Here’s the Putting Predictors view on the main contenders - In descending BMGA ranking order…
Michael Smith – clear favourite for the event. Methodical, metronomic and relentless in his quest for victory. If ever Skynet made minigolfing Terminators, HIOK’s your man. Always the one to beat. Beat Smith and you have probably won the event. Only ever seen make one mistake… but has picked up his first Major since then and looks like the man to beat again this weekend.
James Rutherford – won the event last year at his home course, the Green. A classy putter but sometimes too hard on himself when things don’t go his way and this may be his Achilles heel come 4pm on Sunday. Not won anywhere else yet but is always knocking on the door and is a big threat to HIOK’s challenge. Could make it two BC’s in a row given his current form at Hastings.
Sean Homer – always there or thereabouts in the main events although not yet grabbed a major. Tends to get away slowly due to the demands of running events but always a strong challenger coming down the home straight. Had a woeful day 1 at the World Adventure Golf Masters (WAGM) but a very strong day 2 including the lowest GB score of the day. If he starts strongly will be challenging on Sunday.
Adam Kelly – Confident, brash, cocky he may be, but he’s also a very talented player and a definite challenger for the overall title as well as being odds on to retain his Junior title this year. Often quick out the blocks and always in the mix but still awaiting his next tour victory following his dramatic arrival on the scene with the London Open win a few years back. If he can keep his focus for all 7 rounds then definitely one to watch this year.
Marc Chapman – A major winner in 2011 but yet to show any strong form this season. A class act when prepared and focussed but may rue his decision to not play in the WAGM this year, having possibly lost some advantage to the other players who did. Often claims to have had little practice but reports in the run up to the main events often contradict this. Perhaps not the most popular player on the tour but if he brings his A game and plays as he can could walk away with major number 2.
Tony Kelly – Still looking for his maiden BMGA outright tour win, but has a strong record on the Pirate Course and will be definitely one of the main players in the mix for the Senior title on Sunday afternoon. Tends to over focus on statistics and what everyone else is doing and could be an outside bet for a top 5 finish overall but has the game to go all the way.
Brad Shepherd – A dark horse for the weekend. Showed glimpses in the WAGM of what he can do with some outstanding rounds but can be mentally fragile and has been known to effectively give up on a round after a couple of holes. If he’s in the right mindset, could be a surprise challenger
John McIver – After his impressive display at the WAGM and his strength of local knowledge, would expect McIver to be challenging for the senior and overall titles this weekend. Not won on the tour for sometime and perhaps feeling the pace up against the new breed of younger players but still a top class player when on his game. Fell away during the second day at the WAGM but expect him to mount a strong push for the title this year.
Freddie Blackburn-Shaw – Another of the new breed of top quality junior players. Freddie has some excellent pedigree in the majors and in particular at the Pirate Course in Hastings. Will struggle to compete against the might of the top 2 juniors but will be odds on for a medal of some kind in the junior category.
Chris Smith – Continues to improve, definitely benefitting from the guiding hand of Smith Jr. and could well be in the mix with the Senior title come Sunday afternoon. Unlikely to challenge the overall title but given his coach, never say never.
Scott Lancley – New grip and approach for 2012 has seen some major improvements in Lancleys game. Very intense player when things going well but this could be his undoing. If he can bring his relaxed personality to the fore for the weekend then he could be a surprise package for this years championship. Needs to have strong day 1 to take momentum into Sunday.
Alan Norman – Hard to see any challenge coming from the man they call Stormin’. Has moments of brilliance followed by moments of desperation. Strong favourite to have the biggest difference between highest and lowest rounds. If he could bring his brilliance to play for the weekend then could challenge for the senior title…but it’s a big if!
Ruth Burke – A quality player back in the day and starting to see some of this shine through in recent events. Playing more that she has done for the past few seasons, Ruth could well be in the top ten pushing into the final rounds. Very competitive and could be one to watch if she’s in the mix after 5 rounds.
Chris Jones – Former Masters winner, unlikely to be a future Major winner. But will probably beat Alan.
Seth Thomas – A good bet for the junior title as long as he keeps his focus for all 7 rounds. Can be erratic at times and puts himself out of contention in his own mind before his game actually catches up and puts him out of contention completely. Won the Kent Open and has shown some real flair in all the events he’s played in. If he feels on his game could be one to watch.
Richard Gottfried – Out of the top 16, and unlikely to feature at the sharp end this weekend. Guaranteed to have the most annoying Ace-call in the field although it appears that we don’t get to hear them as much as we used to. Would be second best Gottfried if Emily was playing.
Nick Sandqvist – the Practice Man. If tournaments were won by quality in practice then Nick would be a multi-event winner and a challenger for this weekends event. Likely to be heard after day one bemoaning the early / late start, problems with other players, the lack of ‘consistency’ in the bounce as he struggles to keep up with the main pack. Has the game to challenge but not the mental focus. If he sorts that out, could be a serious threat.
Dave Donnelly – ever improving and could be the real dark horse in what is a very competitive senior class this year. Lots of aces but too many dropped shots often puts him out of contention. But always getting stronger so could be interesting to watch his challenge this year.
Dave Gomm – Mentally up and down. Will bang in a lot of aces but will also be prone to lots of dropped shots, dropped clubs and outburst of industrial language. Often threatens to quit after each competition but is usually one of the first back to practice next time.
Will Donnelly – Like his dad, Will is continuing to improve and certainly doesn’t lack confidence or enthusiasm in his game. A prolific ace scorer but again, like his dad, is prone to drop too many shots. Will be in the mix for the lower medals in the junior class but could be a bit too early and inexperienced to challenge the major two juniors in the field.
Alex Pragnell – The enigma. As likely to shoot a 32 as a 42. Probably the most practiced player in the field with reports of him being at the course every day for the past 2 weeks but his obsession with balls and more balls really doesn’t help his cause. Interestingly he has changed to a more conventional stance and could well minimise the level of dropped shots. Unlikely to win but will not be last and could definitely worry a few of the more experienced players if all the stars align and he plays to his proper potential.
Look forward to watching the scores at the weekend and seeing the amazing accuracy of these predictions come to pass…