Sports Stories
Contestants gathered from all over the world to participate in the sixth annual ILX First Piggy Mini Golf Open tournament this past week.
 By Brian Bergner Jr.
Larson Newspapers

Contestants gathered from all over the world to participate in the sixth annual ILX First Piggy Mini Golf Open tournament this past week.

The event was sanctioned by the U.S. ProMiniGolf Associ-ation.

The first round was hosted by the Roundhouse Resort in Pinetop on July 11.

The second round was hosted by Los Abrigados Resort & Spa in Sedona on Saturday, July 14.

Fourteen of the 28 that competed walked away in the money for their efforts on the golf course.

The First Piggy Mini Golf Open had a total purse of $20,000: $15,000 of it in cash and $5,000 in vacation certificates.

The tournament also benefited the Northern Arizona University restaurant management scholarship fund.

The first ILX Open Mini-Golf Tournament was held back in 2002 and has only been played at Los Abrigados.

This year, tournament director Ivan Madar expanded the tournament to two different sites, in Sedona and at the Roundhouse Resort in Pinetop.

“It is the first year we had two sites, and it is also the first year that First Piggy has sponsored us,” Madar said.

At each site, eight rounds were played, four in the morning and four in the afternoon.

Each round consists of 18 holes on the minigolf course, with a par of 36 for each.

Surprisingly, two records were set, one in Pinetop and one in Sedona.

Rainey Statum, from Texas, set the Pinetop stroke record for one round at 28.

Jesper Andersson, from Sweden, set a new stroke record for one round in Sedona at 25.

“These guys usually come one week before the tournament even starts to practice on these courses,” Madar said.

“They usually spend up to three hours on one hole, learning every little curve and turn,” he added.

Add that up: that’s 108 hours practiced for the two-site, 36-hole event.

No wonder they show up a week before the tournament begins.

Practice pays off, however, as both men finished first and second overall, respectively.

Statum and Andersson also took $7,100 in prize money and two vacations between the two of them.

Statum shot a 261 in Pinetop and a 233 in Sedona for a total score of 494.

Andersson shot a 268 in Pinetop and a much-improved 241 in Sedona for a 509 total score.

Other notables were Ricard Lockner, who finished in fourth place, taking home $1,100.

Lockner, from Sweden, is this year’s minigolf Irish champion.

Hans Olofsson, also from Sweden, is the two-time defending world champion.

He finished 12th overall with a 279 in Pinetop and a 253 in Sedona, earning him $350.

Olofsson makes his living coaching some of the top golfers in the world, such as Annika Sorenstam.

He gives them tips and helps them with their putting and short game.

Not bad for a minigolfer.

Twelve-year-old prodigy Olivia Prokopova, from the Czech Republic, finished 10th overall with a 271 in Pinetop and a 262 in Sedona

She took home four trophies including best female golfer and best minor along with her $400.

“I got a letter from the mayor in her hometown in the Czech Republic thanking us for allowing her to play,” Madar said.

Prokopova has not lost to anyone under the age of 18 in her lifetime.

Sean Taylor, with the highest finish by an Arizona resident, finished eighth overall by shooting a 268 in Pinetop and a 258 in Sedona, taking home $600.

Other Arizona participants included Jamey Lewis, Ryan Stemsrud, Eric Wojtcuk, John Davis, Mike Hermen, Jeff West, Doug Wade and James Bruno.

Minigolf was a hot sport back in the 1930s before other sports took precedence and national radio and television coverage began.

The sport remains a big-time event in Europe, however, mostly because of spatial issues.

Madar says minigolf is beginning to make a comeback and has already formed two organizations:

n The USPMGA, which is located in Myrtle Beach, N.C.

n The other is the Putt Putt Tour, located on the West Coast of the United States.

Statum, the 2007 winner of the First Piggy Open, is affiliated with the Putt Putt Tour, as well as third-place contestant Randy Reeves, who is from Alabama.

“I would like to thank First Piggy and all of the local businesses that sponsored this year’s event,” Madar said.