KENT OPEN MINI GOLF TOURNAMENT 2006
Margate November 5, 2006
And so, after a hectic year of minigolf that has seen a multitude of competitions across the UK along with the emergence of Brighton, Belfast, Tunbridge Wells and Kent Club Teams, the final BMGA event of the year was here - the inaugral Kent Open at the wonderful seafront Strokes Adventure Golf course in Margate, a truly fitting climax to a great BMGA year.
As the curtain rose on the big day, Brian, Frankie and Matt Wood, the justifiably proud owners of Strokes were busy setting up the course in readiness of the arrival of a strong field of players (Brian feverishly hoovering the greens under the watchfull eyes of Frankie & Matt ). The BMGA officials for the day were making themselves at home in the excellent clubhouse provided, testing the PA system (and clubhouse heater!) as the competitors started to arrive.
The field was strewn with competition victors from this season, featuring the winners of the Midland Open, the English Open, the British Championships, the London Invitational Tournament as well as the winner of the previous days Kent Invitational Tournament, along with the course record holder. Clearly the day was going to be a battle to the end!
John Moore, the birthday boy (and where better to celebrate than at a delightful winters morning on the South Coast) was one of the first to arrive on the day, and was shortly followed by strong Brighton and Kent contingents, the Bullins, and the returning Jon Angel & Lionel Bender, ready to take on the course again following the previous days KIT. Notes were made, lines prepared, balls checked, brand new ball bags accidently dropped in water hazards, clubs sharpened, side bets made (notably a chocolate related bet between the 2 female competitors present!) and strategies hatched as the minutes ticked down to the draw and the start of the final competition of the year (the excitement and anticipation of the draw proving to be too much for one competitor, resulting in the banning of the current Midlands Open champion from the BMGA officials hut as the scoresheets were being prepared!).
The PA system was fired up and after the customary welcome and rules briefing, the groups were announced, the airhorn sounded (although not through the stack of Marshal Amps that were turned up to 11, for fear of shattering the seafront properties windows) and the competition was under way.
As the round progressed, it was clear that the course was taking no prisoners - groans and grimaces could be seen and heard from all groups (along with a very nifty dance move from Lel whenever the ball failed to drop in the hole!) as the holes ticked by and shots were dropped . Aces were proving hard to come by (just 12 shot in the first round in total with 2 a piece coming from Russ, Steve V and Sean) and scores were starting to creep up as the dropped shots mounted up. And something else was becoming very clear...and that is the fact that Strokes contains one of the toughest and most unforgiving holes on any course in the UK!!! Up there alongside the 5th at the Mini course on the seafront at Hastings and the infamous 10th at Clambers, the 11th hole at Strokes is the new kid on the block! It's fair to say it tested the mettle of everyone at the Open, some fairing better than others but this was a round make or break hole for so many this weekend (there are undoubtedly players who are still mentally scarred by the horrors that await on that particular hill !!!). This hole also paid witness to the one putter throwing incident of the weekend, from none other than Lionel!!! Admittedly, it was actually before he played the hole and was the result of him losing his balance, but it just goes to show that even in a competition played in such fantastic spirit this ugly blight on the game of mingolf is still present!!!! (Fortunately the referee saw sense and Lionel was saved from the much debated 7 shot penalty as highlighted on the forum!!!)
So master the 11th and you've got a chance at glory...although that said, it was equally clear that the 7th, 8th, 12th, 14th and the Beechers Brook 17th were also playing havoc as the tournament progressed. So with the round drawing to a close, shellshocked competitors were seen trudging off to the clubhouse to hand in their scores and rebuild their mental toughness before the second round kicked off. However all was not lost as it became apparent that everything was still to play for as scores were generally high and that the field was still incredibly close (after the top 3 scores, just 6 shots separated the next 14 players).
At the end of round 1, Tim Witherden, playing in his first full BMGA event, had shot a superb 42, going into the clubhouse as the leading novice and tied in 3rd place with Jon Angel and John Moore. Steve Vallory was a further 2 shots ahead having shot a terrific 40, and trailed the leader at the half way stage, Sean Homer who led the field with a 39.
With a superb menu selection laid on by the course, unfortunatley everyone was too busy eating to provide half time entertainment by serenading the gathered throngs on the PA system although there was some local colour in evidence as the Margate junior motorcycle display team put on a fine show along the seafront (where else can you get to see 4 youths on one scooter charging up and down the beach?! Top stuff!!)
With an ever growing bank of spectators (albeit slightly partisan towards the local Margate players!!) the second round began and the scores started to improve. There were still scores of 5, 6 and 7 carded (the 11th once again proving to break the resolve of several unfortunate players, as it did 18 times across the 2 rounds!) but there were also definite improvements as the ace count started to rise (to 19 in the 2nd round). This was no more evident that in Simon Goble's round - an excellent 41 that included 3 aces (the only player to manage that feat across a single round during the competition) and knocking 20 shots off his first round score (unfortunately starting the 2nd round 22 shots off the lead meant he only moved up to 21st place albeit the most improved player of the tournament!). Taking the lead from Simon, the other Brighton players performed well in the 2nd round with Botto and Lel both shooting 42 and finishing in 10th and 6th place respectively).
Dave Forrest won the battle of the Kent team mates by edging Andy '46' Booth (Andy finally managing to score something other than 46 after 3 identical rounds - unfortunately it was a 50 that broke the sequence) and finishing second highest placed Team Kent player (which helped make up for the play off defeat to Andy the day before!). Jake Booth (the future of Team Kent with new club in hand) knocked 20 shots off his previous days score to grab a Mug & Rock combo prize courtesy of the Conqueror. Tim won the Novice title with another good 2nd round, finishing in joint 10th place
Ruth came out on top in the Battle of the Bullins with an impressive 41 in the last round, taking joint 4th place with John Moore although it wasn't enough to grab some prize money as Jon Angel knocked in another strong round, to finish 2 shots clear of Ruth and take his second 3rd place at Strokes in 24 hours!
Which just left it between Steve and Sean to fight it out for the Kent Open Cup. With Sean having dropped a shot early in the round, the leaders were tied going into the 11th. Steve, playing first, got up in one, then 2 putted for a 3 (still a great score for the now legendary hole of death). Sean failed to make it up the hill with his first tee shot, but gathered himself again, got up the second time and putted out for an equally impressive 3! With Steve aceing the 12th, it took an ace from Sean at the 14th to level the match again, only to take a 3 at the 15th!! The next few holes saw steady 2's from both players resulting in Sean needing an ace at the 18th to take the match into a play off. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and the season closed with no play offs (surely a first for 2006) and Steve taking the honours and the cup, carding a superb 79, winning the competition by one stroke.
What a competition, what a year! With the presentations done it seemed that people just couldn't get enough of the course - Team Brighton were spotted playing a round of crazy crazy golf, others began mapping the holes in readiness for next year and as the sun set on the 2006 season (both literal and metaphorically) and the crowds faded away, Sean was seen playing a final round with the Bullins, showing them the lines (or so they thought!!) that led to the (still held) official course record of 38...
Thanks to everyone who came and for playing the whole event in such a great spirit and helping creating a terrific atmosphere throughout the day. And of course, a huge thanks to Brian, Frankie, Matt and all the team at Strokes for their superb hospitality and efforts all year in supporting the BMGA and Team Kent.
Roll on 2007!!!
Words: Sean Homer by kind permission of Kent Minigolf Club
* Novice champion