Winter wait over as Worthing witnesses win for Skeggs

Skeggs and Splash Point co-owner Anthony Pope

AMID fading light on the south coast, Richard Skeggs seized back the Minches in a dramatic finale to the season opener.

Oliver Florence was forced to relinquish his winter-long grip on the famous trophy after his rival battled back from five shots behind with six holes left to win the deciding round at Splash Point in Worthing.

A two from Skeggs on the final hole – under the watchful eye of Worthing minigolf magnate Anthony Pope – heaped the pressure on The Machine to match him and secure a play-off.

But with the weather closing in and a chicken tikka masala beckoning, he missed his tricky second shot and the Minches returned to Skeggs after an absence of nearly eight months.

Skeggs said: “I’m delighted to achieve a memorable comeback to win back the Minches.

“Even at five shots down I thought I could still win.

“It puts a smile on my face seeing the Minches on the mantelpiece every day.”

Earlier in Littlehampton – the traditional opening venue for the Minches – Florence won the first round at the Norfolk Gardens adventure golf with Skeggs damaging his putter.

Gentle Touch made it 1-1 at the now derelict Western Crazy Golf, before Florence took the lead once again at Harbour Park.

The newly engraved Minches

Moving on to Worthing, Skeggs levelled the April Minches with a 13 shot win before his extraordinary comeback sealed a 3-2 victory overall.

Florence said: “I gave in to pressure from Skeggs to play for the first Minches of the season a month early.

“He was very keen to take them back and he really deserved his triumph.

“He never gave up.

“Anyway, it makes sense for him to have them every so often so he can go along to the man in Horley and get them engraved.”

Double success for Florence but wait for kit continues

Richard Gottfried, Oliver Florence and, for some reason, John McIver

THE non-appearance of the team kit took the shine off Oliver Florence’s second minigolf career cash win.

The Stoke-on-Trent born player teamed up with Luton coeliac Richard Gottfried to win £60 for seventh place out of 14 teams in the Green Doubles at Hither Green.

The pair – playing as Go With The Flo – looked however like a “generic, rag-tag combo” after the specially-ordered shirts from Sheffield failed to materialise in time.

Now 22 days since the order was placed, and with still no sign of the garments, a full investigation has been launched.

“I designed the shirts online and sent an undisclosed amount of money to a man in Sheffield,” Florence said. “It said they would arrive within five days, but now more than four working weeks later, there is still no sign.

“I will be contacting the man as soon as possible.”

Gottfried added: “When Ollie said that he would be getting the kit prepared for our debut as an awesome double team I was very excited.

“Normally I’m the one who buys kits and gimmick t-shirts for events, but this time I was looking forward to the surprise.

The shirts could drop through 
the letterbox at any time

 “You can then imagine my disappointment when the kits did not arrive from the man in Sheffield in time, and the fact we appeared looking like a generic, rag-tag combo at the tournament.

“On the other hand it has made waiting for the post very exciting in the Florence household.”

On the course, Go With The Flo started with a win against Gareth Holmes and Terry Exall, before draws against Nick Chitty and Ted McIver and the pairing of Seth Thomas and Chris Smith.

Thomas and Smith then beat Florence and Gottfried in the quarter finals and after a further defeat to William and David Donnelly, the two bounced back to beat Marion Homer and Alan Norman in the seventh and eighth place play-off.

Cash flows to Florence with first money win of minigolf career

Michael Smith recommended using big balls

OLIVER Florence picked up the first piece of prize money of his minigolf career – with a little help from British number one Michael Smith.

The Walton-on-Thames based minigolfer won £20 when he was beaten in to second place among the category 2 players in a play-off with Richard Skeggs at the Rumble in the Jungle in Bristol.

He earlier matched his Minches rival almost stroke for stroke as the pair recorded scores of 34, 34 and 34 to finish on -6 for the competition.

Florence – whose joint 9th finish was the best of his career – played the first two rounds with Smith and also picked up some tips from the eventual champion during practice on Friday.

“It was a great experience playing with Michael,” Florence said. “He really puts you at ease on the course and is also willing to pass on his knowledge.

“He suggested that using bigger balls on the holes with the pipes would lead to a great chance of picking up some aces so I got out the largest ball I had and it seemed to work.

“I managed to hit 13 hole-in-ones on the day and aced a couple with a golf ball.

The Lucky Last Hole at Bognor Regis

“Although it was disappointing not to finish off Skeggs at the end, overall I was delighted with my performance.”

The play-off – which also featured Christopher Smith, who was the third ranked second tier player – was experted filmed by Adam Kelly.

For Skeggs, the narrow sudden death win was revenge for defeat in the last Minches Trophy.

He said: “It was a pleasure to compete in a play-off with Ollie and his improvement in recent months shows that he is more than capable of causing a few upsets this season.”

He is now champing at the bit for the start of the 2011 Minches season and said he was confident of winning back the famous silverware when the contest resumes in April.

The mini meerkat

It has been a busy start to the season both on and around the course for Florence, who started the new year with a slightly disappointing 26th place at the Star City Open in Birmingham.

Last weekend he took a trip to Bognor Regis where he remained undefeated against Luke “Little Beard” Turnbull and Laura Florence on the seafront course and won a free round on the lucky 19th hole.

He also won a mini meerkat on the buttons – although, at just over two inches in length, it is completely useless as a minigolf measuring implement.

This weekend sees Florence team up with Luton’s Richard Gottfried for The Green Doubles at Hither Green.

Minches come back after comeback from Florence

THE Minches are in the hands of the Machine for at least the next three months after Oliver Florence achieved a second incredible comeback in a week to win the final contest before the winter break.

With holder Richard Skeggs needing just a drawn final round to retain the title, he raced in to a three shot lead after nine holes.

But, in a similar way to the week before, a combination of brilliance from Florence and sloppiness from Skeggs, blew the advantage out of the water.

Florence sniffed a chance after a three from Skeggs at the 13th and went on to record two aces in the cave – including a brave hole in one on the much maligned volcano.

Skeggs matched his rival’s ace on the hole with the ramp but dropped a shot at the 17th.

A one shot lead should still have been enough teeing off on the final hole, but – in one of the most unbelievable scenes in Minches history – Skeggs inexplicably laid up short and could manage only a three.

It was left to the Machine to finish in style with a unnecessary ace to card a round of 35 (-1) and claim a two shot victory to draw the series 2-2.

With the course now overrun with minigolf fans, the epic tussle continued in a playoff with the pair both scoring twos on the first three holes.

To avoid the crowds the competition headed to the cave, where Skeggs made the first mistake of sudden death as he missed his second putt.

Skeggs recreates his fatal error on the final hole

The Machine was now unstoppable and he gently touched a perfectly weighted shot with a FunSports 2 up the ramp and in to the hole – sparking scenes of quiet celebration at winning his second Minches.

Skeggs arrived late for the delayed September Minches fixture on New Year’s Eve as he was cooking a par baked baguette for his lunch.

He was so confident that he suggested he would still win even if he was given a seven for every hole he missed because of his tardiness.

“To lose my grip on the trophy in the last Minches of the season is incredibly galling,” he said.

Florence said: “I’m absolutely delighted to win back the trophy.

“I think I am definitely improving all the time and I’m hopeful of big things when the new BMGA tour kicks off in Birmingham in a couple of weeks.”

The Minches will next be contested in April.

Machine terminates Jones as Skeggs loses his touch

Florence receives the trophy from Skeggs

A QUITE extraordinary finish to the inaugural Hampton School Minigolf Christmas Challenge culminated in Oliver Florence seizing the trophy in a sudden death play-off.

The British number 44 finally saw off Richard Skeggs after a dramatic and remarkable end to the scheduled 36 holes at New Malden.

Skeggs literally fell apart at the halfway stage, seeing his four shot lead turn in to a four shot deficit over just seven holes.

Florence then did his best to squander the advantage by taking a five on the infamous volcano, allowing Skeggs to draw level with an ace three holes from the end.

The Machine was not finished though and aced the 2nd for the first time in living memory to go in to the final hole with a one shot lead.

Under incredible pressure, Skeggs then produced a hole in one on the 18th to spark scenes of wild celebrations and leave the pair tied on three over par.

With a golf ball as seen on Russell Howard’s Good News at stake, the duo headed to a play-off at the 13th.

Gentle Touch could not match Florence’s calm two-putt and The Machine was victorious.

Jones takes a seven on the 6th

Paul “The Terminator” Jones came in third, 19 shots off the lead, in a tournament where competitors were required to use a course ball and putter.

Florence said: “It was one of the most extraordinary minigolf matches that I have ever had the honour of being involved in.

“I thought after 18 holes it was all over but Richard uncharacteristically let me back in.

“You just could not make up what was to come towards the end.

“Quite extraordinary is an overused term but this was just that – quite extraordinary.”

Skeggs added: “Some of my putting was horrific and there were far too many threes.”

Jones, who is believed to be contemplating making his debut on the BMGA tour next year, said: “I took some fours and a couple of sevens.

“This proved to be a real killer.”

The disappointment of the losers was tempered somewhat later in the day when they both ordered the special chicken tikka masala (SCTM) from the Indian restaurant in Esher.

Skeggs said: “At first glance it looked like Ollie had secured a double victory by going for the regulation chicken tikka masala.

The special (left) and normal chicken tikka masala

“After tasting both though, it turned out the SCTM was well worth the extra 30p.”

A date for the completion of the final Minches of the season has now been set with Skeggs and Florence set to battle it out at New Malden on Friday afternoon.

Skeggs leads Florence 2-1 with one round to play.

Spectators welcome.

Caption competition – minigolf bloggers in odd photo

Minigolf bloggers ‘Squire’ Richard Gottfried and Oliver ‘The Machine’ Florence were snapped in an odd pose by fellow player Alan ‘Stormin’ Norman at the season-ending Green Open at Hither Green.

Please submit your captions for the photo here.

The exact prize is to be confirmed.

Snow scuppers Skeggs as season draws to a close

A desperately disappointed Skeggs in the darkness at New Malden

HEAVY snowfalls and failing floodlights threw end of season minigolf plans in to disarray this week.

Oliver Florence battled through the blizzards on Saturday to play in the final BMGA event of the season at Hither Green, but Great Britain teammate Richard Skeggs was left stranded near Gatwick Airport after a series of cancelled trains.

The withdrawal of “Gentle Touch” from the Green Open was the second blow of the week after the Hampton School Christmas Minigolf Challenge had to be called off following a power cut at the course in New Malden on Monday.

Skeggs cut a desolate figure in contrast to the scenes of wild jubilation when he came second at the Asian Open six weeks ago.

Disappointment was tempered by a visit to an Indian restaurant in Esher after the first setback, but his enforced absence from the competition at the Green left him frustrated and angry at train company Southern Railway.

“It’s very frustrating to have my minigolf week flushed down the toilet,” he said. “The power cut was unfortunate but scenes at Horley station got heated as three consecutive London trains got cancelled.

“I knew then the gods weren’t shining on me and my tournament was doomed.”

In the New Malden contest, Skeggs and Florence were due to compete against former school friend Paul Jones – who has been branded “The Terminator” by minigolfer Richard Gottfried after a meeting in November.

They were also hopeful of sneaking in a Minches – with the last battle of the season still to be settled months after it was started.

When Florence finally made it on to the felt at the Green Open, he picked up 17th place to finish his debut season as Great Britain number 44.

Gerhard Zimmermann's bell

Skeggs ends 2010 31st in the country.

Florence said: “I’ve really enjoyed my first 12 months on the minigolf circuit and met so many great people.

“I hope to use everything I’ve learnt to start pushing up the leaderboard at tournaments next year.

“The highlight of this season has got to be going to China for the Asian Open, but I also enjoyed holding up a scoreboard at the British Open in Hastings and helping to fish a ball out of a pond.”

Florence is now looking forward to a Christmas break and today helped to decorate the family tree by hanging up a bell given to him as a present in Kunming by World Minigolf Sport Federation chief Gerhard Zimmermann.

Good news as one million get ready to meet minigolfers

Florence and Skeggs with host Russell Howard at the after show party

THE Great Britain team from the Asian Open is set to make its UK television debut in front of a million viewers.

Oliver Florence and Richard Skeggs have been busy recording for Russell Howard’s Good News, which will be screened on BBC Three tomorrow at 10.30pm.

The pair were whisked in separate cars to the studios in Hammersmith, where they settled in to their dressing room before donning special outfits to take part in rehearsals.

They then returned to their room to feast on steak and chips – at the recommendation of researcher Ian Henderson, who did a fine job in looking after the duo throughout the evening.

After a visit from well-wishers – including Florence’s mum and dad – and an agonising wait, the team headed to make-up and finally out on to the stage as the show’s ‘mystery guests’ to meet Russell and face a crowd of more than 300 people.

Florence and Skeggs took part in several television interviews while in China, but tomorrow evening’s appearance will be the first time the two have featured on an English-language programme.

The comedy show regularly attracts seven-figure audiences and last week pulled in 1.28million fans.

Florence said: “I don’t want to give too much away about what happened as that would spoil the surprise.

“It was great fun filming though and we’d like to thank Ian and everyone involved for looking after us.

“Hopefully the production team can make us look good.”

More media moments as Florence ready to return to action

The pair at the radio studios in Guildford

THEIR first full day back in the UK was a busy one for Oliver Florence and Richard Skeggs as they made a live radio appearance, negotiated a slot on television and found time to play some minigolf.

Yesterday started with a trip to the BBC Surrey studios in Guildford to chat to presenter Nick Wallis about their time at the Asian Open in China.

Skeggs showed off his trophy, while Florence filled in listeners with tales of his culinary experiences.

The duo are scheduled to make another media appearance later in the week after they were contacted by a television production company.

Florence said: “We can’t say too much at the moment as it has to remain a bit of secret.

“It will probably involve us doing some putting in front of a studio audience though before talking to a top comedian.”

Florence at a damp World of Golf in Sidcup

In the afternoon the pair travelled to World of Golf in Sidcup to help Florence prepare for tomorrow’s Kent Open.

They were met with blustery and wet conditions however – a far cry from the warmer climes of China.

“It was certainly a little different to last week and took a bit of getting used to,” Florence said. “It was great though to be back on a British minigolf course and hitting a ball again.”

British pair enjoy sights, seagulls and soup

Gui Na at the wheel

TRANSLATOR Gui Na Luo gave the Great Britain minigolf team a tour of the local area ahead of their departure from China earlier this week.

Gui Na took the pair to visit Lake Dianchi where they hired a pedal car and rode along the path, dodging hundreds of seagulls.

After an unsteady start behind the wheel, Gui Na soon got the hang of driving and managed to avoid any incidents on a busy promenade.

They then visited Gui Na’s university and along with her classmate from Beijing, who had never eaten with foreigners before, feasted on a stunning spread of Chinese dumplings.

A soup was also produced, which according to the host was flavoured with the carcass of a “small white bird”.

Oliver Florence said: “At first we thought it was swan soup, and then we speculated that the floating bones might well have been those of a dove.

“But thanks to Wilson at the Hello! Minigolf Club we later established that it was in fact the body of a pigeon.”

Richard Skeggs added: “It was certainly a memorable feast.

Florence tucks in to his pigeon soup

“It was very sweet of Gui Na to take us out for lunch and very kind of her to keep bringing more and more dumplings out.

“I hope one day Gui Na will be able to come over to the UK and we can take her out for a chicken tikka masala, plain rice and peshwari naan.”

Florence and Skeggs were then driven to the airport by the club driver where they were met by Gui Na’s colleague Lily.

She handed over several packs of biscuits to keep the duo going on their trip to Hong Kong.

Amid emotional scenes at passport control, the British team presented the translators with Union Jack pin badges and bade each other a fond farewell.

Florence and Skeggs could speak literally no Chinese when they arrived in Kunming and Gui Na and Lily, along with several other translators, provided invaluable assistance during their time in Kunming.

“We now know several important words – those for ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘cold water’ and ‘ice cream’,” Florence said. “So we can certainly now get by.

“Disappointingly though for some reason the Chinese don’t seem to have a word for ‘please’.”

Lily and Skeggs

Around the grounds of the minigolf club there was also an excellent team of staff.

Led by the superb Wilson, they did everything from cooking in the kitchen and serving in the restaurant to tending the course and putting up flags.

There was also an eagle-eyed group of referees, specially trained for the tournament.