Once again, there was a long time between me actually finishing the tournament and getting to this post but I think the extra time was good, being able to think through a few things.
The earliest I had to get up during tournament week was Saturday, the last day of the Masters. Since I wasn’t in the top 35, I was in the first wave of players to hit Hawaiian Rumble and we teed off by 7:30am. It was actually nice to play a bit in the “dark” with the lights on at Rumble but it’s tough to play tournament minigolf before the sun comes up. Usually any round before 8am and a bit of coffee is a disaster for me!
Upon getting to the course I try to hit a few balls on some of the easier holes in the attempt to dial in some aces on the final day. It’s during that practice when I hear of a controversial decision that ends up compounding itself and angering quite a few players. In the next few paragraphs, I will warn you that I will be critical and a bit negative so if you don’t want to read it skip ahead to the part where I talk putting again. I do it out of a place of love for the sport as I want to see this tournament achieve some amazing heights. Also, before I get into it I know running a tournament is a difficult job. Bob and his team put in a lot of effort and I want to thank them for all they do, but these are some improvement points which I think need to be addressed.
Hole 17 on Rumble is designed with 2 separate holes (you can see it in the picture for the blog – the second hole is under the rock), which can be switched to make it a bit harder to play. The easier hole is in the middle of the plateau and is fairly aceable. If you miss (and don’t really mess up) it’s a tap in 2. The harder hole is offset on the back wall, and while aceable could lead to a much higher score given the rock will cover the easier hole meaning your second (or third or fifth) shot could be from behind the rock. Throughout practice, and one of the only things mentioned in the Thursday rules meeting, we were told that the first rounds at Rumble would be played on the easier hole and then it would be switched to the harder hole for the final 2 rounds for everyone. However, during the Saturday morning practice we were now told that our group (the “worse” players) would be playing the easier hole for “flow” so we didn’t spend a ton of time taking shots there and backing up players before the “better” players go on. This was in part because there were so many players this year that needed to get through the rounds. However, this is something that should have been planned on giving the advertisement for this tournament and the increasing numbers in the major USPMGA tournaments. A large turnout should have had a contingency plan.
Frankly it was a terrible decision and gives the perception of bad tournament management for a few reasons. First, the Masters did not have a stroke limit which is something that should not happen for a USPMGA tournament under World Minigolf Sport Federation rules (should be if you miss after 6 you mark 7 and move on). If we had enacted a stroke limit that would cap the issue of flow on that hole since you could only take so much time. Second, this is a double standard for players in the tournament. We all paid the same amount to play and many of us in the “worse” division were not far out of the paying spots. Our scores would not be reflective of the top players (well maybe mine was, more on that later) and we had all spent time practicing the harder hole. This was compounded by the initial decision (not communicated until we got there) that players in in our rounds would not be able to move up to the paying spots regardless of how well they shot. While it was a long shot for me, many of the top “worse” players were only a couple strokes from payday and this was met with a lot of anger and frustration by those players and rightfully so. Some of them were also first time Masters players, and many from “rival” Putt Putt, and I’m sure this left a bad taste in their mouth. That was eventually changed and the paying spots were extended to rectify some of that but it wasn’t good. Finally, the worse part of it all is that it makes the organization and the tournament look bad by having inconsistent, poorly communicated rules. International players or players who don’t play much in the USPMGA had to have been frustrated by this as I know I was and I’m a USPMGA regular.
I hate anything that makes us look bad because we’re all trying so hard to make the sport better for everyone and grow it as a professional sport. As I result, I would offer up some constructive criticism. First, if the number of players and flow on the final day is an issue then we should either consider a cut or a change in schedule if we want everyone to play all 12 rounds. We could move the start time for the top players by an hour and it would be no big deal since our dinner was 5 hours after the end of play. I’d also be for a cut which would be like a golf tournament or other major minigolf tournaments, as long as it was clearly announced as part of the initial schedule. I might be mad I don’t make the cut but it would be on me and would be clearly part of the risk I take by playing (i.e – that I would get 2 “less” rounds of minigolf for my entry fee). Second, we need a defined tournament director and rules jury. Bob does a great job but he wears many hats during the tournament and he needs one person to focus just on the play of the tournament. That should be supplemented with a jury of 3 individuals (perhaps a top international player, a top USPMGA player and a 3rd representative from the USPMGA such as Bob, Ted or Danielle) to make decisions on all the rules and to help answer questions should they arise. Finally, while not tied directly to this, we need one or two referees on each course throughout the tournament just wandering around available for rules questions (or even for taking pictures and videos while things are going smoothly). Part of the issue with the backup on day one was lack of clarity about there being a break during rounds and rules officials could help with this. I know the last couple ideas take some volunteers to help but I know there are people out there who would be willing to help, including “retired” players. It’s these little things that will ensure the Masters is one of the best adventure golf tournaments in the world.
Ok – I’m done and it’s now safe to read again. For the last two rounds I’d be again paired with Christian Adler who I started the tournament with. Funny to see how things change, or don’t change, after 10 rounds of minigolf. This time around we’re a bit more talkative having formed a Master’s bond and it’s great to make some international friends. We start the rounds on hole 6 which I think is ok. It leaves most of the hard holes for the beginning of the round and many of the “ace” holes for the second half. Of course I blow that out of the water by acing 8, which I had now done twice despite not doing it at all in practice, and 9. I then get a very lucky bounce on 11 and drop one shot on 14, which has been an unpleasant hole to many this year. I miss hole 15 (which I would end up acing 5 of 7 times) and even the easier hole 17 which bums me out, but I pick up aces on 2 and 4, leaving me with a very nice round of 32. It’s right up there with the rounds the best players will shoot and does a great job of convincing me that I’m just a little bit of practice off from making a move in this tournament next year.
The last round slips a bit however, and I end up shooting a 37, mirroring my first round on Rumble in round 6. Ironically enough, I will not ace 17 either of the two rounds and my combined score of 4 is likely what I would have shot on the hard hole (I figured an ace and three). I will end up in 46th place amongst the pros and tied for 48th overall (two amateurs snuck in there). After the rounds Highlighter and I grabbed lunch and a drink, and of course hit another minigolf prior to the awards dinner. My minigolfing wasn’t even done then as after the awards, we teamed up with the O Street Golf Association guys and Nico Manu (the schloffer who plays with a modified shoe for putting as he can’t hold a club) and played two rounds with some drinks at the two courses at Aloha. What a great way to unwind!
The most amazing thing about the tournament for me was the Connecticut Cup (for those of you not aware it’s the side tournament us folks from CT play whenever we’re at a tournament together - $25 a person and a trophy that gets passed around like the Stanley Cup). After 10 rounds of play, John was one stroke to the lead and I was one stroke ahead of Highlighter. Amazing how it could be that close after all that putting. With my excellent 11th round I moved into the lead by 6 strokes and finished it off to regain the Connecticut Cup, something I was not expecting. I had now earned it in the two majors of the year (first being the U.S. Open) and this time I’ll actually get to hold onto the trophy for a while since we’re done with minigolf tournaments for a bit. Perhaps I’ll take it traveling and do some pictures.
In terms of goals, I was one for three. I didn’t quite get into the top 40 but I wasn’t far from getting there. I kept all of my scores at Rumble under 40. I feel like I played pretty good at Rumble overall, averaging a 35. I think there was really only 5-6 shots I dropped with bogies and can easily clean that up. The tougher part will be finding more aces. I never did get my score in the 20s on Aloha, coming close with a good round of 30. It was on that course where I feel I could have picked up 8-10 shots by stopping dumb bogies and being a little bit better on some of the more straightforward ace holes.
With that, my tournament season has come to an end. With Fall and Winter creeping into New England we won’t have any more tournaments the rest of the year. The next time I’ll likely be blogging about tournament play is for the U.S. Open to be held in May 2018.
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