Tournament Report - 06/05/2010 21:21
Southwick May Bank Holiday Tournament 1-3 May 2010
Report by Colin Hemming
I suppose we could call this a portmanteau tournament. Two in one. Not only a handicap but also a B-level. Common enough to have concurrent events in a week-long tournament, but unusual (unique?) in a weekend. Unfortunately, the number of entries was disappointing overall, and particularly in the handicap event, which attracted only five entrants, and the event was played, as you would expect, as an American block. There were 14 entrants for the B-level event, which manager Chris Constable had split into two blocks of 7, the winner to be decided by a play-off between the two block winners The alert amongst you will have realised two things: that the Handicap block wouldn't generate enough games to fill three days of competition, and that with an odd number of players in each block there was going to be a certain amount of sitting-out. Chris had planned to solve (partially) the second of these issues by having the B-class players who had drawn a bye in each round play a cross-block game. I'm not sure how she was planning to solve the lack of handicap games, because any plans she had were overtaken by events when one of the B-level entrants withdrew on the eve of the tournament due to injury. Ingeniously, she introduced two byes in place of one in each round of the depleted block and had the extra "sitter-out" play a cross-block handicap game. There were a few mutterings from players who "hadn't signed up to play handicap" but the plan worked well and kept everyone occupied, at least until the morning of the last day. Day one (Saturday) was a good day for croquet. A bit of sunshine, just a hint of a shower in the morning, but overall an enjoyable day to spend out on the croquet court. Because of all the byes it was difficult to get a clear picture of who was showing promise in either of the B-level blocks, but in the Handicap block Sam Murray was creating waves of consternation by two good wins. On the sartorial front, only Tudor Jenkins was creating waves; apparently unaware of the use of a peak to shade the eyes from the sun, was creating a dead-end kids look by wearing his baseball cap back-to-front. Definitely not PC (Preferred for Croquet). A discussion at teatime referred to one of the players "Rolling all over the court". A sight to be seen, you may imagine, but his opponent was only referring to his roll-shots. Kevin Ham has gone down in legend at Colchester as the player who took one of his shoes off during a Mary Rose match some years ago. Why? To remind himself that he had a lift of course! If he had had a contact he would have taken both shoes off! It was good to learn that both practices are still going strong. The forecast for Sunday was for heavy showers for most of the day. In the event, this proved to be wildly optimistic. A wall of heavy rain rolled in from the North East and just kept on rolling. All day. It briefly hinted at lifting just after lunch but as soon as we were all on court again it came back with even more ferocity. But we were British. And we were Croquet Players. So we carried on. It took some doing, mind you. Pauline Davey pulled her hood close to her head to keep out the wind and rain, resembling the Egyptian croquet-playing ladies we have all seen photographs of. David Gaitley, realising that his shower-proof jacket wasn't up to this sort of punishment, went for the Beano look, and was briefly seen in a large plastic sack with holes cut out for his arms, before going home to find something more suitable and returning with a high-visibility workman's jacket with the London Underground logo emblazoned on it: ask no questions. Tudor, having terrible trouble with rain on his spectacles, persevered with the baseball cap, but still back-to-front, and blissfully unaware that a secondary use for its peak can be to keep rain out of you eyes and off your spectacles. Kevin was wearing his Crocs. Very comfortable, of course, and ideal for slipping off to remind you of your lifts and contacts, but since they have about a dozen half-inch holes in the top of each one not the best choice for the pouring rain. But despite all the punishment that the players (and the courts) were taking, all the games were completed, and at the end of the day, Sam Murray had already done enough to assure a win in the Handicap event. Block A of the B-level was between Paul Miles and Colin Hemming, both having won all four of their block games, and due to play each other the following morning. In Block B the situation was far less clear-cut. Kevin Ham was the front-runner with four wins out of five, but with Anthony Dix, Jonathan Isaacs and Pauline Davey all on three wins and breathing down his neck. Everything to play for the following morning, with Kevin due to play Pauline and Anthony vs Jonathan. A potential managerial nightmare. It was a dry forecast for the Monday, so imagine the players' dismay when it started raining shortly after the morning games had started. It was short-lived, however. "Thank goodness for that" we all thought. And then the wind veered (or should that be "backed"?) and started to come from the North. Straight from the Pole. It was very, very cold, especially for May. But we were British. And we were Croquet Players. So we carried on. In Block A, Paul Miles progressed to the final by destroying Colin Hemming +25 in little over an hour. So your intrepid reporter ventured boldly forth and took up residence in the lawn 5 hut, which occupies a central position and from where he could watch the two games which would decide Block B, meanwhile keeping a sneaky eye on how his wife Georgeen was faring against Sam on lawn 6. It was still cold, even inside the hut, and the way it was rocking in the stronger gusts made me imagine I must be in the wheelhouse of a trawler battling through the North-Sea. (Clearly a fantasy: there aren't any North Sea trawlers any more are there?). The first of the B-level games to finish was Jonathan vs Anthony: Jonathan won +15, with very careful and accurate placing of pioneers. The game between Pauline and Kevin was a much closer affair: Kevin took an early lead But Pauline fought back and gained the upper hand with only minutes to go. Kevin made a valiant attempt to overtake her during the turn in which time was called but had only pulled level when he failed 3-back. Pauline (still sporting her Pashmena look, incidentally) was able to run only one more hoop in her final turn, but it was enough to win +1 on time. It was all for nought in the end, though, because with Jonathan, Pauline and Kevin all on 4 wins Jonathan was adjudged the block winner on the first differentiator, which was the number of wins within time (3 for him, 2 for both Kevin and Pauline). Meanwhile, Sam beat Georgeen to make it a clean sweep in the Handicap block. The final of the B-level, then, was between Paul Miles and Jonathan Isaacs. The plan had been for the manager to arrange additional games for those who wanted them. In the event, though, the only other players to brave the Arctic conditions were Tudor and Kevin who played a (quick!) game of Golf Croquet. (The holes in Kevin's shoes were now letting in freezing cold air rather than water and Tudor still hadn't worked out that the peak of a cap belongs at the front not the back). The other competitors (those who hadn't already left) gathered to watch the B-level final. This turned out to be a very one sided affair, Jonathan destroying Paul just as efficiently as Paul had destroyed Colin earlier in the day, by playing very precise croquet and winning in four breaks (albeit with a bit of to-and-fro between his breaks). So in the end, a very enjoyable tournament in spite of the fearsome conditions on the last two days. It is unfortunate that there were so few entries in the Handicap event, but the manager coped well with that. If the weather had been better, it would have been sad that most people would have played only one competitive game on the last day, and be left only with meaningless games in the afternoon. It may have been better to play the B-level as a Swiss, keeping the event alive until the end. Better still, from my personal view, it could be played as a flexible Swiss to enable more than three games a day for those lucky, or unlucky, enough to have a short game. But that format doesn't fit very easily with an event that styles itself as the "Southern B-level Championship". (Hmmm -should it?) Thanks are due to Chris Constable for managing, to Frances Low who stood in for Chris on day 2, and to the army of Southwick volunteers who kept us well supplied with (hot!) lunches and teas throughout the weekend.