The U.S. Open is rolling, for mini golf

golfing

The 2014 United States Open Miniature Golf Tournament began in Oceanport, N.J., on Friday.

Not good enough to become a pro golfer? What about a pro miniature golfer?

The U.S. Open Miniature Golf Tournament started Friday in Oceanport, New Jersey.  That’s right — turns out miniature golf has a circuit. One of the first questions you probably have: Can you make a living playing miniature golf?

The short answer is no.

But that doesn't mean miniature golfers aren't taking the U.S. Open seriously, said Carol Newman, who works for Blue Grass Mini Golf in New Jersey. Blue Grass is hosting the competition, which started Friday. Newman says golfers have been arriving for the past week.

“They’ll come at 7 o’clock in the morning and they’ll practice till 6 o’clock at night,” Newman said.

Many of the competitors carry notebooks, just like professional PGA golfers, who use them to map out the course.

The US ProMiniGolf Association runs the competition, and about 50 golfers are competing this year. The winner can make up to $3,500.

The Proputters Association puts on miniature golf tournaments around the country. Rick Rybaczek calls himself a professional member. I asked him if that means he makes a living doing this.

No, not at all, that actually was a dream back in the '60s and '70s,” Rybaczek said.

He said back then the Putt-Putt chain of miniature golf courses — which is still around today — put on tournaments as a way to market itself. Those competitions would draw hundreds of people who made real money

Some players earned like $3,000 to $4,000 in a single season,” Rybaczek said.

That’s around $30,000 in today’s money. Rybaczek doesn't see those glory days coming back. But, he says, in the decade he’s been playing in tournaments, he’s won a total of about $50,000. Not bad for a hobby.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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