Friday, June 19, 2009

The Future Has Arrived

Matthew Essick has been playing croquet in some form for over half his life. That’s not particularly unusual- a lot of people have played croquet for years. But Matthew just turned 10 years old last December. He began at the age of 3 with a special homemade mallet that Danny Huneycutt gave him. It was just his size. He call it “the yittle mallet”. He soon began hitting croquet balls with a regular mallet, often playing golf croquet with the Meadows gang.
He played in his first sanctioned Croquet Tournament at the age of 6. It was quite by accident. His Dad and Grandparents belong to Meadows Mallet Club in Northern Davidson County in North Carolina. The last week in July, all the clubs in NC converge on the Linville area to play the NC Club Teams Tournament. It is easily the largest tournament in the NC tournament circuit. It is absolutely the high point of MMC’s croquet year to play in that tournament. They formed the club late in 2002, competed in 2003 and came in third. In 2004, they came home as the Champions. Chomping at the bit in 2005, everyone in the club was matched up with a doubles partner and were all set to head up into the cool, clean air of the NC mountains and vie for the top prize yet again. Casper Essick, Matthew’s grandfather, had his partner to drop out because of a family emergency. Danny Huneycutt, Steve Summer, Jon Essick , Casper & Becky Essick gathered at the Essick court on Tuesday evening for a last practice when they got the news. All the members of the club already had partners. There was no one to be Casper’s team-mate. While they discussed the dilemma the club faced, Matthew practiced shooting wickets on the court, using the 20” mallet his Grandma had made especially for him out of her first mallet. He had only played Golf Croquet, never 6-Wicket, but he loved to shoot. Danny watched for a bit, then turned to Casper. “Would you be willing to play with Matthew as your partner?”, he asked.
“Well, I’m willing, but you know we won’t win a game.” Casper replied.
Danny called Matthew over and asked him if he would listen to his Grandpa and shoot the ball where he told him.
A big grin came over his face as he nodded. Matthew loves competition and loves his Grandpa to death. He couldn’t be happier!

Meadows went up the mountain with a dream and came back down on Sunday proudly as the winning club of NC.
Oh, and Matthew and his Grandpa only lost 1 match that magic week (by 1 point) and won their flight. They have been a team ever since. This year (2009) will be their 6th Club Teams Tournament as partners.
-Becky Essick

[Editor's Note: Matthew just came in second in the third flight of the Southeast Regionals, losing to another promising junior who is 5 years older. His handicap will soon be equal to his age, but not for long.]

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