Interview with Past BMGA Chairman Sean Homer
06 Feb 2018 at 14:21 | Published by: PatPenguin | Views: 1596 | News search
Sean Homer and Friend (Photo by Sean Homer)
Stability of leadership in an organization helps to ensure that the organization is steering towards the right goal. Over the past 11 years, the British Mini Golf Association (BMGA) had such stability as Sean Homer guided the group as the Chairman. Recently Sean stepped down from this position and Paul Preston took the role. » BMGA Website
Sean currently works as a Retail Operations Manager for Royal Trinity Hospice in London and was previously involved with the Virgin Group as well as managing services across Kent for Adults with Autism. He’s always had a passion for music and film, and his a keen motorcyclist. He’s married (to WMF’s Media Manager Marion Homer), lives in Kent and is a lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers fan given where he was born and raised. We had a chance recently to catch up with him via email to look back on his time as Chairman, get his thoughts about competitive minigolf and see where he’s going in the future. It’s one of our longer interviews but it gives great insight into a position few of us have had the pleasure (pain?) to be in during our miniature golf careers.
Minigolfnews (MGN): Your first event was back in 2005, the British Championships in Stratford. What were your first impressions of minigolf?
Sean Homer (SH): I came across the BMGA by accident. I used to play online minigolf with a colleague in the office at Virgin and saw the link to the World Crazy Golf Championships and thought it would be good fun to take part. I noticed that the British Championships were taking place a month or so before so decided to give it a bash. I enjoyed the event although for a national championship it did seem a bit amateurish and to be honest I felt it wasn’t really geared towards new players but pandered more to the ‘elite’ players at the time.
MGN: What drew you to taking over as chairman? When you took over what do you think the organization was lacking/what did you think was the biggest skill you could bring to the organization?
SH: I felt that the Association needed a new approach, particularly in the way it ran and promoted the tour events. It was always very focused on the few individuals at the top of the game but didn’t seem to have much interest in the rest of the players who took part. It was also a bit disorganised and lacked a certain level of professionalism and efficiency in the way things ran – so with my background in projects and events I knew I could add a lot in terms of the way we could operate and bring a new focus to the Association.
MGN: Describe how much work goes into running an event such as the World Crazy Golf Championships? How long before would the serious work start going on?
SH: There’s a huge amount of work in running a major event such as the World Crazies. The two competition days are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of workload and often the easiest part of the process. Planning and preparation for the event starts months before the actual competition but it’s vital that this happens to ensure that the event runs smoothly and effectively. As with anything you do, the experience of running big events is a great advantage over the years as you get a feel for what works and what needs to be done and gives you the opportunity to look at ways of enhancing the experience for everyone involved.
MGN: What would you describe as your biggest/proudest achievement of your chairmanship years?
SH: Domestically I am really proud of the way that I changed and improved the way that events were organised and run – bringing a greater level of entertainment and excitement into the tour but always remaining focused on the experience that we offer to all the players who take part, not just the elite at the top of the tree. Looking at the bigger picture of minigolf the WAGM stands out as the main achievement of mine. With the growth of adventure golf courses across the world and the interest they generate, the WMF were keen to look at developing a genuine World Championships for the growing format, distinct from the existing three system events (Felt, Eternit, Beton) that are held each season as part of the European and World event calendar. Having discussed the idea with Gerhard (Zimmerman) and Pasi (Aho) and with both having seen the British Open first hand in 2010, I agreed to take on the challenge of creating the first World Adventure Golf Masters (coined by yours truly!) mirroring the successful format I had developed for our Open. The first WAGM took place at Hastings Pirate course in 2011 and the rest is history. I’m proud of the part I played in the creation and development of the WAGM and with the expanding host nations getting involved (Sweden, Kosovo, Croatia and Czech Republic this year) and the growth of Nations taking part, it has established itself as a key event in the WMF Calendar.
MGN: What one piece of advice would you give your 11 year younger self about taking over as chairman?
SH: Don’t do it. This might sound flippant and of course I’ve enjoyed a lot of the last 11 years from a player perspective. It has given me a great deal of satisfaction to see the success of the tour and players clearly enjoying the experience. But it has taken a huge amount of time and sacrifice from an individual point of view – and while this has undoubtedly benefitted the members and players on the tour, and I’ve met a lot of people along the way (some who I am pleased to call friends) it is hard to see what in all honesty that being the Chairman has given me personally.
MGN: What's one piece of advice you'd give a chairman of any new country associations trying to organize/develop?
SH: Focus on the majority not the minority when it comes to decision making and looking at taking the Association forward. Not everyone will like every decision you make, but as long as you remain focused and committed to what is right for the membership overall, then this will stand you in good stead as the Association grows.
MGN: If you had a do-over on any one event/decisions during your chairman years, what would it be and why?
SH: My view on this is that while it’s of course useful to reflect on what’s been and gone, ultimately, it’s how you learn from this that is the most important thing. The reality is that as a Head of any organisation you have to make decisions and need to have strength and courage in your convictions. The democratic process is important, and you need to be prepared to listen, discuss and debate matters and come to a collective agreement. Not every decision will pan out as you want it but that’s all part of the process. We all have a moral compass, and personally I would never compromise this. Ultimately you can’t go back so as long as you are making the decision for the right reasons, then that’s really all that matters.
MGN: How does running an event impact your ability to play in the same event?
SH: It can be tough, particularly over the major two-day events, as I have always been less focused on my own game and more interested in ensuring that the event is running smoothly to the benefit of everyone else taking part. Over a one-day event it’s less of a problem as you don’t have the overnight planning and preparation in particular between the two competition days. There are some practical issues that can affect you when running events as it does for example impact on the ability to get any useful practice on tournament days before things tee off but generally I’ve never been that bothered about pre-event practice anyway!
MGN: You've seen many, many players come through the BMGA - who would you pick to play one foursome with?
SH: That’s a hard one. I always enjoy playing with my club mates from the KMGC. We are all competitive but more importantly play with a great attitude and genuinely have fun when on the course. I’ve also had the pleasure of competing against players from across the world in various events so it’s hard to narrow it down to just three other players. If I had to chose then I’d probably go for Tim Davies (he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea on the tour but I always got on well with Tim and he was always committed to encouraging new players on the tour), Björn Dinau (the guys from Kungälvs BGK such as Björn, Mattias, Torgny, Johan and Eiric were always a great addition to any event and Bjorn, along with Eiric also took the brave decision to coach the GBR team in Sweden a few years ago so it’s the least I could do to add him to the foursome) and my club mate Adam Kelly (we’ve had a few battles on the greens but to be the best, you have to beat the best). I’ve had the pleasure of playing rounds with all three over the years (won some, lost some) and this would make a fine, entertaining and combative group.
MGN: Was it an easy decision to step down as chairman and what lead you to the decision?
SH: In many ways, particularly from a personal point of view, given the time, effort and sacrifices that come with the role, it was an easy decision for me to make. It was a tougher decision when looking at how this may impact the Association overall. I’ve always looked at ways to improve what we do, in particular how we can encourage new and existing players to get involved, and to ensure that we have an entertaining, welcoming and exciting environment for everyone who takes part in any of our events. I strongly believe that this is vital to grow the game in the UK and we must allow and encourage people to enjoy the game, at whatever level they play at, and be able to express themselves and show the passion that is prevalent in all sports. Over the past few seasons there has been a growing trend of some players looking to take this away as part of the game domestically and I feel that this will make the game somewhat sterile and passionless. This is not something that I feel is right for the game to progress and while there are a number of reasons why I have decided to step away at this point, this is definitely one of the factors that solidified my decision.
MGN: What do you think the biggest challenge is facing the new chairman?
SH: It’s a new start for the BMGA which of course brings new challenges but also new opportunities no doubt. The bottom line is the Executive Committee are still around and have plenty of experience to take the Association forward. They don’t need me to tell them what the challenges are and I am sure they will manage perfectly well without me around.
MGN: What will you do now?
SH: Enjoy my free time away from minigolf! That said, I do enjoy playing the game so will probably take part in one or two overseas events this season. After all it’s a great way to see new places and catch up with some old friends. I have agreed to support a couple of other initiatives in a consulting capacity so won’t be entirely removed from the business end of the game and of course I’ll continue to enjoy and be involved in our KMGC club events.
MGN: If you were to get the chance to be the tournament director of one event worldwide, which one would you choose and why?
SH: My expertise sits with MOS events having run the majors in the UK, as well as the WAGM when it’s been on UK soil and after 11 years I think I’ve paid my dues. That said, I’ve always fancied having a crack at the US main events and it would be interesting to get involved in these competitions. Or perhaps give a newer Association some support, such as the New Zealand federation. A chance to see a new continent and be part of the development of one of the upcoming nations would be a great way of bowing out of the world of minigolf.
Editors Note: Sean – We’d love to have you over at the U.S. Open or the Master’s (to play – don’t worry about running it)! Thank you for the interview.