Thursday, November 13, 2008
2008 Season: Pre-England
Because I had neglected to play much in 2007, I did not make the Solomon Team. I was in the top eight players who made themselves available, but I did not get onto the group of six that actually compete in the event. I was our first alternate. Not to be discouraged, I justified the idea of traveling to England to play in several other tournaments to boost my resume with some high level international competition abroad. I found the East Midlands Championships (essentially a regional tournament) in Nottingham the week before the Solomon Trophy was to be played in Manchester. I decided to finish my trip by trying to enter the most competitive tournament in the world, arguably; the British Open in Cheltenham.
In the coming months I committed myself to a few tournaments while building the idea of England in my head. I had not booked flights or committed myself to the idea, but I was about 80% emotionally invested. It was not until late February when Doug Grimsley, former national champion and long time juggernaut in American croquet, told me that he would be unable to travel to England. Doug cited his new career choice and a busy summer schedule as well as the fact that he had played in England many times before as his deciding factors for turning down the Solomon Trophy spot. I could barely contain my excitement. I told myself that this was not yet final, Doug had not yet informed the selectors or the team members of this decision, but I could not help but begin to plan my first international excursion. I re-committed myself to all things croquet setting up a season unrivaled in it's variety and sheer frequency of play. I managed five Association Laws tournaments (North Carolina Open, Internationals, North American Open, the inaugural Rocky Mountain Invitational, and the Aboyne Open) as well as five American rules contests (Palm Beach Invitational, Arizona Open, Mission Hills Invitational, Peachwood Classic, Berkshires Invitational) before setting off for England.
My final preparation was three weeks of instruction and practice in Maine, where I first learned to play croquet. The wonderful new court at the Woodlawn museum became my full size practice stage while my uncle Larry Stettner's half court was my strategic sketch pad as I tried sextuple peels and triples and straight double peels to refine my old ways and learn new tactics. Before I knew it, June was a memory and I was headed across the pond and into the lion's den.