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Semi-Mastering the Master's
28 Oct 2021 at 12:53 | Posted in: Competition | Views: 1700 | Comments: 0
|Pat on Hole 2 at Aloha
Early in the year, before any tournaments and it looked like I would be making the trip to Myrtle Beach after missing 2020 due to Covid, I had set a plan for the USPMGA Master's. In the past few years when I had attended with my family I had spent so much time grinding on the course that I missed a lot of the other fun to be had down there. So I made the decision to pull back a bit on practice and make more time for family and other fun, and I'm happy to say that I stuck to that plan for the most part this year. the only thing that threw a little wrench into that was playing a second tournament during the same week (more on that later).
For anyone contemplating the Master's, to make the most of it you need to try to give it a full week starting practice on at least Monday if you can. Not only do you need to learn 3 courses and put in the grind that you will eventually get in the competition but there is so much catching up with friends in the minigolf world that half the time you think you'll spend putting you actually just spend chatting! At least that always seems to be my experience. My plan was to spend a half-day on Monday, a 3/4 day on Tuesday and then a full day Wednesday practicing. I scheduled out each day at one of the courses and kept to that schedule. Monday was to start with the moderate level of the Rumble course (home of 5 of the 12 rounds including the final 2), Tuesday was the more difficult (though I think overblown by some of the players in its difficulty) Pineapple course (3 of 12 rounds) and then Wednesday was the easier Aloha (4 of 12 rounds) and a spot of Pineapple and Rumble thrown in for good measure just to confirm things I had worked on earlier. In between I made time for things like going to a pirate dinner show and playing minigolf with the kids (which a few of our crew - Tom Loftus, Mandy Ranslow and Highlighter Novicki got to experience this time around).
Besides having to refamiliarize myself with the tee lines, there was the added difficulty of two of the courses (Rumble and Aloha) having new carpets this year. While my first round at Rumble on Monday was a shock (I felt like I had to take a swing for the fences on hole 11), I very quickly adapted and in retrospect I think the new carpet was much better for me and others this year. At Aloha I don't think it had a significant impact on any many ace lines and it seemed to make the volcano hole 13 much more playable if you missed the ace. Rumble seemed to have similar attributes - cut down the ace percentage on a few holes but also made a lot of the deuce putts more manageable. The other significant change on Rumble was removing the rock from hole 17, which if you remember from 2019 was a source of personal nightmare. I don't know the act reasoning for this (though I heard some theories) but it was a welcome change, though it didn't 100% guarantee that you wouldn't put up a slightly crooked number on that hole.
After all the practice was in, we got our pairings and I thought I drew the pretty reasonable rotation of starting at Aloha, moving to Pineapple and finishing at Rumble. I also got to play the first 3 rounds with my man David Biggy, he of Holey Moley and Can You Beat Biggy? fame. As much as I like to play with new players in the opening rounds, having someone you are familiar with and know you are comfortable with to start things out does take some of the pressure off. With the threat of heavy rain seeming to slide away on Thursday (the forecast all week was wonky with rain in and out of the forecast), it was time to get things started.
Another thing I tried to implement this year was giving myself a little more time in the morning to have a wake up routine. A lot of times for the Master's (and other tournaments) it's up, maybe throw down some coffee, dress and get out the door due to the early start or gathering times of around 8am. Although it meant I'd have to wake up earlier, each day I made time to sit on our condo's balcony and leisurely enjoy come coffee and breakfast before heading to the course and I think it did me a lot of good. I got to Aloha on Thursday right when the lights were coming on at 7am and quickly worked my way through the course to try to dial in the speed of the lightly damp carpet. Of course by the time the third round came along the carpets would change speed but it's good to know what you got at the beginning. Unfortunately that didn't mean I got off to a great start. On a course where you're looking for 4-5 aces on the front 9, I didn't get one until the 9th hole and that was after dropping a bogey on the second hole of the whole tournament. With some ups and downs I finished that first round with a 35 and it wasn't looking like I was going to meet my goals for the tournament.
Things started to right themselves in the 2nd and 3rd round though as I'd only record one bogey between the two rounds. While I didn't get into the magical 20s, I ended up with two thirties and knew at that point I was on pace to be a little ahead of my 2019 finish based on my Aloha scores. But then it was onto the Pineapple course. I've said this above but I don't hate the Pineapple course the way a lot of the field does. It's a true minigolf course where you get penalized for going out-of-bounds and the aces are tough to come by (although in some instances because this course hadn't been re-carpeted I think that played into it where it hadn't as much in years past). It was a course that punished you more than the other two for an errant tee shot, so you had to be on your game for each one. For these rounds I was re-paired with Nico Manou (who people know better as the guy who "shloffs" or putts with his foot), who I've played with before and always had a good outlook on the game. I started strong on that course with a 34 and taking until the 17th hole before I had a bogey. Perhaps that and an ace to start round 2 gave me a bit too much confidence as I'd then run my worst string of 3 holes in the tournament going 4-2-4.
In the earlier days, even as much as a couple of years ago, I think that would have sunk my round. I would have been chasing aces to make them up and find my way into a score of something like a 42 or 43 by the time it was done, thinking only about the score and not the hole in front of me. This year though I did my best to overcome that and judging by the fact that I two'd out the rest of the round for a 39 I think I was successful in that round. I just remember standing over each putting telling myself I knew the shot and to hit the shot. I'd almost as successfully did that in the next round as well though I came in at 37. While it was a worse combined score than my 2019 outing on Pineapple, I was actually feeling better about it. It's hard to tell where you stand after one day due to the round robin format but I knew I was just about middle of the pack for my course which is where I wanted to be.
Day 2 meant me first crack at Rumble in the tournament and I was still paired with Nico due to us putting nearly identical scores at Pineapple. I had to keep the same mentality as I bogeyed the 4th hole and took until hole nine to get an ace, which is not great on that course if you are trying to score well. But I would survive that round and the next with a 35 and then almost all of the third round until I aced out the last three holes to put up a respectable 33. But that's not the whole story when it comes to me and Rumble. In case you haven't heard/read about my accomplishment in 2019 of taking a 9 on that hole (you can read about it in the link above), I certainly had that in my head when going down to the tournament this year. As noted, with the rock gone a little of that fear was gone when I practice but this was still the tournament proper. While it didn't quite make the ace shot any easier (I actually aced it more in 2019 than I did this year), it did make the recovery shot better even if you had it come back to the top of the little hump like I did one round. That's not to say you couldn't put up a 3 or worse on it but it was just less likely. I would only ace it twice in the five rounds I played on Rumble but I was even more happy that I made my second shot on the other three. I walked away having played less strokes on that hole in one year than I had done in one round.
With the threat of rain coming, the USPMGA decided that they'd accelerate the 10th round over at Aloha and start us off without re-pairing for scores. Normally going into the 10th round you would know exactly where you stood against the field and what you needed to do, in cases like mine where you were further down, to make it into the top section that would play the later rounds on Saturday. In my previous Master's appearances I had not made that "cut" and always had the pleasure of waking up extra early on Saturday to play my final two rounds. I'm not sure if it was not knowing for sure where I was, that I was playing with Nico again so I felt comfortable, that I had finished strong on Aloha or a combination of all three but I carded another 30 to finish up there. Then the waiting game was on as all the scores got input.
I will make what I feel like is an obligatory side note here to talk about the tournament organization. I made some similar comments last time I was down there and I don't mean to complain but I know they are points of concern for many players and I would like anyone reading who are tournament organizers to consider them. First was that while we were attempting to use Bangolf for the round-by-round scores it got abandoned and returned to spreadsheets for a bit. This made it more difficult to understood where you were, especially for those along the "cut" line and when information was updated in Bangolf there were discrepancies in scores. It just made for a ton of confusion, which is something you don't want when there are tee-times and money on the line. Another point was the lack of communication on some things, like where the cut line was and if it was at the payout line, or somewhere further above. The change to Aloha was fairly clear but there was a definite lack of clarity in terms of what was going to be available for practice before the rounds started, when the rounds would start or what the start order was going to be. All things that people should either be made very aware of via a rules packet or actual rules meeting and shouldn't have to think about it while playing. There also should be contingencies thought out before the tournament, especially since we're now into the 25th year of this and have seen a lot of factors impact play over the years.
Back to the important part, which is that I made the "cut"! I was sitting at 31st, which wasn't far inside the money line but that was good enough for me right then. But I couldn't celebrate for long - I had to drive 20 minutes down the beach to Mt Atlanticus to get in my qualifying round for the Mighty Minotaur Minigolf Tournament that O-Street, A Couple of Putts and us (The Putting Penguin) were putting on a side event to the Master's. I'll probably get to that in a future event but the short story here was that after a quick stop for a pint, I putted well enough to qualify for the final the next day.
Given the later start time on Saturday I enjoyed some time on our balcony, but still headed out a little early so I could catch some of my friends in their final rounds. I ended up getting to live stream a lot of Tom's final round which was awesome and helped me keep my mind of what I needed to do. However, things wouldn't be that simple when it came time for the top tier to play because that's when a thunderstorm rolled in and put a stop to the proceedings. Not to harp on communications but again we didn't have a good sense of what was going on with certain people pushing to play as soon as it felt like thunder was gone, which didn't seem right. Besides being unsafe, I found myself questioning we'd want the best of the best out there on conditions that weren't the most favorable to displaying their putting skills. Thankfully, Mother Nature quickly cooperated and we were soon on our way, although on a much more damp course than we'd played previously. That was also coupled with these final rounds starting on a hole other than hole 1 so that the leaders would finish on a hole that was visible by the crowd as there is no where to gather for hole 18. After some discussion, it was decided that we'd start on hole 5 and I waited, along with new tee-mate John Kropinak, to get started. Getting up to that hole I was actually feeling pretty good. Somehow I had managed to ace it twice already which wasn't easy with the new carpeting and to get the penultimate 11th round started off I knocked it in again. While I'd miss it in the 12th round, my 3 aces were fully 10% of the aces achieved by the field on that hole so I was feeling really good! It set the tone for the next 35 holes as well as I ground them out about as good as I could play them based on the time I had for practice and the conditions. I'd end up with back-to-back 33s, which for a combined score was right up there with all of the leader's last two rounds (save for Olivia who put up two scorching 30s in the rain). After finishing, I was too anxious waiting for the scores to be input from the groups around me and was relieved to see that when they did get in that, not only did I stay in the money, but I also moved up finishing at 26th.
While far from winning the tournament, finishing that high gave me a real sense of validation that I could play in that realm. I guess I still have a slight bit of imposter syndrome, even though I've played well in the Open and held my own in Sweden, I felt like a pro golfer who needed to "prove" himself at a major. The funny part is that I think I needed the more "relaxed" approach to the tournament to be able to do that versus stressing and overworking my way chasing that goal. Of course the big question is now can I repeat this next year and will I learn my lessons on how to approach things!
So to wrap up with Homer-esque novel of a blog, I wanted to look at my goals from my last posting.
1) I moved up from my highest finish - by a lot!
2) I didn't shoot any 40s (saved it with that 39 on Pineapple)
3) Made the "cut"
Guess I did pretty well overall! If anyone wants to hear more about the Master's experience I also did a Puttcast episode with Tom and Aaron which brings more perspective to the tournament and encouragement to others to play.
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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