Now it’s game time! I’m up at 6:30 AM and I quietly shower and get out of the hotel room without waking the wife or son. After grabbing a bagel and coffee at the hotel’s breakfast I make my way over to the course. It’s a beautiful late summer day in Boothbay with a slight chill in the air and sunny skies. I’m not the first one to the course, with John and Highlighter beating me there. I have time to sneak in two more practice rounds, shooting a 35 and a 39. I was as ready as I will ever be.
As the tournament has gotten smaller in recent years and registration a little more “lax” we don’t really know who will be playing until it’s time to tee off. It’s a small group this year, just 10 of us, but they are almost all contenders including Lee who has actually never won his own tournament. I’m paired with Randy Rice, one of the largest people on the USPMGA tour. You may also have seen him in commercials or on the show “Smartest Guys in the Room” that was on the History Channel for a bit. He’s playing a bit lame with a foot injury and a crutch but we’ll soon find out that it didn’t slow him down much at all.
After the pairings are made and a short rules session held, we’re off to the races. I’m one of the later groups out (not that it matters much with only 5 twosomes playing) and I’m off to a decent start being 1 under after the first nine. All of sudden things begin to click and I ace 3 of the last 9 and I’ve posted a 32, the best tournament round I’ve ever had on the Dolphin course. I guess that practice and good vibes from last year are paying off. Round 2 I’d play clean after a birdie and bogey on the first two holes, carding a 36. Round 3 ended up being the round of my life at Dolphin. After mentioning to John that I had been ace-less for over 18 holes while we were waiting for hole 7 he told me that it would “turnaround here.” Good prediction as I would ace the next 3 in a row and then two more without hitting a bogey for the round. This meant I put in a 31, breaking my personal best record for the tournament and also shot a 99, which was one of the best 3 round totals in the history of the tournament. I was ecstatic to see that I was in first and with a fairly comfortable 5 stroke lead, although there was a lot of putting left.
I headed back to the hotel with Highlighter to have a quick sandwich for lunch with the family. They would accompany back to the course for the afternoon session. I cooled off a bit after lunch marking a 39 but came back with a strong 32. I’d finish with a respective 37 and happy overall with how the shots were falling. As I watched the returns come in from the people behind me I was feeling fairly confident that I had kept a good lead – for about five minutes. Then Lee posted his scores – 31, 35, 31 – a whopping 97! All of sudden he made up a double digit deficit and was tied with me for first place. The pressure was on!
Dinner was again down in Boothbay Harbor and again with the family and Highlighter. I continued the lobster theme as I had a lobster melt, which ended up being more like a lobster calzone but without ricotta cheese. Of course this was accompanied by a couple of pints, which tends to be almost required minigolf fuel. Everything was looking beautiful and then the downpour came. It was the classic “raining while still sunny” which got us a very nice rainbow but would also mean the carpets would dampen up again. It was going to make for an interesting set of evening rounds.
Back to the course we went (after stopping to pick up some fudge) and a little bit of practice on the newly wet carpets. I was paired with Lee for the penultimate round so the competition would be tight and we’d know exactly where we stood at the end. John O’Leary was in third, only four strokes out so we needed good rounds to keep him at bay. I started off well with an ace and with some aces and bogies by Lee through the first 12 hole I was feeling ok, up by two strokes. Then disaster struck in a matter of two holes. On 13 I barely missed the ace and Lee hit it with authority, dropping my lead to 1. It was then onto the loop on 14.
Traditionally I haven’t had issues with this hole. Sometimes I’d card a bogey as if you run the ball too far to the back after the loop it’s a tough return putt. I think I had that in my head when I hit my tee shot. I knew it was a bit slow but I hoped I had enough to get it to drop unceremoniously on the correct side of the loop. Boy was I wrong. Down it came back down the loop. To make matters worse as it rolled off the metal it kicked to the left, leaving me with no clear shot to try to get into the loop.
At that point I should have played conservative and tapped the ball back to the front of the loop, hit around and then hopefully just settled for the 4. However, I did the exact opposite and tried to make it work, only to bounce it off the side of the loop and kick it almost back to the tee box. I could still make the four, if I wasn’t for the fact that I AGAIN hit it too soft. I have never done that in practice or otherwise. Finally I got it through and made the putt on the other side. I had carded a personal tournament worst 5 and the lead was now 2 strokes for Lee. I had to regroup before heading into the bobbin’ buoys of 15 otherwise my score could have blown up. I think it was a small miracle that I carded a 2 and held it together for most of the remaining holes only to take a bogey on 18. Lee’s lead would stand at 3 going into the final round and I was now only 1 hole ahead of John.
For the final round, the leaders would go out last and play as a foursome. It would be me, Lee, John and Randy in that final group. I was a bit despondent at what had happened but was determined to keep my head in the game. The first two holes helped with that as I carded two aces and suddenly cut Lee’s lead to just 1, only to give back one of them on the third hole. The rest of the round would slide away and just when I thought Lee would slip a bit with a bogey, he’d return with an ace. The back nine was fairly uneventful for the whole group as not a single ace was carded and I was the lucky one who carded 3 bogies. I had no chance at making the top spot and Lee had pulled off his first win in the tournament. I was bummed but didn’t mind I had lost out to Lee.
I was more bummed that I missed a tough second putt on 18 to drop down into a tie with John for second place. This meant a playoff, which I was fairly confident with as I have been undefeated in my playoffs at Dolphin. At Dolphin the playoffs begin on Hole 15 as it’s the hardest on the course and are sudden death. It’s quite possible to get stuck up on the top section and get a 3, which has the potential to end the playoff. After a coin flip I went first and carded a 2. John would match and it was onto 16 which can end a playoff in a different was as it’s quite ace-able. I ran my shot a bit long and carded the 2. I was worried at that point as I knew John was good on this hole but he left his very short and made the difficult putt to push. It would finally end on 17 as I carded another 2 and John missed his difficult deuce shot after an unlucky tee shot.
I was happy with following up the win with a second place finish and earning the $200 that came with it. While I had a run at the top spot I wasn’t too disappointed that I couldn’t repeat. I had actually played better this year, averaging a 35.5 compared to the 36.375 I averaged in my win last year. One fun thing about this tournament is that Lee also gives a $100 to the first person to ace 15, which wasn’t done until the last round when Evan Goodkowsky grabbed the cash, not his first time accomplishing that feat. He also does a hole-in-one contest on 18 at the end where everyone gets 1 shot for the ace and a $100. While I had aced it in the first round of the tournament, I left it just a bit short this time around but we did have two winners out of the 10 which was great.
We also found out that Lee wants to go big(ish) again for next year’s tournament as it will be the 25th edition, so I hope this means more players and another chance for me to prove I’m at the top of the board when it comes to minigolfers in New England. Next up is the Matterhorn International Pro-Am which is running for the first time and I’m involved in executing. So I’ll be doing double duty over the next week as I prepare both for playing in the tournament and for making sure it runs well for all the competitors.
» Final Results