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All For A LITTLE Golfing Glory

  • August 17th, 2007
  • Posted by Sarah West

minigolf-2.jpgItaly’s Altomillanese is gearing up for a bout of high-level sport being taken more and more seriously by the day; none other than mini-golf. Sarah West discovers there is “nothing small about it.”

PRECISION NOT PICNICS ANY MORE

If you think miniature golf is nothing more than a fun family activity for a lazy Sunday afternoon, chances are you have never seen anyone play it with the precision of those in the upper echelons of the sport.

It’s not recommended for anyone whose putting prowess is the weaker aspect of their golf game.

It requires skill, concentration and isn’t a game for those that get easily un-nerved.

It’s a rare breed that makes it to the top, and at the end of August the greatest mini-golfers in the world will descend on the Italian region of Altomillanese to compete for the sports most coveted prize: a gold medal in the Mini-golf world championships.

NOTHING SMALL ABOUT IT

There is nothing small about mini-golf in Europe.

The game was created in America, but it’s Europe where mini-golf now has a cult following and its governing body, The World Minigolf Federation (or WMF), believes three hundred million people in Europe are playing the sport.

With participation levels like that, it’s no wonder the World Championships will attract athletes from twenty three nations, some from as far away as Japan and Taiwan.

CHECK THE RULES AND FIXTURES

The rules are reasonably simple – 18 holes as with regular golf, with each pitch having a maximum length of six and a half meters.

World Championship mini-golf offers four medal categories: Teams Men, Teams Women, Individual Men, and Individual Women; and is held every two years.

As with other sports, the country fortunate enough to hold the event has to bid for the honour against other interested countries. Last June, Italy beat out England and Japan for the hosting role; and with at least a thousand people visiting the host city for the duration of the championships, they serve to act as an economic booster for the region as well as a sporting spectacle.

CROWDS FOLLOW THE COURSE

Gina Fish, from the event organiser Eo Ipso says around 300 to 400 spectators are expected throughout the duration of the competition, and that spectators are respectful of the concentration needed to play mini-golf.

“I would say it resembles a (regular) golf competition in that there is silence while the players are taking their shot, then soft clapping and ‘ahhhhh’s’ if the shot was a good one,” she says.

The players who draw the biggest crowds are its masters.

The Tiger Woods of the miniature game wow spectators with expertly placed shots, through insidious obstructions, towards awaiting holes, in the hope of achieving better than par results.

Swede Sandra Nordin is one of the favourites to take out the women’s event. The 23 year old picked up her first putter at 14 and hasn’t looked back. Cool, calm and collected, Nordin won the Nations Cup in May, a practice tournament for the ‘big event’, and has her eyes set on being crowned World Champion.

Fighting it out amongst the men will be the highly regarded German putter, Walter Erlbruch, and Switzerland’s Nations Cup winner Samuel Hofer.

CAMARADERIE AND TENSION

The championships are expected to be hotly contested and Ms Fish says the early rounds in this sort of high level mini-golf competition have a cheery atmosphere, with competitors from different nations ‘high-fiving’ each other for good shots.

“There is a lot of camaraderie,” she says.

“I haven’t seen any fights, but I can’t say that during the finals it is light and fun either; there is tension.”

And with no prize money on offer, it’s passion for the sport that motivates the competitors.

“I guess you can say that the players play for glory!” says Ms Fish.

The mini-golf world championships begin in Altomillanese, Italy, on 22.8.07 and are played over four days.

Reference:

Mini Golf 2007: Nations Cup, World Championships. http://www.minigolf2007.com/eng/

Picture: Google – www.somersetfalls.com

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