Pro Mini Golfer uses feet to putt, overcoming debilitating condition
WLOS - Dozens of professional mini golfers are heading to Hendersonville this weekend for the US Prominigolf Association's U.S. Open at Champions Learning Center. Most of them wield custom-made putters to navigate the tricky eighteen hole layout, described by many as one of the toughest in the country. Niko Manou is one of the golfers competing this weekend, but he doesn't use a blade to attack the holes. He uses his feet. "I thought it was very unique, you know? I was very interested," said Randy Reeves, a former minigolf Masters champion and the defending putt-putt national champion. "Being out here with them, you're hooked," exclaimed Manou. "Once you start, it you're hooked."
Manou developed a condition later in life where his wrists pop out of socket with little to no warning. In between holes you can often see him clutching his hands and grimacing in clear pain. "It's like your whole hand is in a glass fire, and that's what I call the peppermint sensation," Manou explained. Once is condition developed, a darkness settled over his life. "[You're] stuck at home, you have no way of work, you have nobody around; it was a very miserable life," he reminisced. "What do you do, walk around the house?"
Manou decided one day he was tired of sitting around the house. So he attached a device to the front of a pair of shoes that a metal plate clicks in and out of, giving him a firm, flat surface to strike a ball. He calls them "Shlubs", short for Shoe-Clubs. He's also created similar contraptions to use for bowling and billiards, as well as regular golf. "The guys that went across the seas and came home and got booboos, I've got ways for them to play," he stated. "Maybe you came into this world and never done it, you know? Get out and enjoy life." Manou is working to get his inventions at different courses across the country.
Despite the unique way he plays the game, he feels no spite from his fellow competitors. "All the players have accepted him, and it's just such a novelty. And he's such a nice guy," remarked Reeves. "We're all very competitive, we all want to win very bad, but the biggest thing is the friendships we make."
The USPMGA U.S. Open begins Friday, May 18th. The competitors will play up to ten rounds over two days before crowning a champion.