Today it was time to return South for a few days of practice leading up to the two day event of the US Open. I left about mid-morning from Connecticut and made the trip to mid-New Jersey in a comfortable 3 hours and 30 minutes, listening to recaps of Game of Thrones the whole way. I checked into the hotel first before heading to the course. The past few years my wife, dog and then child have been traveling with me to the US Open and we were undecided about the plans for this year. They decided to stay home (at least for the practice days) but I still had booked a rather spacious suite just in case so I get to enjoy a multi-story room with a full kitchen. It's a Marriott and getting the upgrade to the way-too-large room is just one of the perks from all of my travels for work. While I enjoy having my family around to provide support, putting in hours of practice is a bit easier when you just have to worry about your own welfare.
It was a quick stop at the hotel before heading to the course. Upon arriving I saw many familiar faces, the first being 2015 USPMGA Masters winner Matt Male. Over the course of the next few hours I run into Matt and Danny McCaslin (both winners of various tournaments and Matt the last time the US Open was at Bluegrass Minigolf). There's several folks from the team that will be representing the US in the World Adventure Golf Masters in September and by the time the day is out last year's US Open winner Joey Graybeal is on the course. It's also not long before I see Olivia Prokopova along with Libuse and Honza. My favorite part of the day turns out to be Honza saying hi and asking where my penguin is (I always play the tournament and any full round of minigolf with at least one penguin in my pocket - I had chosen not to put him in there for practice today). I tell him the penguin's in the car and he tells me that it's "not good". Not long after I find myself returning to my car and putting the penguin in my pocket. I trust Honza's advice.
The rest of the Connecticut crew will be arriving starting early tomorrow morning so I end up playing a majority of the day by myself. It's not that I don't want to shoot with others, it's just that everyone kind of has their own groove and I don't mind some alone time. As of today there are 48 people signed up for the tournament and the talent is top notch.
Today I start out with a couple of hours of working on my core shots. I'm extremely happy that I came down earlier and charted out the basics. The consensus seems to be that it's playing faster than in 2014, which isn't surprising as the carpet would have a bit more wear. It's also mid-afternoon and the hot temperatures have the course at the fastest it will probably be. The early morning tends to slow things down just a bit and does change a handful of shots. I fill out a few more spots on my chart and adjust a couple of shots after getting a better feel and watching some others but overall I'm happy that my previous work seemed to hold. Before breaking for dinner I play a round with my friend Bill Meizer. He shoots fairly well and I a bit more dismal. While the course par is 40, this generally plays as a par 36 for the tournament so it's key to keep around that number. It seems like most folks are in the +/- 1 range for a majority of their rounds. The deuces can be tough and the aces aren't falling consistently for a lot of players.
I put in two more rounds before taking a break. After a quick jaunt back to the hotel for the most bachelor of all meals (some ramen and a peanut butter sandwich) I head back to the course. There are fewer players there including Brad Lebo, Joey and Matt, so it's nice to have the course a bit free. There's some younger folks playing on the sister course who seem amazed there is a tournament and it seems like they are thinking about making a run at it until they watch some of us hit some fine putts (I was happy with how well I showed off lol). Then they turned their attention to their own little bragging rights putting. I drop in three more rounds, trying to vary my start position to simulate a shot gun start. Overall I'm inconsistent for the day, having 3 rounds just over par and 3 rounds...well, too far over par. The inconsistency is across the holes. I'm only playing 3 holes under par and a few more at par. The rest, depending on the round, I have found a way to drop shots. I put it up to a combination of the heat (although that will be a factor all week) and having spend the whole morning driving the lovely roads of the Northeast.
I'm informed that the gates open around 6am tomorrow morning but I doubt I will be there that early. I'll try to get there decently early to see how the course plays in those early hours given the tournament starts at 8am. Tonight I retire to the hotel to write up some stuff and enjoy a few of the beers I picked up to fill that otherwise sparse fridge in my room.