Now that the U.S. Open it’s time to turn my attention to a busy couple of months of tournaments. August and September is when I do most of my tournament playing given the availability of events local to me (within a few hour drive). If I were a single man and could do crazy road trips I could play two tournaments in one weekend about 8 hours apart from each other. Alas, I am happy with my family and am not that completely insane when it comes to tournament play.
My upcoming tournament schedule features the Farmington Miniature Golf (FMG) Tournament (August 19 & 20), the Maine State Dolphin Open (September 9), the Matterhorn International Pro-Am (September 23) and hopefully the USPMGA Masters (October 12-14). I’ll save the Masters talk for another blog but want to talk briefly about the other three, including the start of my preparations for the FMG. Each of these tournaments brings a different set of challenges that set them apart from each other and a tournament like the U.S. Open.
The FMG has been played for over 30 years and is a relatively short tournament of only 3 rounds. The rub is that it’s played over 2 days (2 rounds on Saturday and 1 on Sunday) and is a 2-tiered system whereby a “cut” is made after the first day and the top of the lower bracket then competes for its own prizes on day 2. While some USPMGA pros play, the tournament is heavily competed by “local” players. These locals are just as talented on this course as us “pros” given the amount they play there and often find themselves on top of the leaderboard.
The Dolphin Open has waxed and waned as a major tournament over the years and the course hosted the 2008 U.S. Open. It’s a combination obstacle and design course with more consistency of aces than FMG. The big difference this year for me is that I go into the 2017 tournament as the defending champion, a position I’ve never been in (my previous victories were in one-time only tournaments). It will be a minimum of 8 rounds played in just one day.
The Matterhorn tournament is brand new this year and I plan on not only competing in it but The Putting Penguin is also co-running the tournament. So while I’ll be trying to beat the course I will also be trying to keep the tournament under control. The Matterhorn course is another obstacle course but it differs in the scale given its dedication to the Switzerland theme. I’ll dive more into it as the tournament gets closer.
So with some challenges up ahead it is time to look first at the FMG tournament. We swing wildly not only in type of course from the U.S. Open (adventure/MOS style to a more traditional U.S. obstacle course) but also style of play. First, you must use the course balls. No Chromax here or selecting the ball that fits your style best. You’re stuck with a normal miniature golf ball, taken right from the ones they use for everyday play. In addition you play with all of the players’ balls in play, not holing out individually as you may at the larger tournaments. Finally, you have to start from one of the three elevated “tee” spots on the rubber mat. Anyone who’s had to use those know it’s not the same sort of true putt one has from starting on the carpet, though it does help minimize how much you need to memorize about where to put the ball.
Leading up to the tournament, I’ll have a few chances to practice. On Tuesday nights there is a local league and I managed to get there both this week and last. While the course will post the scores against their set part of 48, the top players will judge their rounds against a standard of 36. You’ll need to be in the 38 average range to have a good chance at winning this tournament. My 125 last year was only good for a T-7th position, a fall from my personal best of 3rd. During last week’s league I started off slow with a 43 but brought it down to a 39 after that. During this week’s league I put together a 40 and a 38, which is getting into tournament form. I played three other practice rounds on the league night with results of 40, 36 & 40. There are 3 holes right now that are consistently biting me but the rest seem to be pretty even.
Getting to those magic numbers consistently over several rounds is a challenge. The course offers very little in terms of consistent aces. I’d say less than 3 holes, which is consistent with me being only under par on 2 holes after 7 practice rounds. There are about 11-12 holes throughout the course that provide good ace opportunities with the right bounces. Three of those holes are “pipe” holes, which used to be much more consistent in giving up their aces but in recent years the percentages have dropped. Whereas in the Open I felt confident that I could get back a stroke or two during a round, here I feel less so, knowing I’ll need to just minimize bogies to keep it under 40. To accomplish that I’ll need to really focus on my tee shots. This is not a course you’ll see a book of second putts. Most of the greens are fairly flat and straight – its more having the confidence of making a long putt versus reading the green. However, there are a few spots where I need to memorize a break or two.
I plan on having one more day of practice on Friday but the weather is looking a bit dodgy. I’m hoping the storms clear out earlier than expected as I also don’t want them lingering on into Sunday. If Friday is a wash out, we do plan on getting one round of play in at 7am on Saturday morning before the tournament as one of the official rounds of the Connecticut Cup that I mentioned in my U.S. Open posts. It’s the first time I get to be the defending champion of that cup so here’s hoping I come out of the gate strong that early in the morning.
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