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East County Friday, Jun. 24, 2022 1 month ago

MVP Sports and Social starts mini golf league in Lakewood Ranch

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The new mini golf league at The Fish Hole in Lakewood Ranch offers unique challenges.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Chris McComas, a co-founder of MVP Sports and Social, laid on the ground and pointed the grip of his putter toward the golf ball during a round at The Fish Hole in Lakewood Ranch.

McComas was just having fun, making like he was shooting pool instead of playing miniature golf.  

He lined up his pool cue — putter — and took his shot.

His teammates watched as the ball went up and down slops, steered clear of a turtle hazard, banked off some bricks, and just missed the hole.

McComas dropped his head to the ground in disappointment.  

“You forgot to use chalk,” East County’s Daryl Haworth said. 

Using a putter like a pool stick was one of nine challenges McComas created for MVP Sports and Social’s new mini golf league at The Fish Hole at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch. 

McComas said the mini golf league, which started June 16, was a new opportunity for people to socialize and meet others all while playing a sport in a non-competitive atmosphere. 

The challenges to the game were a fun twist and they included playing a hole with a hockey stick instead of a putter, using the putter like a pool stick, and rolling a die to determine how many strokes a player would need to use an actual driver instead of a putter. 

The challenges led to laughs, cheers and sometimes frustration.

Fifty-two players huddled together before the round to hear the different challenges.

Indigo’s Sandy Roth and Kelly dePalo cheered when their teammate Ellenton’s Danielle Dustman scored a hole-in-one on a hole that carried the lowest score challenge. 

“We don’t even have to putt,” dePalo said as they recorded the ace.

Playing mini golf brought back memories for many of the players. 

DePalo remembered 24 years ago teaching her son Kyle dePalo how to play mini golf when he was 5 years old.

That didn't go so well. Standing by his side as he prepared to putt, her son raised his putter high and smacked her in the face, breaking her nose.

“It’s putt putt, but they think they have to go full force,” Kelly dePalo said of children. “I didn’t want to make him feel bad, so I told him, ‘I’ll be right back.’ I went to the bathroom and looked at it and it was like ‘Oh my goodness, this hurts.’”

Indigo’s Sandy Roth had a similar incident on a mini golf course when her daughter Kristina Mefford, who was 6 years old at the time, hit Roth in the mouth, leading to a dead tooth. 

“I stand very far away now,” Roth said about when someone is ready to tee off. 

Playing mini golf once again reminded Lakewood Ranch's Julie Junk when she and her now husband, Mike Junk, would go to play mini golf on dates when they were teenagers 20 years ago. 

Parrish's Cassie and Josh Brandt and Lakewood Ranch's Julie Junk watch as Mike Junk gets a hole-in-one on his first putt in the league. (Photo by Liz Ramos)

“We were excited to try (mini golf) again and relive our childhood,” Julie Junk said. “It was a fun family experience, or before you were of age, it was a good dating experience because your parents would trust your boyfriend or girlfriend to play a round of mini golf.”

Some players couldn’t remember the last time they played mini golf. They joined the league more for the social atmosphere rather than the sport itself.

Lakewood Ranch’s Stacey OBrien hasn’t played mini golf in at least eight years, but since she moved to the area in September, she saw the league as an opportunity to meet new people. 

Every week, participants are paired with different members of the league so they always are meeting new people. 

Participants like Indigo’s Bobbie Doyle saw the league not only as a chance to get together with friends but also as an opportunity to work on her putting. 

“I’ve been playing golf for 12 years, but you would never know it by the way I play,” Doyle said with a laugh.

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