Family Mini-Golf Tournament Still Going Strong

by Brendan Smith Weirs Times Assistant Editor

In a day when families find themselves further separated by distance in this fast-paced world the Mathson family, formerly of Winchester, Mass,. has found a way to keep the family spirit alive. In fact, they may just hold the record for the most consecutive years participating in a family event. But no one is really counting, they’re just too busy having fun.

John Mathson and his children: Margaret, Paul & John, were at the Funspot Family Entertainment Super Center in the Weirs on Tuesday, August 19th, as part of their 34th Annual Mini-Golf Championship. It was their 26th year at Funspot. They would play four minigolf courses in the area during the day – 8 hours in all. Separate tournaments in preparation for the “Mathson Masters Tournament” to be played the next day.

“Funspot is what we call the Prestige Tournament,” said Paul Mathson. “It is the classic course, old style and the best. We also play at Jay’s in Alton and the ‘Pirate Tournament’ at the Pirate’s Cove courses in either Meredith or Tilton.”

They played three rounds on each course Tuesday with a separate winner for each and then one round at each on Wednesday with the total winner declared the Masters champion.

“We started this in 1974 and it has been a family tradition every summer since,” explained John Sr. “We hadn’t discovered the Funspot course until1983 and we immediately added it to our list. It is the best course.”

Opened seasonally in 1964, Funspot’s 19 hole course is built on the theme of historic New Hampshire landmarks. The first hole has a scale model of the Mt. Washington cruise ship which was built by Jim Clough of Winnisquam and has been maintained and rebuilt over the years by Funspot maintenance foreman Cal Hahn. Other historic landmarks include the Spindle Point observatory; the Jackson covered bridge, the West Alton Railroad station, the North Conway Railroad station and the Cog Railway.

“My brother John and I designed the course to be as challenging as possible,” says Funspot owner and General Manager Bob Lawton, “Yet we made sure it was possible for a player to get a hole-in one on every hole.”

It is not believed that has ever been done. Surely not by any one of the Mathsons, and certainly not on this day. It was an unusually cool and windy day for August as the family took their turns on the Funspot course. Margaret, much to the friendly chagrin of her father and brothers, emerged the winner of this round.

“That means we have to buy her dinner,” laughed Paul. “Then again, we always buy her dinner.”

As much fun as the Mathson’s have with their annual tournament, it is still a sign of great family values as they make sure to get together for the event every year even though they have become separated by miles. Paul Sr. still lives in Massachusetts and Margaret, Paul and John now all reside in different parts of New Hampshire. There is no sign of the tournament waning over the years as the children have kids of their own who are now growing up and ready to participate.

“Some of our kids feel they are ready to challenge us,” said Paul. “But we do have a strict qualifying guidelines.” A player must shoot at least one stroke below par to qualify.

“They’re all getting better and I’m sure they’ll be here competing with us in the near future,” said John. “We hope that the Funspot course will be around for years to come as our family, and our tournament grows.”

The Funspot Mini-Golf closes after Labor Day. They do have a Retro Mini-Golf Course inside which is open all year. It is a reproduction of the original mini-golf that Bob Lawton built with his brother John above Tarlson’s Arcade in Weirs Beach in 1952. It is perfect for all ages and is completely self-service.