speed. Last time I played the course I felt it only necessary to chart a few holes, which is likely why I dropped many shots on the first day. I'm trying not to repeat that mistake this year and took a couple of hours to go through all of the holes and putt together a game plan along with the beginnings of a shot chart for each hole. Even then I know it won't be as detailed as some of the folks at the top of the leaderboard, but it's an improvement.
The tough part about doing the charting is that it's not really my practice style. I'd rather just play a lot of rounds to get the feel of the course. Spending a long time doing putt after putt on the same hole is tiresome to me and I often find myself questioning if a putt really moved in a certain manner or if I was just done taking the same putt for the tenth time. When I go back the few days before the tournament I'll be much more in the playing a round routine given I've already mapped things out, so I can just add small pieces to my charts. The funny thing is, I should be at somewhat of an advantage in terms of knowing the course since the pictures I took are the ones featured on their website!
One thing that will definitely be a factor in this tournament is the sun and heat. There is very little shade on the course, maybe only 3 holes tops, and playing in the July heat is going to be intense. After just a few hours of practice I was baked.
Sometimes it's also difficult to get in uninterrupted practice time when you are a name in the miniature golf world (oh I like to sound important) and just as I was ready to finish my charting of hole 18 I got into a conversation with the gentleman who runs the course (John Forbes) and is involved in setting up the tournament. It's all good though as I love to talk minigolf, provided some suggestions, and then just got back to the business of putting. To be fair I needed water break anyway and a little conversation can go along way in terms of keeping up a good name for both the sites I'm involved with.
Between now and the 18th I don't have a lot I can do to prepare besides transfer my course notes to an easier to carry notebook and try to get in as much putting as I can. Once I get back down to the course I'll continue my thoughts on preparation and I will be doing my best to post after each day of the tournament. Happy putting!
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