It’s very easy to go back over your scores and each hole you played when you missed out on a spot or two in a tournament by a single stroke. What if I didn’t go out-of-bounds? What if I didn’t miss the loop? What if I didn’t have one of the few unlucky lip-outs on the near guaranteed ace run? Logic tells you, however, that none of it matters. If you made one other shot, who is to say you wouldn’t have missed another? Or the same applies to the people you are playing against.
That’s not to say it’s not worth thinking about if there is something you can gain from it in the future. Maybe knowing how to play a hole now if you have an unlucky bounce out, or adjusting your strategy to minimize those chances. It just doesn’t change your outcome from the tournament.
So went the Lee Stoddard Dolphin Open this year for me - in my 14th year playing this tournament it still happened to be a year of firsts for me. Overall the plan for the weekend was mostly the same as past years - packed up the family and left midday on Thursday in order to get up there in time for dinner. This year the plan had been to meet Mark Novicki (Highlighter), Justin Seymout and my fellow penguin Mandy Ranslow up there but Mandy had to back out because of Covid. Thus we just met Highlighter on Thursday, with Justin to get in later. We all stay at the same hotel when we can due to it being one of the only ones in the area with a pool and it having grills we can use in the back to cook our dinners. The weather was planned to be beautiful all weekend so we’d cook and save ourselves a bit of money. Dinner the first night though, wasn’t elaborate - just some pasta cooked on the camping stove on the tailgate of the truck - but hey it was enough!
Friday it was off to the course mid-morning for the normal bits of practice. My plan was to get a bunch of rounds in, focusing specifically on whether I was going to play with a Chromax ball this year or switch to the AMA branded SuperSoft that I had, which had been doing me well in previous 2022 tournaments. After a few hours of play, with a break for a good, albeit expensive, lobster roll for lunch (because it’s Maine), I settled on the SuperSoft. It seemed to be bouncing the right way for the course that year, though in retrospect it might have been too much bounce!
At the end of practice I was feeling ok. I wasn’t over confident, didn’t feel over practiced but also wasn’t sure I had everything in place for the weekend. Highlighter was very confident in his skills and Justin was his normal self of always questioning if he had it. It was off to dinner and the pool on Friday, and a decent night’s sleep. Luckily we didn’t have to be at the course until 8am but I wanted to make sure we were a little early so I could help in the tournament administration as I have done since Lee Stoddard passed away in 2018. It’s a small group of people who play each year and many are veterans but there’s always some new folks and it’s important to make sure everyone knows the rules and regulations when there is money on the line.
However, I do think at times all of that contributes to me faltering out of the gate. In the first round I was feeling ok through the first 7 holes, carding one 3 on hole 3 and picking up the ace on 7. Hole 8 is the Fisherman House, which I’ve talked about in the past having gone from a high ace possibility to one where you may struggle to get through - Justin didn’t make it through on his tee shot until the 10th round. I was feeling good and got through but ended up deep in the corner because of a big bounce. At that point it should be no worse than a 3 - and wouldn’t you know it after two blowbys I carded a 4. It was the one score I wanted to stay away from and here I was already with one 8 holes into a 180 hole tournament. In part it was lack of preparation - I definitely could have studied those putts more knowing they were some of the more difficult on the course - but I can say it was also part over-confidence, thinking there was no way I’d do worse than a 3. Goes to show you what the minigolf gods think sometimes.
I was hoping I’d have some time to recover from that and just get through a few holes and try to pick up an ace on 13. But the minigolf gods wouldn’t allow that either as I went out-of-bounds at the end of the bridge on hole 11. Unfortunately over the years, the bridge has settled some and the bottom left corner is susceptible to bad bounces right off the course. I will admit that I might have hit my tee shot a touch hard, but I didn’t expect that. With the placement of the ball on the slope now, I had a low probability of getting the 3 and it resulted in my second 4 in just 3 holes. It was frustrating but I kept my head down and somehow immediately bounced back with 2 aces on 12 and 13, then ground my way to a 38. The grind would continue all morning with a 36 and 39. The bad part about a tournament this long, especially to folks interested in playing competitive minigolf, is that some rounds will definitely be a grind. It’s hard to have your groove every round and it’s those grind rounds that separate the top athletes, just like in any sport.
It was during the third round where I had one of my firsts for this tournament - I went out-of-bounds on the fishhook, hole 12. I didn’t think it was possible unless you blasted the ball but it looks like a bit of the carpet had risen over the years creating a bit of a ramp if you hit it right. I was shocked, and the shock was only slightly tempered by the same thing happening to Katrina, my afternoon playing partner, during one of our rounds together. It lead to 4s for both of us and I know it was the only time I’ve taken a 4 on that hole in my life.
In the afternoon my game for the weekend really took shape and I went 33, 37, 32 as I started to find my aces. Despite finishing 3rd, I would actually end up with the most aces in the tournament (30) though it just shows that it wasn’t enough to offset my mistakes and bad luck. It was also during the afternoon that I had my first of 4 aces on hole 17, which gave me a tournament low average for that hole of 1.7. Pretty good on a hole that can easily turn into a 3 with a bad bounce and some tough second putts.
The evening continued the good run with a 34 and 36, leaving me within technical striking distance of Justin up top and at the very least with a great chance of finishing in the top 3. However, Sunday morning didn’t want to play nice with my scores. Despite trying all I could, and perhaps maybe because I tried too much, I started the day with a 40 - the one score I was trying to avoid all tournament. I’ll chalk it up a bit to bad luck on two holes. One hole 3, I managed to catch a dud bounce and my ball skidded, putting me in a position where I didn’t even have much of a good layup shot. In trying to force it, I hit the same brick! This resulted in it skimming and coming back to me, which meant now it turned into a 4 after I gave it the best run I could on a ricochet 3. The lesson there was perhaps not to be as aggressive next time in trying to save a stroke. I tried to fight back but it seemed like a case of gain a stroke, lose a stroke. This was then compounded by making the correct center pipe on hole 13 and then having it not go in the cup, which is about a 1 in 100 chance these days - up from about 1 in a 1000 in year’s past. It was another first for me in all the years I had been coming to Dolphin. Fast forward about 18 holes and the luck would continue as I went out of bounds AGAIN on the bridge, which befuddled me. I know I hit it a lot slower than my mishap earlier in the tournament so I must just have gotten a bad bounce. Despite a very close run at the hole it meant another 4 on that hole to close out the tournament, though I survived the round in general with a 36.
So to recap my firsts for this tournament:
- Two times out of bounds on hole 11
- Out of bounds on hole 12
- A missed ace in the center pipe of hole 13
Perhaps I should have stayed away from Dolphin’s Amen Corner!
But overall, I can’t complain too much. Despite finishing just one stroke out of second, I had a wonderful time in the tournament and played pretty well for just a few hours practice and mostly relying on my experience with the course and the tournament. I grabbed 3rd place and making the podium is always a good outcome for me. Looking forward to going back next year!
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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