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Viva Team Great Britain

Mon, 02 Oct 2017  |  Jon Angel, UrbanCrazy

The World Adventure Golf Masters was contested for the seventh time in its history last month and this year the venue was Zaton Holiday Resort, Croatia. Proudly supported by UrbanCrazy, Great Britain was represented by two teams in the two-day competition with the squad comprised of a blend of experienced players and international debutants who were up against representatives from many countries including: Germany, USA, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and Ghana.

On their return I caught up with three key GBR players – Sean Homer, Andy Exall and Will Donnelly – to ask them about their experience. Here’s what they had to say…

Sean Homer:
• GBR Team Captain
• 14 international caps
• Kent Minigolf Club Captain
• BMGA Tour debut: 2005 British Championships
Scottish Open Champion, 2011
• Current UK ranking: 3rd

There’s something really special about representing Great Britain and it was a real honour to head up the squad for this year’s WAGM. We had a great bunch on the trip and it was a pleasure to be part of the British Lions again on the international scene.

The course at Zaton Holiday Resort reminded me of the WAGM course from Gothenburg (2015), although not as long. The theming of the course and the use of water hazards and bunkers provided a real test with a great mix of risk and reward holes!

The WAGM has a truly unique feel as an international competition and it is really enhanced by the new countries taking part. The open training sessions meant we were able to interact and support other newer nations and this all goes to create a great atmosphere and camaraderie between the players. Ghana are a fantastic addition to the growing minigolf community and I had the pleasure of playing with Richard, one of the Ghanaens, during the tournament and look forward to seeing them at future events on the WMF Calendar.

It was a great week over in Croatia (apart from the apocalyptic Monday weather) and all of the squad did themselves proud on and off the course. Personally, I was happy to be inside the top 18 overall and challenging alongside the top players over the 2 days. More importantly though, as Captain of the group, I was extremely proud to lead the chaps on this adventure and would like to thank them all for their hard work and commitment on the course and also their excellent and entertaining company off it!

Our strength and depth of International players continues to grow and with more players getting the experience of competing in top class fields it bodes well for the future. With the WAGM taking place in the Czech Republic next year – and having played the course earlier this season when I took part in the Czech Masters – I am sure Great Britain will be genuine title challengers in 2018.

Andy Exall:
• GBR debutant
• Club: Kent Minigolf Club
• On the BMGA tour since Oct 2005
British Masters Champion, 2010
• Current UK ranking: 7th

I’ve been playing on the BMGA tour since October 2005 and was hooked from then on. I had wanted to play for GB earlier but couldn’t find the time to get away, but I hope now that my kids are older I’ll be able to do it again… and one day I’d love to take my son Matty to play too. I liked the idea of playing in Croatia and after seeing photos of the course I knew that that’s where I wanted to make my GB debut.

The opening ceremony was brilliant, all of the teams gathered and then marched through the resort behind their national flag to an open air amphitheatre where the Tournament Director, Pasi Aho, welcomed us all officially. It was so great to see teams from all corners of the earth and I must say we were delighted to see the Ghanaians there, such a colourful happy team!

The weather made things very chaotic and credit is due to everyone involved from the WMF Zaton Resort itself and local firefighters for getting the course playable at all on the first day. I was due to tee off at 10.20am, I went down to the course at 9am and was literally stuck there for an hour by rising water from the heaviest rain I can remember. Extremely heavy rain overnight and most of the day made the course completely unplayable and I was very surprised to be able to tee off at all that day, although it was completely dark by the time I did play, around 8.50pm. We later found out that they were the worst storms in the region for thirty years. It was so bad even the Croatian President visited the area to see the damage.

I played all of my rounds with a guy from Team USA and another from the Czech team, both very good players and great company. It was really nice for me to see teammate Paul Preston get to grips with the course better than most of us. We’d all practiced together and most played similar shots on holes but Paul just seemed to have no problems with the tougher holes and had a great steady tournament. A highlight for myself was finding out Team USA were very close to the Germans and Swedes going into the final round, the Americans were a great bunch and raised their game well for the competition. Both GB teams did ok, but we all felt maybe we could have done better.

I’ll happily represent Team GB again if selected. I’m hoping to play in next year’s WAGM where lessons learnt by myself and all of us can be put into practice to hopefully give GB better results. I’m pretty sure there would be improvements from Team GB and it would be nice to push the more established nations a bit more next time.

Overall, a great experience and thanks to Sean and the BMGA for all of the organisation and also to UrbanCrazy for the team sponsorship.

Will Donnelly:
• Youngest player in GBR squad
• International caps: 9
• Club: Midlands Minigolf Club
• Twice Kent Open Champion
Current UK ranking: 2nd

Zaton is a beautiful resort and a perfect venue for the WAGM. I had never seen a course like this one, it consisted of hills for borders rather than the traditional walls. This was therefore a noticeable difference between this and our normal courses at home as most of the shots were entirely down to speed.

Practice went fantastically (bar one morning for rain) and we were all ready to go, but the first day of the competition kept getting delayed and delayed due to the challenging weather. Most were in the frame of mind that day 1 of the competition would not be going ahead until we were all given a shock text message from Sean telling us to hurry to the course as the event was starting in 20 minutes (6:30pm).

Everyone went in to the tournament completely cold as none of us had played since practice the night before (around 24 hours). These two things were not helpful, along with the fading light which became darkness very quickly. On a few lanes I changed ball so that I could (just about) see it! All players played at least one round. I was unlucky to be player 1 in our team as it meant that I played one and a half rounds in the dark prior to the 10pm cut off. Most played just one round. I didn’t really get going in the dark, but had an excellent start to the second day.

Seeing Ghana was something I won’t forget as it signifies the growth of our sport to a new global perspective. I made particularly good friends with one New Zealand player, Cameron Couper, at the World Championships. I then became the adopted coach of both the New Zealand and Australian teams for the trip with us all joining together as “Team Commonwealth”!

My highlight from the trip was getting 6 aces in a row in my round of 28. No other player managed to get 6 in a row in the WAGM which is quite satisfying. It was great to make so many new friends as well as meeting up with friends from previous years.

We would like to express our thanks to Sean, Andy and Will for those very interesting thoughts and to the entire Great Britain squad for wearing the team colours with so much pride and passion. Best of luck to all of you for the rest of the 2017 season!

• The 2017 squad consisted of: Dave Donnelly, Andy Exall, Matt Dodd, Terry Exall, Sean Homer, Martin Greenhead, Will Donnelly, Mark Wood and Paul Preston
• UrbanCrazy have sponsored the Great Britain Minigolf Team since 2007
• The all-time single round record by a Brit is 20 on an 18-hole course (Adam Kelly, 2012). That’s an incredible 16 “hole-in-ones”

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