by John Delach

To the average sports fan, the New York Times is the most infuriating vehicle of any existing newspaper that prides itself on sports section staffed by a dedicated stable of professional sports writers. When we try to obtain information about our favorite sport or team, the Times is woeful. Give me the New York Post, the Daily News or Newsday, please.


I don’t believe the Times’ editors are trying to murder their Sports Section although the Paper of Record does favor its Arts Section over Sports. Despite cutbacks, arts continues to stand alone seven days a week whereas sports has been subsumed into the Business Section four of those days and only stands alone on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. But the Times does understand the value of sports to its readers. Witness their E-edition. The index to its sections is as follows: First: Top Stories, second: Opinion, third: Sports, fourth: Arts and five: Fashion.


It is bad enough that the editors constantly try to minimize mainstream sports. For a while they actually eliminated baseball box scores until a howl of protests forced its return. Still they over-report obscure and junk sports consistently loading the pages with in-depth articles on trivial and trendy happenings (in their eyes) at the expense of decent coverage of out-of-town NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL games. And don’t get me started on that artificially hyped quarto-annual phenomenon, The World Cup. Again we went through it this spring from Brazil; soccer is the next great thing. The Times fell over themselves with their coverage. Every four years, here we go: THIS TIME IT’S FOR REAL, THIS TIME AMERICA IS READY FOR FUTBALL, FUTBALL IS AMERICA’S FUTURE; balderdash!


The latest manifestation of their editorial policy came on August 15, 2014 in a piece by Sarah Lyall: “Mini Golf as Career? She Gets Past the Obstacles.”  Ms Lyall profiled Olivia Prokopova, a 19 year-old girl from the Czech Republic who… “last year swept the sport’s three top competitions – the United States Open, the Masters and the world championships-for an unprecedented triple crown in miniature golf.”


Miniature golf! Surely, this was a put-on, a ruse, a tongue in cheek attempt at humor? I’m afraid not. Ms Lyall navigated the subject and gamely authored paragraphs like, “Olivia? There’s no fear in her,’ said Rick Alessi, 57, a municipal heavy-equipment operator from Erie, PA, who is to compete against her in the 2014 United States Open Miniature Golf Tournament…”


Or this: “Prokopova proved an elusive interviewee. She speaks only basic English, and a Russian interpreter had been provided so that Vlk, (who dat?) who speaks Czech and Russian could relay questions to her. But she tended to refer queries to her father, Jan Prokop. That added another layer of complexity because the burly, chain-smoking Prokop, who spent much of the interview talking excitedly and banging messages into his two cellphones, speaks no English at all.”


Que pasa, why is the old man’s name different and isn’t this right out of Monty Python?


Worse yet, putting it in perspective, the Times ran this article alongside  three legitimate sports articles; the first about the election of the new Commissioner of Baseball, the second, a piece about an “All-Black Team” from Chicago competing in the Little League World Series and, the third, about Tony Stewart’s accident prompting changes in Nascar rules. Results of the Mets game that night were tucked inside.


So why today, mini golf? Let’s delve deeper into what the paper that proclaims it presents, “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” didn’t see fit to print.


The organization behind this nonsense is the US ProMiniGolfAssociation, or the USPMGA. They run two of the three championships that Ms Prokopava won in 2013, the US Open and Masters. The 2014 Open took place last weekend, August 15-16, played at the Bluegrass Miniature Golf Course at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ. (If you know the history of Monmouth, you know Sonny Werblin and Leon Hess are spinning in their graves.)


Participants played nine to ten rounds in quest of a $3,500 purse for first place. In all $12,000 was awarded to the top 30 scorers. In October, the Masters will be played on two courses in South Carolina, one called the Hawaiian Rumble and the other, Pineapple Beach. Total prize money is also $12,000.


The USPMGA is serious, organized and has an extensive web site should you choose to indulge. They note in their “The World of Mini Golf” white paper that there are several thousand different balls approved for mini golf to account for all conditions and that scoring differs dependent on the different approved surfaces: Eternite, Betong and Felt.


I kid you not!


Here’s the best part; the USPMGA is a member of the World MiniGolf Sports Federation, (WMFS) and the newsletter notes, “Since October 28, 2000 the WMSF has become a Provisional member in the General Association of the International Sports Federation (GAISF) which is a big step towards becoming an Olympic Sport.”


With that the circle is complete. Mini golf may soon compete with futball and every four years the NY Times will tell us why one or the other will soon become our new national sport.


(For those keeping score, Ms Prokopova failed to repeat succumbing to Matt McCaslin.)