11 Feb 2022 | Industry news |
'Putter King' Allan Cox on mini golf's big transformation
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
In the time since the Australian Mini Golf Open was last played in 2019, mini golf has become a very big deal.
Holey Moley was a ratings’ smash for Channel Seven, city entertainment venues are incorporating it into their offering and new courses have popped up across the country, providing traditional golf clubs with a revenue stream that has transformed some frivolous family fun into a major money maker.
To kick off The Murray River Festival of Golf that culminates with the TPS Murray River tournament in honour of Jarrod Lyle next week, the 2022 Australian Mini Golf Open will take place this weekend at Cobram-Barooga Golf Club’s nine-hole course, one of many designed by Mini Golf Creations as mini golf’s popularity has exploded.
There is $10,000 in prize money on the line across three divisions, the winner the player with the fewest strokes over the six rounds to be played across the two days of competition.
Those expected to feature in the final groups on Sunday have spent the past few days in Barooga mapping their paths to the all-important aces that are commonplace in this form of the game and which prove the difference in the final standings.
‘Putter King’ Allan Cox doesn’t expect to see the perfect round played this weekend – 18 hole-in-ones has only been achieved by four players in the history of mini golf worldwide – but recognises that this year’s championship is a big opportunity in more ways than one.
“Everyone that you talk to now wants to play mini golf,” says Cox, the world-record holder for most hole-in-ones in a 24-hour period (1,516).
“Holey Moley made its way into everyone’s lounge room and the winner of Holey Moley picks up $100,000 so the reward is there.
“There’s a pro mini golf tour in New Zealand, there’s two pro mini golf tours in America, there’s the World Minigolf Federation that has world championships all around the world and there’s the World Crazy Golf Championships in the UK.
“Competition mini golf is available to everyone pretty much all around the world now and it’s booming.”
An industrial chemist by day, Cox has spent more than 30 years playing professional mini golf tournaments all around the world.
He is accustomed to the querying glances when his side hustle becomes a topic of conversation yet it only takes the mention of prize money to pique the interest of those who scoff.
“When they realise there’s a $10,000 prize pool for mini golf, that opens a few eyes,” says Cox, who has raised thousands of dollars for charity through his YouTube channel PuttPuttdownunder, which boasts more than 6 million views to date.
“This is not just hitting brightly coloured balls with the family stuff, it’s $4,500 for the winner.
“How often do you get to play a couple of rounds of mini golf and someone hands you a cheque for $4,500?”
A field of 50 is expected when play commences on Saturday morning and the notion of a bit of fun becomes serious competition.
Nathan ‘Lumpy’ Lamplough is a second-generation mini golf champion and five-time former winner, Josh ‘Putting Wonder from Down Under’ Mars is a prolific winner from Queensland and the likes of Mick Collins, Scott Clancy and Craig Cameron are all genuine contenders (pictured above with Allan Cox).
The competition mini golf community is a small yet tight-knit one but Cox is hoping that events such as this weekend at Sporties Barooga will pave the way for an expanded Australian mini golf tour in future.
“I am a hand-up, self-confessed mini golf tragic,” says Cox.
“I just love trying to spread the word and hopefully with all of these wonderful new courses that are being built we can get more competition mini golf happening.
“There’s a big $10,000 Blitz Golf tournament happening at Shanx Regency Park in Adelaide at Easter there that we’re very interested in getting down and playing and hopefully we’ll see more of those popping up.
“We’ve been chugging along with sort of small numbers for 30-odd years so it would be nice to get a few more involved and find out the fun and challenges of competition mini golf.”
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