MiniatureGolfer asked Astra Miglane-Stanwyck (Top US player, ex-Latvia player) and Heinz Weber (Austrian team silver medallist and super-finalist) some questions on the recent Minigolf World Championships.....

Did you enjoy the event?

For the most part I did enjoy the Championship just the way I love any minigolf competition. There were some moments I was extremely disappointed in but this is something I would not like to go public on. I am not exactly happy with my performance but due to the circumstances I considered this as another good learning lesson.

Yes I did, especially reaching my goal: Getting into the superfinal round.

The pressure must have been intense, how did you cope?

I would not say that the pressure was too great. As the more you compete the better you learn to deal with pressure. Of course, going into the first round you are usually more shaky than the rest of the competition. Ways to deal with stress are some breathing exercises, trying to close eyes and let yourself for few seconds relax, saying prayers...

You get used to pressure with time and you cope by focusing on the basics.

Did you feel that you fulfilled your potential?

As I already mentioned I did not fulfil my potential but failure forced me to look for help from the German team for advice on how to improve in future. Mr. Egon Schacke was very helpful even though he had difficulty to understand or speak English. He found a translator and took his time to show me the proper technique, explain common mistakes and cleared-up for me for lots of unanswered questions I was trying to find answers at the beginning of this year. This little lesson in the parking lot during the superfinals gave me a new look at minigolf and new hope. That afternoon when the competition was just over I was back on the course to everyone's surprise to try out my newly acquired knowledge. Here I met Said (coach from Sweden) who was surprised to see me back on the course but after telling my story-he kicked in with help too. That's why I value so much going to World Championships because you will always meet nice people who are interested to help you if you are willing to learn.  I really wish that World Minigolf Federation would organize some training camps for new Nations with the best team coaches to learn the proper basics from the very beginning, and that there would be more available literature about Minigolf Science (and it is not exaggerated - it is a science). Just like learning numbers to succeed in math, teaching proper putting basics and giving some more knowledge about balls, putters, etc., is essential.

Yes I did, because I reached my goal. I was too many strokes behind the leaders for a medal in the superfinal round.

It was evident from the scoring that the US (and most of the other nations!) had little experience on the Swedish felt run course, are there any courses of this type in the US? Are there any plans to build one?

The USA does not have felt courses and you can count on the fingers of one hand eternite courses, no betong courses either. That is a big problem if you want to win medals but great improvement is possible with teaching proper technique even if you do not have courses. My husband and I are hoping to put one eternite course by our church for church families but only God knows whether that will ever happen or not. Bob Detwiler who is President of USPMGA. is working on this. From my husbands experience (www.costofwisconsin.com) (one of his businesses is American style minigolf courses) Americans are very reluctant against styles other then adventure courses.

There are actually 3 Swedish felt run courses in Austria (maybe 4, but it isnīt used for tournaments at this time I think). But the problem is that they all do not test ones skill as much as is needed to beat Swedish players in  future on this system.

You now have experience of playing on both American-style (adventure golf) and European courses. How do you think they compare in terms of the skill-factor? Which do you prefer?

Both-American and European style courses require lots of skill. Playing styles differ greatly on those courses and also skills differ but both require good straight shots and great sensitivity. European courses have added difficulty due to the use of different types of balls and obstacles and are usually more complicated then those on American courses requiring more perfect and in some cases a very strong straight shot. I still would not underestimate the game on adventure courses which requires excellent ability in reading surfaces and finding proper playing lines which can change depending on surface temperature or humidity, also sensitivity to strength of shot. When I first tried to play American courses I was a bit surprised that my smooth shot did no good, the ball did not go in the hole. I really do not have preferences for one or the other because I love this game and any new course is a new challenge and a new puzzle to put together. Being able to play different styles makes you more confident and makes life more interesting. I wish we would play adventure courses with different types of balls as used in World Championships (not just PGA balls)- it would make the game even more interesting.

I prefer the ones giving prize money ;o).  European courses need a lot more knowledge of ball material and technical skill like playing with spin or slice. Itīs also mathematically computable as a result of geometric forms.

Do you agree that there should be separate categories for women and men at the World Championships?

I do agree on Categories for men and women. There are plenty of physiological differences between both thus their game differs too. Besides that I'm afraid if there would not be separate categories women just would be pushed away without even trying to teach them anything and they would not be able to succeed. Sorry to say that but I think there is still a great deal of discrimination in sports against women and women usually receive less attention or have to work much harder to prove that they are worth attention. Let's put it this way, if the women and men are on the same level, the men will be the chosen ones.

There are ?!

Is there any prospect of players from less traditional/smaller/newer minigolf nations ever winning medals at the World Championships? What are the barriers to success for, say, players from the US, GB or Latvia?

I've already mentioned my opinions in the beginning - need for proper basic training. Having the proper basics will help one to grow and I think it is possible for new nations to win if you get your own coaches, lots of competition at home and internationally, have a developed Minigolf Sportsclub net, intensively involving youth and teaching them. Lots of times I wonder why everybody wants to get in sports where often times you might get disabled for life while you can do something as nice and not so dangerous as minigolf. There are lots of kids who are too short, too slow, too big for something else. Why don't they build their self esteem with minigolf, give them something they will love, something that will teach them patience and communication skills and lots of other good qualities?

I canīt remember any team medal except Germany, Austria, Sweden, and (formerly) Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Italy.  In singles competition there have always been some surprising players from smaller countries reaching the top ten places, but no medal. Barriers to success are homologous courses for practice and tournaments and fully-fledged trainers.

Do you have any tips for players from GB headed to the European Championships next summer?

1. Ignore those "great" players who openly or behind your back make fun about your lack of professionalism (hoping that you do not understand a word in their language). Remember-they were not born with a golf club in their hands and at some point in their life they were at your level. And if you look carefully even celebrities make big mistakes.

2. Have fun. You are here to learn. Ask a lot of questions. There are a lot of coaches who will be happy to teach you the proper ways, it is up to you to want to learn.

3. Observe the best players. Ask them for help too. They will be proud to share their knowledge.

4. Increase your ball collection after consulting coaches. Learn how to properly buy new balls (roundness testing, checking on eccentricity).

5. Set realistic goals. Do not get overly depressed if your performance wasn't as you expected-remember that at this point in time you were not smart enough to do better but you are here to learn. Ask yourself what did you do wrong, how can you improve. If you do not have a clue-you will be able to find someone who will be happy to help you.

6. Help each other, support each other, any political games inside your team will destroy you as a team and each individually. You are here to lift yourself as a team. Improvement in your team members game will help you improve your game in the long run by creating healthy competition.

7. Another thing I learned in Vaasa from the German coach is- the proper way of playing is with straight hands, moving hands like grandpas clock pendulum.

8. Ask for emotional, spiritual support from your churches, communities and families and you support your communities too.

Buy at least 5-10 different balls and get to know them very well. See what they do when cold or warm.  So if 6 players buy 8 different balls your team can select between 48.  On practice days learn by looking at the leading nations  On the days of the tournament concentrate only on yourselves.

Have standards in world minigolf improved since you last played in a major championship?

The organisation is getting better. But there has to be an A-/B-WM in future because 150 players plus are too many for a competition. Itīs also not very satisfying for newer countries having no medal chances. But at the moment members of the WMF do not agree on this point.

What was the most important single thing you learned from the championship?

The most important single thing I learned in this tournament is - ask for help, learn as much as you can but rely only on yourself.

Itīs just a game.

Which was the player that impressed you most and why?

There were many excellent players and it would be hard to pick one of them out of the crowd. If I have to choose one-I like Karin Wiklund, her style. But really I was impressed with Mr. Egon Schacke from the German team-his warm, down-to-earth, helping nature helps Minigolf more than the success of all the Medal winners combined. Also I would like to mention all the people involved in organizing this - I felt in each and every step how much they care that every one should feel good and welcome. Thank you very much to every one of you !!! These are people who make everyone want to come back again and again.

There has never been a player I called an idol.

 

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