Barnegat Light — Driving up the Garden State Parkway, and later Long Beach Boulevard, Aaron Kaminski and Rudy Reel questioned what they were getting themselves into by taking on some random journalist from a place they rarely visit.
“Anybody who stands up and says, ‘Anybody challenge me!’ should set off red flags right away,” said Reel, owner of Lucky Duck Entertainment and a nationally ranked professional miniature golfer. “So, yeah … it was kind of nerve-racking. We didn’t know what to expect.”
Kaminski, an entertainment supervisor for Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Café and one of the co-founders of O-Street Mini Golf – which operates a miniature golf league in Ocean City and provides course reviews on YouTube – likened taking the “Can You Beat Biggy?” challenge as a “fight for New Jersey, or at least LBI.”
“Rudy said to me on the way here, ‘Oh, my gosh. What if he’s really good?’ We had a lot to lose,” Kaminski said on June 12. “Any kind of challenge like that is unnerving.”
It’s good to know I scared them a little bit. But what should have scared me was the fact Reel and Kaminski decided to show up to Jen’s Links at LBI in Barnegat Light (jenslinkslbi.com) long before I arrived – about four hours before, and, actually, it did scare me – to do some filming and play the courses for a video review they’re soon going to put together.
“Your challengers have been here since about 11 a.m.,” said Robert Aceto, one of the managers, my eyes widening at the revelation. “I hope you win, but I have a feeling you won’t.”
Well, thanks for that, Robert! Nothing like some encouraging words as I’m about to get pasted … er … challenged. Surprisingly, prior to stepping up to the first hole, Reel presented me with a “Challenge Accepted” ball as a gift. Now, why I chose to use the gift to actually play the match is beyond me. It could have been rigged, after all. I mean, these guys are professional miniature golfers who likely excel at finding advantages.
“We’re scarred,” Kaminski joked. “We can never go out and play miniature golf for fun. We play for glory, for honor.”
The cousins, who have played in the Miniature Golf Masters in Myrtle Beach, S.C., started off well, each taking four strokes to complete the first two holes. Meanwhile, I shot the ball short on both tee-offs, then botched my subsequent putts and ended up scoring a pair of fours. Of course, falling behind by four strokes after two holes ultimately didn’t benefit me, as I had to play catch-up the rest of the way. It didn’t help that Rudy scored a hole-in-one on the fifth hole, either.
Eventually, I straightened out my game – I even scored lower than both of them on the ninth hole, which opened the door for a colossal comeback – but while I kept pace with Aaron on the back nine, Rudy threw down the hammer, finishing off 5-under-par through the last nine and ending up with a 41 on the par-46 course. Aaron ended with a 45, and I managed to finish with a 50.
“This was a lot of fun. We loved the challenge of it,” Reel said. “At the end of the season, you should get everybody who beats you to play each other, to see who’s the best of the best.”
My answer to that: I hope losing stops with you guys! Thanks for playing, gentlemen!
NOTE: You can find O-Street Mini Golf on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you want to play “Can You Beat Biggy?” in July or August, just email him at email@example.com and provide the names and ages of the two challengers, which day and date you might want to play (Wednesday, Thursday or Friday) and a brief statement on why you believe you can beat him.