It was after the first day of the Farmington Miniature Golf tournament that I realized sometimes one can have too high expectations when one takes minigolf tournaments as seriously as some of us do. Most people would have been very happy to be tied for 3rd after two rounds, yet there I sat annoyed at my play during the second round and wondering what could have been. Not that it mattered though, a beat down was in place and I’ll get to how badly we all got smacked later.
The first day started earlier than any Saturday ever should. My alarm was set for 5:45 but I ended up being woken up quite a bit earlier than that by our cat. She finally decided to catch the mouse that had been running around our house this week and woke me up at 3:30 that morning by crunching loudly on the mouse’s head next to my bedside. After removing the rest of the headless mouse from her (it was my estimate that she had enough of the fresh meat) I slept off and on until the alarm went off. With a quick shower, donut, a dash of coffee and a 25 minute drive, I found myself at the course at 7am. The tournament wouldn’t start until 8am but we had the first of two extra rounds that we were playing for the Connecticut Cup. We added two players to the roster to bring that side bet to 6 for this tournament.
Last year in that first extra round I played terrible and this year was no different. I carded a horrific (for me) 48 and decided that 7am rounds with no practice and only a little coffee was perhaps not my best time to play minigolf. It had rained overnight and the course was wet so I tried to compensate with my speed. I found out that I didn’t need to do much of that as it really only affected one or two shots. I carded 3 fours in a row – something I don’t think I’ve ever done in a tournament anywhere. John O’Leary dropped a 36 in that first round – remember that for later because it will be the start of the massive destruction he laid upon the field over the two days.
Rattled, I didn’t know what the rest of the tournament was going to bring. I practiced a little more and then it was time to get our “pairings”. We would play the tournament in threesomes, with the names drawn from a hat for the first day, so you could have varying skill levels playing in the same group. I was paired with Matt Liles, someone who I had played some tournaments with over a decade ago and who had come back this year to play in Farmington. I also played with a relative newcomer Sean Deneen, who I knew nothing about. They were fun to play with but I’d quickly find out I was several strokes better than them. Not to knock other players because we were all there (and I'm still there for people above me), but sometimes it is tough to keep your high level of play when the scores of your partners inch up well past yours. Matt would go on to win the “lower tier” which was a nice bonus for him and Sean would end up with a couple decent rounds.
I thought I was going to have a stellar day as I aced the very first hole I played. Little did I know that I would not see another ace for the remainder of the tournament day, finally picking up two more in the last round. I felt I was off a little bit in the first round but carded a decent 39. The second round was where the wheels started to come off as I carded too many bogies and double bogies and ended up with a 43. Sitting at 82 I thought for sure I would be at the edge of the top ten. Turned out barely anyone was shooting great and my 39 one was one of only 7 sub-40 rounds of the first day. I found myself in a 3 way tie for 3rd (one of which being fellow Connecticut Cup competitor Justin Seymour) with a ton of people breathing down our next at 83 and 84. The leader (the aforementioned Mr. O’Leary) had carded a 35 and 38, putting him 4 strokes in front of second and 9 strokes in front of me.
The shock of being 3rd didn’t subside and we jumped into the second extra round of the Connecticut Cup in which I carded a 44 with no aces. John was sub-40 again (he wouldn’t card anything above 40 for the whole Connecticut Cup). At this point his worst score was better than any of the other Connecticut Cup player’s best scores. There was a freight train rolling and none of us could jump out of the way in time.
One of the nice things about this being a true local tournament was that I had plenty of time to enjoy my everyday life after the tournament and not necessarily have to visit a bar or sit in my hotel room. So I spent the rest of Saturday visiting a camp I volunteer at, taking my son to my parents and then over to my mother-in-law’s for a birthday celebration for my sister-in-law. I celebrated my good fortune with some wine and tried to get to bed “early”. On Sunday after the tournament, I’d head home to mow the lawn and then run to the airport to catch a plane to Atlanta for work (where I wrote this from).
Sunday I got an extra 30 minutes of sleep (and no cat eating a mouse) and was at the course just after 7am. I tried to get in some practice but it seemed like nothing was working. I couldn’t get it through the windmill, the castle, into the right part of the well – it had all the portents of a bad day. So I stopped, had a donut with my fellow Putting Penguin Mandy and tried to chill some. Turned out it seemed to work. In this final round I was paired with Carson Bloomquist and Alex Butensky, both younger guys and Alex a two-time winner of the tournament. I was tied with Carson and 1 stroke ahead of Alex. They were a very nice group to play with and as they had some troubles on hole 10 I found myself decently ahead of them on my way to card a 38. At least in this round I aced a couple of holes which made me feel better. All 4 of my bogies this round were due to bad tee shots and not bad deuce putts like my round of 43 had been driven by. In the groups both in front of me and the one group in back of me (the top 3) I had a good idea of how the putting was going and was fairly sure I had not only finished in the money but made the podium.
It was true. As the smoke cleared, I had secured 3rd place (tying my highest finish in the tournament) and almost managed to catch 2nd place. For my efforts I earned $50. The story of the tournament however was John. With a 37 in the last round he had set the tournament record of a 110 (previous being a 111). It’s really great to see a good friend win a tournament and do it in such a commanding fashion. He won the Connecticut Cup (I was happy to have the trophy for a month) and won the side bet we had for low score per round (he won all 5 rounds). So he took home $125 from the tournament win, $125 from the 5 of us who lost the Connecticut Cup and another $50 from us because we couldn’t get one round better than him over the five we played. It was the first clean sweep in the Connecticut Cup era.
I still feel like I could have played better but I know I didn’t have it in me this weekend to catch John so I can’t be too unhappy. Next up I have the Maine State Dolphin Open in just under 3 weeks, where I’m the defending champ. I won’t be able to practice until about two days before the tournament when we head up there (I’ll be taking my wife, son and dog) but I feel confident about that course given I’ve played close to, if not over, 100 rounds on that course. The Connecticut Cup won’t be played that weekend since all of the participants won’t be there. We’ll play that at the Matterhorn tournament in September.
One side note about the Farmington Tournament. They do a great job with giving out extra prizes in the form of $10, a hat, or shirt depending on aces or things like best dressed. They also do a raffle for the “losers” (people who don’t win anything else during the tournament). They really do a great job with the tournament and it’s a pleasure to play in each year. This year the best dressed went to 2 girls and 1 guy who wore the Spartan “cheerleader” outfits from Will Ferrell’s SNL skit. I know The Highlight would argue with the result but sometimes it’s like Lebron not winning the NBA MVP each year, sometimes the voters want to give it to someone else and that was a good deep cut from those three.
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