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The Junior Putters of America program at the Washtenaw Avenue Putt-Putt claims to teach sportsmanship, discipline, and teamwork, but in reality, it teaches its participants to be cold-blooded warriors with nerves of steel, bent on destroying everything in their way. In the cut-throat world of miniature golf, that’s a good thing.
Since 1996 when a sextet of fresh-faced kids first raised the JPA National Championship trophy above their heads, Ypsilanti has been producing world-class champions at a break-neck pace. From 1996 to 1999, the young men and women of the Ypsilanti National Team traded championships with the Lynchburg, VA team. The rivalry became so intense that ESPN produced a special made-for-television match play tournament.
Names like Walkley, Farlie, Stimpson, and Chrysan are often mentioned in the same breath as Woods, Nickalaus, and Palmer down at the Putt-Putt. There is only one faded picture hanging on the wall to commemorate their heroics, but those of us who spend every waking moment practicing with hopes of one day making the Pro Putters professional tour know these kids and what they have done for the world of miniature golf.
I thought about trying to track these kids down and doing one of those “Where are they now” kinds of interview. You know, kick back, have a couple of beers and see what fame and fortune have brought these legends of the plastic grass, but I realized these kids are probably only eighteen or nineteen years old. Offering alcoholic beverages to children (regardless of their athletic prowess) is often frowned upon.
In the mean time, I can only hope to hone my chops and prepare for the Summer of Putt-Putt III.
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