The Peachwood was great fun. I got to smoke cigars with some of my favorite croquet players and hang out with great friends. It's always fun to hang out with John Young and Charlie, even if Charlie had homework.
I returned to the desert and had the bittersweet goodbye. It was an amazing winter in Mission Hills and it was difficult to part with so many great people. After I said too few goodbyes I began my trip north back to the bay; back to my family; back home. Regrettably, I was not able to meet with the general manager of the club to finish our negotiations about the 2011 season. There seemed no reason to worry, except that I still have not heard a word from the man I can only hope will be my boss over the winter.
On my way back I called my friends and family in the bay and was able to squeeze into a concert in San Francisco that very night, schedule great family time with my one year old niece and secure my housing with my cousins for the North American Open. I really enjoyed my time however short, in the bay. I was able to see my 101 year old grandmother who has had a setback making her only as spry as a 90 year old instead of her previous 70 year old disposition. She will outlive us all.
I began my trek up to Santa Rosa for the North American with a stop in the city to party with my friends. Well into our bender I was told that the tournament was rescheduled so we would not be playing on Mother's Day! I managed to call my sister and sneak into my family's brunch plans much to my mother and grandmother's delight. Sometimes everything falls into place.
The North American Open began with foreboding fog and light showers but we soldiered on as usual. The skies cleared and made for a wonderful week. I was able to see many Palm Springs transplants up in wine country and I enjoyed catching up with all the bay area croquet enthusiasts as well. The Sonoma-Cutrer club members pulled out all the stops with great lunches and cook outs as well as the frequent cocktail hour. In tournament play I began with a disappointing streak breaker. Through much of the nationals I had built up a peeling streak. For fifteen games my opponent or I had finished the game with a triple or better (I got my sextuple in there). In game one of the North American I failed to organize any peels and quit the streak.
I battled through the block losing both games to Rich Lamm and getting upset by Ron Hendry as he ran three controlled breaks. When I can't hit in, I have to work harder to grind out those victories. Ron went on to secure a spot in the top three with Rich and I before the final day of block play, a very impressive showing as 14 games produces reliable seeding. I experimented a bit and was able to complete a New Zealand TPO. The kiwi TPO involves peeling opponent through 4-back on your first break, setting a sextuple leave, and finishing the other two peels with a different ball. I was able to double peel out the opponent while peeling my partner through 1 and 2-back. I pegged out both my striker ball and the opponent leaving a one-ball game where I had an eight hoop lead, which I won. I also tried a few late triples and a sextuple. I managed three peels and a decent leave on the sextuple, but my opponent forgot his contact lift (or any lift at all, which was my justification for trying such an aggressive play).
While the top three were set, the final spot in the playoffs was a much tougher race. Paul Billings had a difficult time during block play. While adjusting to his new Pidcock mallet, Paul decided to change his grip. Over time I trust he will get back to his smooth swinging ways, but he had a tough month of may. Paul allowed just enough of an opportunity for Jim Butts to steal the final playoff spot.
Rich and I took out the presidency of Jim and Ron in straight games allowing a best of five final. We took a slight detour from the tournament to play an eight team pro-am golf croquet afternoon with winery personnel. I was paired with the general manager of Sonoma-Cutrer and we went undefeated to win the amazing glory and bragging rights at the winery. I was miffed to discover the next day that while I was to receive a magnum of wonderful Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay (Les Pierres) Jim Butts' second place bottle was signed by the band Journey! I nearly stopped believing right then and there.
Rich and I began the final match on Friday to ensure it finished before the Make-A-Wish craziness began on Saturday. Game one was very scrappy as I failed a standard triple by missing a three yard roquet around hoop four. I lost focus and casually shot a soft roquet, which was a big mistake. I got control and completed the last two peels but over rolled and missed 4-back! Luckily enough, Rich faulted during his break and I limped through the finish. Game two was a much cleaner endeavor as I finished a ninth turn TP after Rich missed a hampered shot from the peg at my two balls (from a diagonal spread leave). We stopped for the day to enjoy the festivities of the sponsors dinner.
It was a great experience to hear the story of one of the many kids who was granted a wish from the foundation. He was able to set his sights and do what he had dreamed of. The important message is that he had a dream that helped him get through hell. Having a goal and a motivation makes a huge difference in one's outlook and attitude. Hearing some morbid tales hit particularly close to home as we had all been thinking of Jerry often and hoping and praying that he could perservere through his terrible illness and resulting infection.
Saturday we rekindled our rivalry as Rich and I were even 2-2 on the tournament. I did my best to remain ferocious knowing full well that Rich could (and had) beat me three times in-a-row. My parents were able to come and watch the final while the rest of my family came a bit later. Game three was my best of the tournament as I hit in on fourth turn and finished a sixth turn triple. The champagne was flowing and the day improved as the sun got higher. I got to show my grandma how to swing a mallet, carry around my niece and even win a great golf croquet exhibition with a Sonoma vintner.
As a celebratory measure, I ventured back to the city of San Francisco and got to see the bay to breakers with many of my friends. By traveling up steam I crossed paths with many of my college friends who were at the “race”. For those of you who do not know, the bay to breakers is an annual race from the East (bay) side of the city to the West (ocean or breakers) side. While many hundreds of people race this 7 mile course, many thousands of people dress up (or down...) and walk the course in a giant mobile party. It was a lot of fun and a great day reconnecting with my friends in the bay.