Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hughes Brothers Battle in Delaware

The lazy river wound its way around the backyard in a scene meant for a lifetime movie. Players kibitzed on the balcony as the Brandywine River that once brought the DuPont family and prosperity to this corner of Delaware babbled in the background. So too the once mighty Delaware Invitational continued to babble on with a cozy group of 18 players. The competitive field was treated to lush courts and a new croquet pavilion as well as great cuisine at the Wilmington Country Club.

Block play singles and social waterford doubles made for four games in the warm summer weather each day. Early play highlighted Rodney Calver, a 12 handicap who scored two impressive upsets over Joy Bradford and Jean Geddes to earn a spot in the first flight ladder. Peter Woolley dominated the block with eight straight wins for a questionable eight handicap. North Carolina visitor Bob Whitmore hit just about everything on his way to a 6 – 1 record which put him at second seed behind Tom Hughes who had a higher margin of victory.

The doubles title was a run away in championship flight as Tom Hughes won each of his games by a comfortable margin. Craig Smith helped Tom with a five point victory that helped Craig's net points enough to secure second place; an impressive feat for the 2.5 handicapper. Hank Schilling managed two wins by one point to eek his way to a perfect record while 12 handicap Tom Stoner played a great second fiddle with enough net points to claim second place.

Contemplative Hank During a Game.

The singles playoffs began with upsets galore across the board. Jim Hughes and Joy Bradford each delivered as underdogs in the 4 versus 5 seed games in each flight. The number two seed was cursed as three seeds Hank Schilling and Tom Stoner won in the semi-finals. Tom's clutch hoop shots earned him the victory while Hank kept his pedal to the metal and never slowed down to win by ten and advance to the finals. The 7th seed in championship flight, Barry Gibson, scored the best upset as he found his touch and ran tough breaks in his victory over the number two seed and the three seed on his way to a war with one of the Hughes'.

Tom Hughes came out of the blocks firing with six wins and great attacks. The crafty veteran was unrelenting in his quest for the spent ball. Tom willingly took off to the attack from great distances to show his complete control on the pristine Wilmington lawns. In a tough game against his elder brother, Tom brought out the big guns and made a heroic 20 foot hoop shot at one-back. Short for time and three-ball-dead, the great shot was the difference as Tom won 14-13. As a side note: it didn't help that in his state of shock, Jim forgot to clear his deadness. The brothers would meet again in the semi-finals but Jim would not be as kind in the end. Tom's aggressive attacks got him the setups he wanted and time after time, Jim took them away. With shots of 50 and 60 feet, Jim took away Tom's costly setups and left him dead. The well dried up and Tom could not dredge up the hit in he needed as he fell 13-11.

The second flight final was a close game until Robert Lankford found the transcendent turn he needed and rand a two ball break for three hoops to take the lead. Tom Stoner managed to rally with several long hoop shots and difficult roquets, but he could never string the hoops together and lost 13-10.

Robert and Sherry Lankford Celebrate Together.

Hank Schilling held the lead on the yet undefeated Woolley and forced a tough attack. As the ball rolled out of bounds Peter collapsed to the ground. Was his perfect run coming to an end? Hank took the lead but a stuffed hoop gave Peter another chance. Peter attacked the ball at the hoop and rushed it away to one-back. Time elapsed as Peter made the go ahead hoop. Making the shrewd move, the undefeated champion took the lead and groomed the court to avoid tragedy. The 12-11 victory was Peter's tenth allowing for a share of the spoils and most of the tracking points in the flight.

Peter with a Roll Shot Approach.

In the finals Jim took a play out of brother Tom's book with a huge attack from corner to corner to take the early lead. Jim hit his long shots but Barry got the break anyway by running two ball breaks until he picked up whatever errant ball was left on the court. The game was tied in the final minutes and many clutch shots fell off line leaving spectators on the edge of their seats. Jim finally benefitted from Barry's deadness and broke the tie in the second round of overtime to win 19 – 18.

Betty Whitlow Runs a Break.

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