A Conversation With The Captain of Great Britain

Well hello there, and thank you kindly for stopping by! If you’re one of the competitors, have you got your suitcase down from the attic yet? Have you decided what balls are travelling with you to Croatia? It’s not long now, time to make sure you have everything you need!

This week I managed to grab some time with Sean Homer, the Chairman of the British Minigolf Association, most internationally capped GB player, and captain of the nine man squad travelling to Croatia to represent Great Britain at the WAGM.

Thank you for talking to me Sean. I understand that you were involved in the creation of the WAGM – please tell me more about this.

The British Open on the BMGA tour has always attracted a strong field of International players over the years, delivering top class action and superb Minigolf on MOS courses. 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 and most recently Croatia) and the growth of Nations taking part, it has established itself as a key event in the WMF Calendar.

You are the Captain of the squad competing in Croatia – please talk to me about the selection of the squad, and a bit about including players making their international debut.

The WAGM has always been an event that our players are keen to play in due to the familiarity we have with the system (MOS) and this year sees our biggest squad taking part outside of the events previously held in the UK. The scheduling of the competition in September initially caused a few issues for us in terms of availability but the nine man squad we have taking part are a strong group and I am expecting a lot from the guys when we get to Croatia.

We have three players making their debuts for Great Britain this year – Andy Exall, Terry Exall and Matt Dodd. All three have been regulars on our domestic tour over a number of years and with the wealth of international experience we already have in the squad I am confident that the British Lions will make a big impact at the WAGM this year. 

Once again the Great Britain team are being sponsored by UrbanCrazy and I’d like to thank Jon Angel and all the team at UC for their continued support. (www.urbancrazy.com)

What prep are you doing in the lead up to the event?

We’ve had a busy few months on the tour with our three major competitions taking place across the past couple of months. All of the players have been involved in highly competitive tournaments so we are all in good form going into the event. There’s a fair bit of preparation in advance, looking at training schedules and the nuts and bolts of getting the squad to the venue, but the WAGM course will be a new and unique challenge for our players so the real preparation for the event takes place once we arrive in Zaton and get to grips with the tournament course.

 

What got you into minigolf?

I came across the BMGA (British Minigolf Association) website by chance when working in project management back in 2005 (via an online Minigolf game that my colleagues and I used to play in the office). At the time the tour was quite limited but the event that caught my eye was the World Crazy Golf Championship – after all who can’t resist the lure of playing in a World Championship! I certainly didn’t expect what was just a chance to have a laugh with mates to turn into a 12 year obsession! I’ve been Chairman of our National Association for over a decade and spearheaded the development of British Minigolf but at heart I am still just a player who loves the sport.

You have consistently played to a high standard in GB for many years – what are your top three tips for success?

Firstly – Keep it simple. I like to minimise the number of balls I use when playing on MOS courses and believe there is a lot more sense in spending more time looking at lines and getting use to the pace of the greens rather than which ball to use. A bad shot is not the balls’ fault but it amazes me how often players seem to think that changing the ball they use will solve everything. I’ve won a couple of events on our tour by using just one ball (the legendary 3D produced KMGC Decade) so it seems to work for me.

Secondly – Practice effectively. Some players adhere to the adage “Practice Makes Perfect” but it’s not how much and how often you practice that matters. It’s how effective that practice is. Playing the same lane time and time again does nothing to replicate the conditions you face when playing in a tournament. I tend to think that the phrase “Practice makes permanent” is more relevant. After all if you practice the wrong line for example all you will be doing is perfecting how to play a lane badly! Don’t over practice and always ensure you relax and rest whenever you are training – no point being drained and exhausted for the competition when you have spent too long on the practice greens.

And finally – Believe in yourself. Mental toughness is vital when it comes to the sharp end of any competition. If you don’t think you can play a shot well, inevitably you will play it badly. It is all part of gaining experience. Focus on your own game and not those around you (with the notable exception of when you are playing matchplay when you are playing your opponent and not the course).

What do you consider your highest achievement as a player?

It’s an honour to captain the Great Britain team and I am always proud to lead out the team when we play Internationally. In terms of my highest achievement as a player that’s a hard one to call. Winning the British Matchplay Championship for the third time is up there and I will always remember my first win on the tour (the Kent Open in 2007). But my fondest memory is leading my club (the Kent Minigolf Club) to a record breaking fifth British Club Championship in what was a proud day for all of us at the KMGC.

I still think that I’ve got a Major win in the locker having been runner up a number of times so all being well my highest achievement is still to come!

 

Who are your ‘players to watch’ at the WAGM?

When you look through the list of players there are a few names that jump out given their records in major events – notably Martin Stöckle and Derice Shumilov Susoho who have both won the WAGM title as well as Daniel Vlcek and Torgny Kjellström who I would also expect to challenge for the main title. But I honestly think that with four tour winners in our squad, the 2017 WAGM will see Great Britain players fighting for honours over the two days.

What advice would you give to a player thinking about making the move from domestic to international play?

If you get the opportunity, give it a go. For our players in the UK, the WAGM is a great stepping stone to get International experience. Playing abroad is a unique opportunity and if you get the chance to represent your country against the best players from across the world you will remember it for ever.

Please share a ‘fun’ or ‘interesting’ fact with me about yourself

I have the unique honour of being the first player on the BMGA tour to have taken part in 100 strokeplay events (achieving the landmark at the World Crazy Golf Championship in 2016). Away from mingolf I am a keen motorcyclist and have a small collection classic (and not so classic) bikes. I live near Brands Hatch in Kent and hope to take at least one of my bikes for a spin around the famous track in the future.

Thank you Sean, it was great to catch up with you. 

If you don’t know what Sean looks like, here’s a photo, and remember to say ‘hello’ when you see him next week!

Sean

Photo by Marion Homer

So I think this will be my last blog before I get to Croatia. I’m really looking forward to seeing you all, and along with Simon and Alberto bringing you all the action and news as it occurs.

Wishing you all safe travels, and see you soon!

Marion

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The Current WAGM Champion speaks with us…

Well hello there again! I’m really getting into the stages of list making and stuff gathering ready for the trip. Making lists is one of my favourite things to do, so I’m in a very happy place right now!

I’m even happier because this week I had the great pleasure of speaking with Derice Shumilov Susoho, from Sweden, winner of the 2016 WAGM. Let’s find out what he had to say…

What got you playing minigolf initially?

I started playing minigolf by coincidence. I was on my way to my athletic practice and a man named Hans came up to me and asked if I wanted to try some minigolf. I gave it a try and aced my first shot and from that moment I have been playing minigolf!

It’s a fun memory that I often think about. That first stroke that gave me so much joy and memories the years to come.

How have you been training for the tournament?

I have been practising in my hometown and played some competitions. Nothing unusual, just to have quality time at the course and make the best of the time.

What are your personal goals for the tournament?

My goal for the tournament is to have a team medal, that would be fun. It would be even more fun if it was a gold one. For myself I want to play with focus and do my best. To not let things affect me and keep my mind on the game.

What have been you biggest achievements in minigolf?

I guess my biggest achievements are from last year’s WAGM. That was the first time I won a world championship in team and in individual stroke play. It really was a great feeling and still is.

Have you ever been given a coaching tip that really improved your game? If so what was it?

I guess everything that my coach Hans told me when I started playing. He taught me the basics and that has been what made me the player I am today.

What are you looking forward to the most?

To meet new and old minigolf players to make connections with. To build up my minigolf family and make new friends.

Would you like to share a non minigolfing fun fact about yourself?

I guess one fun fact would be that I dance samba. I have been dancing for quite a while and could not be without it. There is of course much more to me than the dancing but I will save that for my future conversations!

Apart from yourself – Who do you think will be the competitors to watch?

I actually don’t have an idea of other players than the Swedish ones whom will be competing in WAGM 2017. I would like that to be a surprise for the competition.

Tell us a little bit about what you do when you’re not playing Minigolf

I’m a student and studying to become a preschool teacher. I’m really looking forward for my teachers license and to start working.

Here’s Derice…

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Photo credit – Pasi Aho

So another week closer, I still have a couple more interviews in the pipeline, and don’t forget myself, Simon and Alberto will be looking to interview lots of you whilst in Croatia!

Have a good week and see you soon!

 

 

A World Record holder joins us for a chat…

On more than one occasion, and in three different countries I have been fortunate to meet this week’s minigolfer in the spotlight, Pauli Kuikka. This gives you an indication of Pauli’s enjoyment of the game, and how he likes to combine his love of minigolf with his love of travel.

He’s very busy getting ready for the WAGM, but he managed to fit in answering my questions!

We know that Sweden is a big player in the world of minigolf – in your opinion how does Sweden keep creating such top players?

Tradition is the biggest reason and that it has been a working sport for 80 years. The clubs own their own facilities and there are many competitions and an expanded series game also allows you to measure better players and thereby gain experience and training.

I understand that you’ll be at the WAGM but not as a player – can you tell me more please?

That’s right, I’m in position as a leader and will not play.

I am responsible for giving the Swedish players that I selected to the championship the best possible conditions. This means, among other things, trying to ensure that the training is as optimal as possible, take care of planning and logistics and take care of things that occur so that players can focus on performing on the track.

Will you also be at the World Championships?

Unfortunately not, I would have liked to stay as an audience and listener, but I do not have the opportunity. (For the World Cup, Sweden has other leaders).

Who else will be coming from Sweden?

At The WAGM, I will lead 4 players who have been selected by me.

In addition, another 4 players from Sweden will participate and are organising their trip by themselves:

Pauli Kuikka, Askims BGK (Leader)

Derice Shumilov Susoho, Tantogårdens BGK

Alexander Dahlstedt, Tantogårdens BGK

Anders Lönnkvist, Kungälvs BGK

Torgny Kjellström, Kungälvs BGK

Jens Bergström, Askims BGK

Gunnar Bengtsson, Askims BGK

Robert Skyttberg, Askims BGK

Said Morell, Askims BGK

You played The Irish Open in Dublin where you achieved the world MOS record of 23, and you recently played in the Czech Masters – what do you enjoy about these international tournaments?

In recent years I have played competitions in both the United States; Japan; England; Ireland and the Czech Republic. The biggest reason I did this is to combine two things that I like: travelling and playing mini golf. It’s fun to visit other countries and it’s a perfect combination to combine vacation and competitions. For my part, I like to play on all four of the mini golf surfaces, but I play the best on MOS surfaces and there are not so many competitions in Sweden on the MOS. Another very nice dimension is that I thank the participants around the world and get lots of new friends.

(I agree Pauli – making new minigolf friends is a real bonus to competing!)

What was the best minigolf advice you were ever given?

Over the years it has become even clearer that the advice I was told early is the best –  work out a lot, but do not forget it’s going to be fun!

What are you looking forward to in Zaton?

I’m looking forward to several things; To meet old acquaintances and that the WAGM truly becomes a worldwide starting field with players from 5 different continents, and that Sweden hopefully defends the gold.

Who are the players to look out for in September?

It is fun that many youngsters are involved, and I believe in English Will Donnelly. Of course I think last year’s medalists are guaranteed to be dangerous this year, which means that Derice Susoho, Karl Lakos and Veronika Reed will be in contestants in their classes.

Then I think this facility fits US players better than last year’s course so in senior women I see Paula Gay as favorite and will be very surprised unless any of the American oldboys take a medal.

But the player you probably should look out for is the multiple champion from Germany, Martin Stöckle.

And finally, do you have an ‘interesting’ or ‘fun’ fact you’d like to share?

I Have played miniature golf since the 80’s (I switched direction, I played golf for a few years but have gave away the clubs from the other side!) Recently in YEC at Askim I was staff on the concrete path 7 for a little while and saw for the first time a ball split into 2 parts …

Thank you for your time Pauli, and in case some of you don’t know who Pauli is, here’s a photo!

Pauli.jpeg
Photo by Marion Homer

We’ve updated the YouTube channel where we’ll be adding videos, so don’t forget to subscribe to the WorldMinigolfSport channel!!

That’s all for this week, I’ll be competing in the CEMGC Open this Saturday, and The BMGA British Doubles Championship on Sunday, both at Dunton Hills in Essex – wish me luck!!

Can you believe it’s August already?!

Hi there and welcome back!

I’ve been busy this last week arranging interviews with players, and organising more of the media coverage with my Partners In Crime – Simon and Alberto. We’re super excited about the way we’re going to bring both the WAGM and Championships to life for you – so if you’re not yet following on Instagram or Twitter, what are you waiting for?!!

Twitter – @WorldMinigolf

Instagram – WorldMinigolf

I have an interview from one of the female competitors this week – Paul Gay, the sole female player in Team USA! It was great to catch up with Paula and learn about her involvement with minigolf, and her perspective on the upcoming tournament.

First of all, Paula, thank you very much for spending time answering my questions! I have asked this of everyone I’ve interviewed so far, what got you playing minigolf initially?

I have a very unique and personal history with mini golf as my dad, Tracy Moore, built mini golf courses around the country back in the early 1960s and built and owned one in Augusta GA where I was born and raised and live today.

He won a National mini golf tournament in 1965 and passed away a month before he was to defend his title. They had a memorial tournament for him in the mid 1970s and I told my mom that I wanted to start playing.

The rest is history as they say and I have been competing ever since except for the early years that we were raising our two boys. I got involved with Bob Detwiler’s tournaments in 2014 when I competed in the Masters of Mini golf in Myrtle Beach, SC.  I was thrilled to win first place in the women’s division that year as Olivia Prokopova did not play because of a wrist injury.  She is such a great player and a sweet young lady that I have grown to love and one day I would love to be as good as her.

Have you represented USA internationally before?

I have never represented the USA before but am so excited to be chosen to represent not only the USA but the women that love this sport as much as I do.

I have never been out of the United States except on cruises and I am looking forward to traveling to Croatia for this tournament.  First of all it will be a wonderful traveling adventure for me to see other parts of the world, especially Croatia, and then to be able to compete with other countries and other women players will be so exciting.  

How do you feel being the only female in the team?

I am so excited to be the only woman on the team this year and I think only the second woman to be on Team USA.  Astra Stanwyck represented the USA back in the early 2000’s so like I said earlier, I am thrilled to have been chosen over so many other great male putters.

I would love to see more women get involved in mini golf as we can compete as well as men can with practice, patience and perseverance.

How have you been training for the tournament?

I would love to be able to practice and play more but unfortunately life and work get in the way. (Not to mention that we have a 16 month old grandson and a new one on the way in November.  So my husband James and I love to play papa and nana and keep him as often as we can which is at least once a week).  I play in about 6 tournaments a year and am trying to practice for this tournament by playing at my home course in local weekly tournaments.   My husband, James, plays in some of the tournaments as an amateur but doesn’t like to practice and play as much as I do. I am so very thankful to him for letting me travel out of the country with my mini golf buddies (and as some say, Paula’s Posse’) and to fulfill a dream come true.

What are your personal goals for the tournament?

My goals for this tournament are to be able to support my USA team members, who are like brothers to me, by playing the best that I can and being under par as much as possible and then I am hoping to bring home a medal in the senior women’s division.

What have been you biggest achievements in minigolf?

My biggest achievements in mini golf include a women’s national title in 1981.  Masters of Mini golf women’s division: 2014 1st place, 2015 3rd place and 2016 2nd place.  US Open of Mini golf : 2015 1st place, 2016 3rd place and 2017 2nd place.

Have you ever been given a coaching tip that really improved your game? If so what was it?

Some of the great coaching tips that friends and fellow putters have given me over the years include practice, practice, practice.  It can take a lot of repetition of drilling on each hole to learn all the shots and breaks that each hole has.  Sometimes we are out on the course we are learning for 10 to 12 hours a day.  Some people don’t understand that but that is one of the things you have to do to compete on a professional level.  Another tip I learned is to try and practice in the same shoes that you are going to compete in as different shoes can throw your stance off and cause you to stand differently with different shoes.  I also like to stay on one hole and drill repeatedly until I am comfortable with that hole instead of just hitting say 3 or 4 balls on a hole before moving on.  These are some of the things that have helped me over the years and I still do them.

What are you looking forward to the most?

What I am looking forward to the most about this trip is being able to travel internationally for the first time and seeing the beautiful country of Croatia.  I have heard that it is a travelers paradise and one of the most beautiful countries to go to.  Being able to go with my mini golf buddies and practicing on the beautiful course they have at the Zaton Holiday Resort makes for a trip of a lifetime. Thanks so much to Bob Detwiler and USPMGA, Jon Drexler, our coach and mentor, and Matt Bellner and Chromax for all they do to support mini golf and Team USA.

Would you like to share a non minigolfing fun fact about yourself?

A fun fact about me is that when I tell people that I meet that I am a Professional Mini golfer they just look at me funny and smile as most do not know that they have professional Mini golf.  My family, friends and church friends that know me, all love to hear about my adventures and where I am off to next and how well I did in my tournaments.  I am also a Massage Therapist and Esthetician by trade and have been for 13 years.  I love helping people feel better and love my job because unlike a lot of professions, I have great job satisfaction.

Thanks to Paula, and here is a photo of her so you can say ‘hi there’ when you meet her in a few weeks!

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Photo by John Ventura

So that’s it for another week, more interviews to come, including the Captain of GB’s WAGM squad, a top Swede and also a German champion!

Until next time, happy putting!

Marion