So here we are again, the end of October. Winter is on the way. The Olympics are a distant memory... and over 50 hardy souls are preparing to brace themselves against the Hastings seafront climate to try and win the final 'major' of the minigolfing calendar. Yes, it's time for the WORLD CRAZY GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP.
And wherever there's a big BMGA event, you can rest assured that the PP will cast their thoughts into the ether, looking at the likely winners and losers from the competition.
For the completists amongst you, the full list of these crazee folk can be found at http://www.bmga.co.uk/2012WCGC/result.htm but as is the tradition with my predictions, below are the main protagonists as I see it for the weekend...
The Former winners;
Michael Smith and Keith Kellard. The man from Oxford has proven to be (virtually) unbeatable this season and with 2 majors under his belt along with this title from 2011 he will again be the man to beat (but despite all of this I reckon this will be one event to far for the KMGC's form man).
Kellard has not been playing on the tour for a while and this would normally be a sure fire way of crashing out of the event. But the man has pedigree so will be challenging for the top 10. Can't see him troubling the cash prizes though.
Olivia Prokopova (CZE), Pasi Aho (FIN), Christian Fuchs (GER) and Jon Drexler (USA). Prokopova comes to the event on the back of winning the US Masters but as the quality of the field has improved over the years, it appears that the little Czech master has struggled to compete at the highest level in Hastings. The new cups could well be her undoing (she win not be alone with this) so can't see her troubling the top slot and will do well to take home the top ladies trophy.
The flying Finn, Aho, could be the man to watch this year. Top technique and well schooled in the Hastings conditions, if he can deal with the changes to the course should be in the money this weekend.
Fuchs is the new face in the event so is an unknown factor. The history of German unknowns is strong at the Hastings seafront (albeit on the Pirate course) but can't see a Hastings novice challenging for honours at the Crazies.
Which leaves the D-Man from the US of A. Could do well as Drexler is an experienced player in the States and has at least seen the course before (if not played it). A few days practise and a slot in the top 18 seems assured.
The "previously nearly won it but never quite managed it":
Andy Exall, Peter Emmerson and James Rutherford. The 'close but no cigar' brigade.
Exall usually puts in a decent showing at the event and as a veteran of the Sidcup course is one of the players that won't be phased by the new cups. Will be in the mix at the sharp end come Sunday afternoon.
As for Emmerson, should have won in 2010 and given his finish last year it looks like his best days at the event are behind him. Not played much at all this year and with the changes to the course would expect him to be drifting out of contention by day 2.
Rutherford has yet to perform well on the big stage this year in the UK, despite being head and shoulders above all other Great Britain players in Europe. Disappointing and surprising showing at the British Open but expect him to be in the money by the end of the weekend.That lot from Kent:
Sean Homer, The Kelly's, Scott Lancley, Marc Chapman, The Donnelly's and
The BMGA's president, Homer, has failed to challenge in the majors this year and has finished nowhere for the past couple of years at the event. Not renowned for intensive practise and unlikely to feature at the sharp end on Sunday.
Kelly junior has shown strong form in all of the big events this season, and will be one of the players to beat this weekend. Can't see a repeat of last year where the two K's tied in the top 5 as Kelly the older may struggle to keep up with his progeny and could be one of the big names to fall away and miss the cut.
Lancley hit his career high last year with a 6th place finish, just 2 shots off the leaders. Will do well to repeat this at the weekend but should be a safe top 18 finisher whatever happens.
Last year saw Chapman approach the event on the back of his British Open title and in typically bullish fashion was confident of a double major on his minigolf CV. However it all went wrong when he hit a 42 in round 5 (the equal worst competition round across the top 45 finishers) and his title push went off the rails. Will we see a repeat of this again in 2012 or will he challenge for the title. Can't see him cocking it up 2 years in a row so have to throw his name into the ring for the title this time around.
The Donnelly's looked excellent at the British Championships but then struggled to replicate this at the British Open. One ball, and the magic cups, could be too much for Kent's newest recruits and with the quality and experience in the field will sadly miss the cut after 6 rounds.
Pragnell has been a permanent fixture at the course for the past month so is clearly well practised for this years event. Expect a better performance than in his debut at the competition but cannot see him troubling the top 18. A top half finish would be a good result - but of course it will be interesting to see what Sandra Meg predicts for Perfect Parr this time around.
The best of the rest:
Chris Smith, Richard Gottfried, Trevor Exall, John McIver, Brad Shepherd, Ruth Burke, Alan Norman and The Shaws. A varied band of minigolfers to be sure.
Smith senior made the top 18 last year but even with the UK number one as his coach, I think he will finish just outside the cut this time around.
Unfortunately it appears that the wrong Gottfried is lining up for the event this year. Emily, fresh off a second place in the recent Planet Hastings Open, is not playing and the pressure is well and truly on Mr Gottfried to justify his place in the competition. Missed the cut last year, and will likely repeat this again in 2012.
With only 3 Exalls taking part this year it's going to seem quite peculiar and unfortunately for the grand family of UK minigolf and Trevor in particular, it is likely only one will make the top 18.
McIver, Planet Hastings greatest hope, will be looking to break the dominance of his chums from Kent and put Planet Hastings back on the map this year. You have to think that the local boy with his local knowledge is well placed to put in a strong performance. Has good form in the events he's played in this year so one to watch for the weekend.
The Monkish lead 'singer' has a mixed track record at the event but Shepherd is always a reasonably safe bet for the top 18 (unless he gets the yips over the new cups). A Saturday evening 'gig' could either inspire him to glory or destroy his hopes of pushing into the money positions. Perhaps his most likely way of grabbing any cash is to pick up the aces prize after crashing out of the top 18 places...
Burke, the strongest woman player on the tour and a local to boot so has good pedigree in the event and should comfortably make the top 18, and could be the top lady come competition end.
One of the regular London 'four', Norman has moments of brilliance that could see him move up the leader board only to be followed by rounds of desperation that will see him slide back down again. Just missed out on the top 18 last year by 1 shot - could well be the same story again this year.
The Shaws have taken residence at the course this week and along with Pragnell are probably the most practised players for the event. Both could make it into the final 18 if everything goes well but I fear that it is just as likely (perhaps more so) that both will, like Norman, just miss the cut by the narrowest of margins.
So my picks for the top 18 (in no particular order) are as follows:
- Michael Smith
- Keith Kellard
- Olivia Prokopova
- Pasi Aho
- Jon Drexler
- Andy Exall
- Peter Emmerson
- James Rutherford
- Sean Homer
- Adam Kelly
- Tony Kelly
- Brad Shepherd
- Scott Lancley
- Marc Chapman
- John McIver
- Kevin Moseley
- Ruth Burke
- Craig Patterson
Burke will take the Ladies title.
Kelly will finish top junior.
But what about the main event?
The safe bet would be to go for either Smith, Exall or Rutherford (last years 1, 2, 3). Ultimately It will depend on who can keep their focus and avoid getting put off by the ongoing chatter about balls, cups and felt.
I have a feeling that we will see a new name on the trophy come Sunday evening and it won't come from the 3 above. Might be one of the Kent lot - the ever popular Chapman or Kelly the Younger would be a decent bet - or possibly we will see one of the Internationals finally take the title away from the UK.
Either way, there will be twists and turns, the occasional choke, the predictable moans about the conditions and of course, someone travelling home £1000 better off.
"When you participate in sporting events, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how drunk you get."
Until next time,