I skipped over my recap of our tournament given the timing of the Masters and what came out of that event this year. However, I do want to give our tournament its due as it was another excellent year for us.
This was the 6th year of the tournament and our 2nd moving it to just a 3 round format for both divisions. It was also part of the American Minigolf Alliance (AMA) this year, which helped with some of our tournament participation, especially in the professional division. This year we had the most ever in the pro division - 24 (representing 6 states), while our amateur division actually dropped to just 12. Recently that had been our bigger division but we have seen that some former amateurs have moved up to play in the professional division. We’d like to continue to grow that division as we see it as a stepping stone but also know we’re one of the few non-Putt-Putt tournaments that do multiple divisions in the US. Either way, just under 40 has been where we’ve been in total for the past few years, which isn’t bad.
This year the prep for the tournament wasn’t too bad as much of what we have to do is routine after a few years. There were prizes to be purchased, rules details to sort out and promotion to do but nothing big threw a wrench in executing all of that. This is good considering August and early September is crazy with minigolf items, school and for me Scouting so having something run smooth-ish is a bonus.The weather also agreed with us again, which meant we didn’t have to worry about contingency plans or losing people because of rain.
My biggest challenge for this year was figuring out if I could defend my title from 2021. I had played some in the weekly league during the summer but my practice on Friday was going to be limited because of other commitments that night as well as talking with players and trying to do more last-minute social media stuff. However, I was coming off a decent showing in Maine, a win at Farmington and a good showing in NJ so I was banking on my familiarity with the course and my current confidence to carry me through. But that wasn’t the only storyline going. With AMA points on the line folks like Mark “Highlighter” Novicki, Matt Liles and Justin Seymour all had shots of potentially finishing up top the AMA rankings with a win that day. Justin also was playing the tournament between his rehearsal dinner on Friday and his wedding on Sunday (which it was a very nice wedding). Finally you had a slew of past contenders wondering if they could get to the top of the leaderboard along with some new faces trying to make their mark. With just the 3 rounds on this course we knew we would be in for a good tournament.
We started 30 minutes earlier this year but it didn’t seem to have much impact and we got things teed off without a hitch. I do want to take this moment to thank my co-Penguin Mandy Ranslow for giving up playing the tournament again this year to shoulder most of the administrative burden of score collections and tracking. It really helps move the tournament along and make sure we have accurate scoring quickly. I also wanted to shout out to Autumn for not only owning the course and allowing us to have the tournament but also providing support during it with scorecards, etc. A great team really does make for a better tournament experience for the players. Each year I assess whether I even need to play in the tournament and I hope we get to the point where there are so many people that I too have to opt out to make it all work.
Immediately the tournament was tight as there were some great scores in the first round with many folks at 40 or under. This bucked the normal progression as we usually see people get into their groove in some of the later rounds. I was lucky to be one of the people who putted well with a 38, just one off the lead. While most folks cooled down in the second round (I would hit a 42), Matt Liles heated up with a 36, tying the tournament record. He had a two stroke lead going into the final round over Caleb Smith, last year’s amateur winner who had turned pro, with Highlighter sitting 4 back in third. I was back fighting for fourth place at that point with Justin and Randy Yale.
As much as I was invested in trying to finish well, being the group ahead of the leaders was difficult as the drama started to develop in their match. This was especially true as Justin and Randy started to slip and I stayed steady, meaning I had pulled away from them for at least a solid 4th finish. I would finish with a good 39 after making up for a mistake on the front nine, and besides Matt would be the only other play with two rounds in the 30s.. Matt looked like he was going to pull away with the tournament after back-to-back aces on holes 2 and 3 (no mean feat to pull off) but then the infamous Matterhorn took its toll as he carded a 6 with a water ball giving Caleb a chance to get back in it with only a 3 on that hole. It would tighten up further as Caleb stayed consistent with 2s and an ace on 15, as Matt dropped a couple more shots. The drama all crescendoed on hole 16 (Roger That - the tennis court themed hole) after Caleb, who had honors based on his ace on the previous hole, hit one of the tennis balls and got one of the worst bounces we’ve seen on that hole sending him out of bounds in a difficult position to recover from. Unable to get the three, he carded a four. It ended up being an immediate hit as Matt aced that hole, swinging the stroke total well back in his favor.
Matt would hold on to close out the tournament and notch his first Matterhorn win and his second tournament win of 2022. We all were excited for him as we’ve watched Matt grow as a player over the years and be on the brink of wins but just not break through. He’s also a very nice guy in general so you love to see it. On my end, I just laughed as I ended up tied with Highlighter for 3rd and since there was a payout difference we went to a playoff. In the five previous years we’ve never had a playoff go past hole 3 (my own to win last year ended on hole 3) but this year we had to be different. As we cleared hole 5 I was wondering if it might come down to a risky shot on the Matterhorn or even something crazy on the horns on hole 9. However, the Atom Smasher of hole 6 would be Highlighter’s downfall. The bottom section has one of the tricker putts on the course. The spiral carpet makes reading the greens a little harder and there are a couple of places where there are some subtle breaks. I breathed a sigh of relief after I got my two and Highlighter ended up not being as lucky, carding a 3 and finishing in 4th place.
After the awards ceremony comes one of the more fun things we have started around the tournament. Last year to help drive folks to the pro tournament, we offered the potential to be selected for a special round of “skins” after the tournament. For those of you not familiar with the concept, you win a “skin” by winning the hole against a group of other players and each hole has a monetary value that carries over if there are ties. You get more tickets into the selection pool the further down you are on the ranking, so it encourages people to play the pro division even if you don’t think you’ll finish in the money - but you have a chance no matter where you finished in the main tournament.
This year it worked out that all the selected winners came from outside the Top 10 of the main tournament. We also increased the dollar amounts from $10 a hole in 2021 to $10 for the front 9 and $20 for the back 9 in 2022, hoping this would increase the tension with carryover holes. We weren’t disappointed. While there were a couple of individual skins won, the big hit came on hole 12 where we ended up with a 9 hole carryover. Jonah Hurley, who gave me a battle in the playoff for first last year, has slipped to 13th this year. However, he hit it big with an ace on the cow to win that carryover prize and overall he netted $190 for 5 skins which was a payout worth of the top few places in the tournament. It provided for a lot of drama and laughs, which is a great way to end the tournament.
In looking forward to 2023, we’re going to keep everything pretty much the same in terms of timing, format and payout. I’ll be working to see if we can inject some more money into the top prizes but are happy with how far down we payout compared to other tournaments our size. So set your calendars for September 16, 2023 and watch the AMA page for more information.
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