Hello croquet fans!
I hope to make frequent updates this summer for all you Californians, Mainers, and assorted fans who want to hear about life as a Croquet Nomad.
After a wonderful season at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA (first of many, hopefully) I began my travels in late April with my third trip to the Peachwood Classic in Woodbine, Maryland.
The American Rules money tournament always attracts a highly skilled field and this year featured 16 players of 1.5 handicap or lower. Better still, most were good friends and great people which makes for an enjoyable tournament no matter the results.
The beautiful courts on Larriland Farms belonging to Larry and Polly Moore are the (closest to) home courts for my doubles partner Doug Grimsley and my good buddy, the young upstart, Charlie Gillmarten. We had our fair share of beers and laughs with the cigar crowd (Rich Curtis, Britt Ruby, David Ekstrom) and I truly enjoyed a visit from the Bermudian grandson of the game, John Young III (three strokes).
The courts have some character which kept play interesting and I was the unfortunate victim of a few bad rolls after having pegged one of Charlie's balls out. Charlie took the a convincing lead with a very controlled break to rover. As time put the pressure on me, Charlie decided to shoot rover from the line (33 feet) and he scored it to seal the victory in block play. I was the two-time defending champ, so I was working to get back into a position to win, and thankfully I made it into the playoffs.
The last two years I had played Danny Huneycutt and Leo McBride in the semis and finals. One year Leo in the semis, Danny in the final; the next year the opposite. I had never been in the same half of the draw as Douggie (who was always knocked out by one of those heavy hitters) until this year.
As I put together a nice game to pass Tommy Harrington, Douggie ran into a road block; his other doubles partner. Rich Curtis concocted various scrappy breaks but was able to finish them cleanly and let Doug focus on directing the tournament from the sidelines.
I ended up against Danny in the final and after I made a beautiful attack into a tough corner, I had the break all laid out. Danny was some 60 feet away from the only balls he could see, which were 3 feet away from corner 1. So what does Danny do? In a show of respect for my break potential and a devil may care attitude, Danny shot at the balls near the line. And hit!
Danny ran his break around but when he tried to groom, he fell victim to the roll off in that tricky corner (60 footer, no problem; 6 footer, uh oh). I followed suit and missed the same ball with an even closer shot. As Danny tried to make something of the situation, he wired himself and left me the break I needed. I went around and pegged out his ball. I learned my lesson from Charlie and played this 2 on 1 very conservatively in, what I felt was, a boring manner. Afterward spectators said they enjoyed the 2 on 1 much more than just watching breaks go round. Danny had some very close calls shooting at my line balls, but in the end his first 60 footer was the only long line shot he hit (out of 10 or so). I managed to win by 11 and secure the threepeat of the Peachwood Classic.
Much fun was had thanks to support from local members like Lee Hanna, Mark Goodwin, all the lunch providing volunteers, and of course Larry and Polly Moore.