When Eau Claire native Michael Koch’s husband encouraged him to fly to Los Angeles for a casting call on ABC’s new competitive miniature golf show “Holey Moley,” Koch almost backed out.
“My husband kind of forced me to go,” Koch remembered. “He said, ‘Who knows what it’s going to be?’”
That final push earned the Memorial High School graduate a spot on Holey Moley, a colorful mini golf obstacle course competition that Koch compared to “something out of Willy Wonka.”
Koch, now a healthcare administrator living in San Francisco, competed in the show’s fourth of 10 episodes, which is slated to air at 7 p.m. Thursday on ABC. The episode will be available Friday on ABC.com and the Hulu subscription service, according to ABC.
In each episode, 12 mini golfers are pitted against each other in one-on-one matchups. Competitors must navigate a larger-than-life obstacle course — giant windmills, a zipline and ice slides — and make the most accurate putt to win the hole.
The prize is $25,000 and a golden putter trophy, but a “coveted” green plaid Holey Moley jacket gets top billing, according to ABC.
“I ended up submitting a silly video, I guess you could say (in November 2018),” Koch said. “At that time, I really didn’t have any information about the show. But being on a game show has always been on my bucket list.”
Two weeks later, Koch got a phone call asking him to fly to Los Angeles for an audition; in April, after earning a spot on the show, he began five nights of filming in Los Angeles.
“We filmed all night, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” Koch said. “We were thinking this is some small game show, and we get there and it’s completely, unbelievably big. It was like a miniature golf course on steroids.”
Executive produced by NBA star Steph Curry, described as the show’s “resident golf pro,” Holey Moley hosts also include TV personality Jeannie Mai as a sideline correspondent and commentary from actor-comedian Rob Riggle and Monday Night Football commentator Joe Tessitore.
Even for the self-described comedian, filming was an intense experience.
“The course is absolutely nuts,” Koch said. “On top of it you’ve got producers talking to you left and right, you’re doing interviews all over the place, you’re constantly on camera.”
As for Koch’s colorful headgear during the episode, the UW-Eau Claire graduate also co-owns a specialty hat company, Enzen.
Koch, formerly Michael Johnson, grew up around golf and competitive sports. His brother Jeremie Johnson managed Wild Ridge & Mill Run Golf Course in Eau Claire, and his extended family in Neillsville lived on a golf course, he said.
“Unfortunately I’ve had shoulder issues, and I ended up having to stop playing golf due to that, and the competition part of it I’ve missed,” Koch said. “This was a way to bring it back.”
While he has years of golfing experience, Koch said he’s not a mini golf pro.
“I thought mini golf was the thing you do when you can’t go bowling,” he said. “These people treat mini golf like it’s their life.
“I didn’t know there were professional mini golfers, and the second-ranked person in the entire world was here. But I think I surprised a lot of people.”
Though Koch can’t say if he’s a winner or he was eliminated, he was “kind of the underdog of the competition,” he said.
“I ended up doing fairly well,” he said.
The fourth episode of Holey Moley, titled “The Greatest Show on Turf,” will feature another competitor with Wisconsin ties: Chad Bennett hails from the Washington County village of Slinger, according to ABC.
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