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Argentina  INESfun

22 Feb 2020 at 13:37

There are about 300 recesses on one golf ball, and thanks to them, the ball flies three times farther than a smooth one. ... Balls of the same size...

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United States of America  Smitty

09 Sep 2021 at 03:16

Congrats, Joey! Great playing.

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United States of America Patrick Sheridan's blog« See all PatPenguin's blogs

Getting the Goat
06 Oct 2021 at 13:03 | Posted in: Competition | Views: 151 | Comments: 0

Picture by: The Putting Penguin'>Getting the Goat

I didn't remain neutral on that day

Sometimes success hits you when you least expect it. That's what it seemed like a couple of weekends ago when I played in the 5th Matterhorn International Pro-Am. This isn't to say I don't think I was prepared or hadn't worked toward success but that tournament has a couple extra reasons why it's hard for me to expect success each year and going into it this year I didn't have high expectations.

If you don't remember this tournament (and why would you unless you are a Putting Penguin super fan), I've written about it before and in short this is the tournament that we administer for Matterhorn Mini Golf. So as a result, there's a lot of additional planning, pre-tournament work and in-tournament work that happens on top of the normal competitive routine. Our focus is always on having the best tournament and not exactly our own scores because if the tournament sucks for other people, they won't come back to play.

The story of this year's tournament starts back in early 2021 when the collective decision was made to reduce the pro division to three rounds.  We hadn't been seeing the numbers we wanted in that division and we thought reducing the amount of time people had to be on the course would help.  Not sure if it ended up being the direct reason but we did have 18 pros this year, which was a high for us.  We also ended up with 20 amateurs so it was a strong turnout of 38 players.  

With the reduced rounds we also made the decision to reduce the buy-in costs which also brought down the prize purse but we felt it was all good to see what it would do.  Jumping ahead of myself, I feel like it's very likely we'll keep it for 2022 as well for stability and see if it helps us grow.  However, we (The Putting Penguin) thought it needed a little bit more to separate itself from other tournaments so we also decided to put up a skins round after for $10 a hole.  All players who registered for the Pro division would be eligible and we'd raffle with tickets based on reverse order (NBA lottery style), so even if you didn't crack the money positions you still had a good chance to make the skins.  Fast forward again and this was a success and something we'll be looking at advertising more next year.  With all that in place we went about the normal path of constantly pushing it, which you need to do for these tournaments.  September is a very busy minigolf time of the year here in the US/Northeast so good to get on everyone's calendars early.

This year Matterhorn again ran their summer league, which is both a great way to gear up for the tournament and a way to advertise.  We did get a pro and a few amateurs from the league this year.  I only made about half the weeks but I was pleased with my overall performance, making the top 3 each time I was there and winning it a couple of times.  More than placement, I felt that overall I was putting well on the course although my scores weren't often breaking that magical 40 mark. However, I noticed that it was really coming down to only one, maybe two, mistakes per round so if I could focus on eliminating those when I was more focused during a tournament, I felt I could be all set.
  
One interesting note that foreshadowed things to come in the tournament was a playoff for second place that I was in the last night of league, the week of the tournament. I was up against Jonah Hurley, who you know as the young man who beat me for 3rd place in a playoff the very first year of the tournament, and Dave Vayda for a 3-way tie for first place.  Dave would win first with a nice ace on the 2nd hole and Jonah and I went on for second place. After tying through 5th, and it just being a small league point of pride, I told Jonah I was going for the less reliable pipe on 6 to make things interesting and he made a gentlemen's agreement to do the same.  Of course we tied that hole. So going into hole 7 - Matterhorn - which is one of the most consistent 3's on the course, I also told him I was going for the risky "rock" shot, which is about the only way you can ace it but has a high percentage of out-of-bounds or in the water. Jonah agreed to do the same - and miraculously we both got 2s on that hole.  This was followed up by a 3rd weird coincidence on hole 9 where we both made it through the horn only to have our balls both go out of bounds at the end - a maybe 5% chance of that happening to us combined. Now it was just funny to both of us and while we weren't actively trying to be aggressive from there on out neither of us we're playing it safe.  The playoff finally ended on hole 15 when I got an ace. In the tournament we've never had a playoff go beyond hole 3, and this might have been the longest playoff we've seen in league as well.  Little did we know what would come that weekend.

As per normal I spent a chunk of Friday at the course for the all-day practice and as per normal I felt like I spent more of the time talking to players versus actually practicing.  That day we actually had an incident with some potential amateur players and without going into details I'm just glad it worked out that they didn't play in the tournament.  I think my stress level would have been much higher than normal if they had. But aside from that I felt like I was still putting well overall and was ready for the tournament. My personal best was 3rd in the tournament, but my overall goal was to get in the top 4 money spaces. 

The day of the tournament arrives and it's beautiful.  Given the course was a bit short-staffed that day, I have to thank my co-penguin Mandy for giving up her spot in the tournament to run the administrative aspects while the rounds were going on. I was also happy to see that we'd have such a good field for the pro division, including folks like Aaron Kaminski who got a chance to make his first trip up to the tournament from NJ.  With the morning meeting out of the way and everyone ready to go we were off.  Funny enough, thanks to the randomness of computer pairings, I was to head out to the course with Highlighter, whom you all will recognize from my blogging as well as being a past champion. This year we were actually missing our most previous champion, so there would be no defending but Justin Seymour had a chance to add a third while Highlighter could grab his second.

My first round was solidly where I needed to be.  While I beefed hole 6 for a 3, I did make it up by making a two on the Matterhorn, perhaps channeling my success on that hole from earlier in the week. From there it was pretty much how I expected, picking up another ace on 15 and then dropping 3s on the horn (9) and the meadows (18) for a solid 38. It appeared to be the number of the morning as there were 4 of those scores from the early group of players. Heading out for the second round, I was cruising very similar and while on different holes I did the same of dropping a 3 where I shouldn't, picking up a 2 where it's normally a 3 and then getting an ace.  So I was in for another 38. The other person in for a 38 was - Jonah. So we were tied and right behind us by a stroke was Justin Seymour, he of the 4 wins already in 2021.  One thing we knew about dropping the tournament to 3 rounds was that the scores would be close and were they ever for the top 4 spots. We added Matt Liles to the mix, just one stroke behind Justin, for the top 4 to go off last in the tournament.

With most of my past victories, I hadn't really been in this spot headed to the final round.  Either it was a tournament that wasn't repaired (like O-Street) so I had no idea where I stood, or like when I won Dolphin I went into the final round with a comfortable lead.  I had never gone in tied and had to win it out. So yes, I was a bit nervous and for most of this round I finally was able to stick to the brain pattern of just focusing on the hole and not what others were doing. Matt was the first to make a move, acing hole 5 to bring him even with Justin.  From there the crazy movement of the final round started.  Through being steady and focusing, I managed to get 2s on both Matterhorn  and the horns, meaning I finished the front nine with a great 18 and had gained a stroke on Jonah who just missed Matterhorn. Two holes later I gained another stroke and as soon as I let it creep into my mind that I might pull this off - wham I messed up and got a 3 on what should have been an ace hole, and was damn lucky none of the other putters did get the ace. It was then a battle as we pulled into 17, where I was still up by a stroke.  The thought crept in again (helped slightly by some fans) but I have no one to blame but myself for missing the bank (hitting one of the small stanchions that separates the entrances dead on) and then having to make a very tough putt to save a 3 there, dropping that stroke back to Jonah. 

So it seemed like it would come down to 18, where Jonah had gotten 2s the past two rounds, which is near unheard of. Due to my botched shot on 17, I was in the back of the back to tee off.  Jonah....made it gut-wrenchingly close on his second shot and ended up with an easy third shot. Everyone else cleared the hole and I knew a few things: a "normal" 3 would put me in a tie for 1st and guarantee no lower than 2nd, a 4 would put me in a tie for 3rd and a 2 would win outright.  I didn't consider anything beyond that because if I got more than a 4 I deserved to be off the podium.  The tee shot is anything but simple either. There is a narrow channel that can get you down to the hole but it's very hard to hit, so you are left with laying up to get a shot at the hole on your second shot.  There's a couple ways to achieve this but whatever route you take you still only have about a 1 foot wide landing area that doesn't put you in trouble.  Making sure to tell myself to just hit it like I always do, I lined it up and gave myself about the perfect position. From here I knew the line and the speed and took my shot at it.  As I watched it travel the 20 or so feet, I knew, and the crowd could tell that it was online and going to be close.  Its funny to think of this much drama in a mere little minigolf tournament but as a sports enthusiast you could feel it - almost like watching a long field goal attempt to win a tie game.  The ball bounced - stayed on line - and bounced out off the back of the cup! I really thought I had it and what a way to win that would be.  But after a tap in 3, marking a 39 on the scorecard - it's like the minigolf god said if I was going to win, I needed to do it through Jonah.

The tension mounted as we couldn't even go straight to the playoff as I wanted to get the amateur awards done so they could get out of there if they wanted. Once that was done it was off to hole #1.  I jokingly asked Jonah if he was
going for the apple again but his maturity thought better of it and he teed off first around the apple, netting his two, which I matched.  On the goat hole I messed up my tee shot slightly, giving me a longer putt than I wanted but thankfully made it.  So it was onto hole 3, where tournament playoffs die and whose name was "Holey Moley" on account of the obstacle being Swiss cheese (and named well before the game show of which I was a part).  It just felt like everything was aligning and it's a hard feeling to describe unless you've been in that position in any sport. It looked to be even more so when Jonah got a bad crack bounce on this tee shot and left him a long second shot which he missed.  Once again, I just told myself the same thing I did on 18 - just hit my shot.  I did and left it about a foot from the hole.  Of course I had to make it but there was a sense of relief and joy of course when I made it.  Though it felt slightly muted as my first thought was "let's get out the prizes" as we still had the skins match to run!

Now, with some time to reflect on the whole thing, I realized how well I played that day.  I kept everything at or below our defacto "par" of 39 (we give a buffer for holes 7, 9 and 18 of a 3 to get us there) and I did so not by piling up aces (I only had two) but by keeping the mistakes to a minimum and making some clutch putts on two of the three hardest holes. I don't want to say it was out of the ordinary from me but it definitely showed a level of maturity on the course that I haven't had in some of my recent tournaments. I'm also happy that, while I'll have some pressure to want to defend in 2022, from here on out I'll have some less anxiety around the tournament knowing that my name is already emblazoned on the trophy in the lobby and I can notch it on my resume. 

With that out of the way I'm not looking straight at the Master's tournament coming this week.  Two of the three courses have new carpet so it's a combination of re-learning the holes themselves after a year's hiatus and then putting in new habits around how the carpets play. It looks like it might rain some for the tournament right now but the weather has been changing a lot this week so I'm hoping we get lucky.  It's no fun adjusting to the rain (or playing in it).  I haven't had a ton of time to scout out the players while practicing so no odds for this tournament in this blog, but there's a lot of past champions and other favorites in the field.  My personal goals are to a) move up from my highest finish of 46, b) don't shoot any 40s then c) try to make the top 30 cut.  We will have to see how I do!

The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the writer and do not represent the World Minigolf Sport Federation (WMF), Minigolfnews.com or any other organization that the writer may be associated with unless expressly stated in the blog.

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