Saša Leban - a first international open win for Slovenia

We were honoured to be granted the following interview by Saša Leban following the 2020 Slovenia Open at Stanezice. Saša is the first ever Slovenian to win an international Pitch and Putt open. (Q.) How delighted are you to win the Slovenia Open?

Saša Leban (A.) Very delighted. I am currently not very fit*, so I am excited about every good shot, let alone a good round or winning the competition. I think that every time you get a trophy, it boosts your self-confidence. And self-confidence equals more than 50% of the end result.
* (because I have acute fibromyalgia, which affects physical well-being and condition. Pains all over body > tiredness > lower concentration. But I am beating this disease quite effectively every time I am on a Pitch and Putt course, because I really love this game. And it is much easier to play Pitch and Putt than traditional golf, where the energy can run out for the second 9 holes, if I don't balance exercises properly on a daily basis)  

Q. What were your expectations in advance of the event?

A. Regarding my game, none; except enjoying the game and the company. Regarding the event, I was expecting more international players would participate, and that it would be a 2 day-event, which makes it more like a real tournament. However, Covid was not working in our interest. Nonetheless, we are looking forward to next year’s competitions.

Q. Do you know the Stanezice course well?

A. I know Stanezice quite well, but not well enough to play it comfortably, like other traditional courses. I try to play it at least once a week. It is not easy; every time I end-up with a good score, I am happy.

Q. We there any particular highlights in your two rounds?

A. Yes, two. In the first round, I hit my ball in the water twice, plus I was putting very defensively, so it seemed that the number of strokes would be hard to recover in the second round. And I almost stopped fighting. The great thing about this tournament is that we were competing also in a team challenge. When I saw that we, as a team, were not very far behind the competitors, I knew that every stroke mattered, and I started to focus more - for the team. And it worked!

The second highlight was a Hole-in-One by my friend (Tomaz Kolesa) at a neighbouring hole. That’s always inspiring and gives you additional motivation.

Q. For how long have you played Pitch and Putt?

A. I started about a year ago. Otherwise, I have been a golfer for 10 years. Pitch and Putt intrigued me, because it seemed liked fun. No over-stretching with long irons and woods. Then I met people, and we connected. Unfortunately, we rarely play with only 3 clubs. Mostly on competitions and training rounds. We need to fix that.

Q. How strong is ladies Pitch and Putt in Slovenia?

A. Unfortunately, not very strong. We should do much more to increase awareness of Pitch&Putt and its benefits in general, among all players. It’s excellent for beginners and it’s even better for established golfers, because it improves our short game.

When it comes to women, even more so, because Pitch&Putt is shorter, it’s easier, and therefore more enjoyable. In Pitch&Putt, women could be also more compatible with men. I would say that it is an ideal sport especially for ladies  of 30-50 years, who are always short on time. I can come to practice after work, play for 2 hours, have a drink afterwards with my friends, and be still home early enough to prepare dinner! In the meantime, I get some concrete exercise, got stretched and relaxed in nature, so I can easily say, that I have done something good for myself. And it was a good day for my body and soul!

I would call up on the Associations to support us more in promoting the benefits of this game.  I am sure there are many of us who would gladly become Ambassadors if there were concrete projects under Federation’s umbrella. We need more structure, more tournaments, more promotional events, like “open-door” type of events with socializing, also some recruiting on traditional golf courses would be beneficial. A promotional campaign by the Federation would be very welcome, and every country can participate.

Q. Would you like to play other international opens?

A. Yes, of course. International tournaments help us to grow in the game. And to meet more like-minded people. Although we are a small nation, Slovenians are good at various sports and we are quite competitive. So, we are looking forward to all opportunities to participate.