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Local course hosts mini-golf U.S. Open

Although it’s his home course, the Champions miniature golf course is a challenge for Danny Baddley.

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The carpeted greens are fast and they break in mysterious ways. The undulating surface and the speed change with the weather.
“This is the second hardest course I’ve ever played and I live a mile from here,” said Baddley, a Brevard High School graduate and, in his day job, heating and air dispatcher. “A lot of the tee shots are long. You have a course record of 34,” an indication that even for pros a hole-in-one is rare. “I hold that with Dave and one other fellow.”
Contrast the low round here with the U.S. ProMiniGolf Association Masters course in Myrtle Beach, where the record is 22.
“I was actually playing pretty well,” Baddley says of the Masters. “I think I shot a 28. Then there was a rumor coming back that Tommy shot a 22.”
Dave, the co-record holder, would be Dave Sciupider, who owns and operates Champions Golf Learning Center. He and his wife and co-manager, Mary, have brought the U.S. Open of professional miniature golf to the Brookside Camp Road facility.
The U.S. Open Friday and Saturday has drawn 62 pros, including defending champion Oliva Prokopova, from the Czech Republic, who is bringing an 11-year old player, Pavel Mayer, who will be competing in the pro division.
Prokopova, 23, has been putting for 20 years. A three-time U.S. Open and two-time Masters champion, she has two major sponsors – an electric cable maker and steel manufacturer from the Czech Republic. She also teaches and helps design miniature golf courses. The art of knocking a small ball into a cup is her fulltime job. The professional tour has also taken her to Great Britain, Sweden and China. She’ll be in Hendersonville for two weeks for the tournament.
“I love the United States,” she said.
Last Friday, she was taking her first strokes at Champions.
“It’s a hard course but I like hard courses,” she said. The speed and breaks of the green make it a challenge. Last week, she said she planned plenty of practice before the tournament gets under way on Friday. She’s one of five women playing, along with 57 men. She’s not the women’s champion; she’s beat the field to win three U.S. Opens and two Masters tournaments.
Amateurs can play with the pros during a Pro Am on Thursday evening around 6:30 p.m. Eighteen pros will each be paired with three amateurs. Last week 42 people had signed up, Sciupider said. (Cost is $25. To sign up call 606-5103.)
The tournament is free for spectators; organizers ask only that they bring a healthy canned or boxed nonperishable food, which Champions plan to donate to IAM. A NASCAR Rally Cup Car will be on display and vendors will take custom golf club orders based on swing analyses. There will be food and beverage trucks and an amateur putting contest on the practice green.
Golfers from all over are here most of this week, spending money on hotels, food and entertainment, Sciupider said. They’re competing for a cash purse totaling $8,000.
“They love the North Carolina area,” Sciupider said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the other things they do in the area. They love downtown Hendersonville.”