Professional minigolf – looks easy? Try it!
As you pootle around your local adventure golf course surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs, sinking a hole in one is usually a happy accident rather than an all-consuming goal. Crazy golf is fun, right? A social pastime for family days out, dating and business teambuilding days. We seldom spare a thought for those whose entire lives have been consumed by the plasticky rattle of the ball falling into the cup after a single stroke of the putter. Yet these fevered souls are out there in growing numbers, and the best of them are making money at it. Meet the professional minigolfer.
Pro players will take a couple of days before a tournament to scope out the course, take detailed notes on each hole and plan their shots. The planning is as meticulous as for other pro sports, including ‘big golf’. Prize money is an mini as the game itself, but the glory has no price. When professional minigolfer Matt McCaslin won the 2014 USPMGA Open he walked away with $4,000, and the prize purse for the 2018 Masters is $20,000, so it’s not exactly to be sneezed at. But you’ve got to be really, really good to get in the money.
How do you get that good? You turn pro and practice, practice, practice. Pros spend 8 to 12 hours a day getting the feel right, watching how the ball breaks, deciding on shot strategy, preparing for tournaments.
So pro minigolf is predictably dominated by middle-aged men, right? Well, a lot of the USPMGA‘s top-ranked players come from the world of Putt-Putt and are male and, yes, quite a few are middle-aged. But one good thing about the sport is that it’s open to all ages and genders. In 2013 Olivia Propokova, a Czech 18-year-old, won the triple crown: the Master’s, the U.S. Open and the World Championships. But then she is a bit special, a real fighter and lionized by her fellow pros. She’s also a heroine back in her home country and has landed sponsorship deals and has her own line of clothing.
“I don’t think any us at this level think of it as a hobby – we take it really seriously as a professional sport,” says Brad Lebo, a 55-year-old Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, dentist who’s earned about $145,000 putting professionally since 1991. “We like to think we’re the best at what we’re doing in the world. Unfortunately, we’re just in kind of a niche.” [pga.com]
Here’s a video featuring Matt Male, a minigolf professional who won the 2015 Masters, talking about preparation and the pro minigolfing life. The uncharitable comments on the YouTube video show how far minigolf has to go to be taken seriously as a professional sport by the general public. It probably never will. But there is no doubting the seriousness and commitment if the players themselves. They’re hooked, far beyond help, and they probably feel pity for the ignorant YouTube commenters who have never felt the thrill of a really cracking minigolf score. Haters gonna hate, putters gonna putt.
Got an event coming up? Brighten it up and make it fun by staging your own minigolf tournament! Hire a course from Putterfingers. Details here