The area final was won outright by John Smallbone (Watford), who won all his five games. Second was Martin Beacon (Nottingham) with four wins, followed by Arthur Reed (Watford), David Kitson (St Albans), Tim Brewer (Wrest Park) and Mick Haytack (Ashby) with three wins. Martin and David are unable to participate in the final, so John, Arthur, Tim and Mick will be the four representatives at Nailsea on 18/19 September. Apart from Arthur, all those with three wins or more earned handicap reductions as a result of their play over the weekend.
John Bevington (Wrest Park) 1.5
David Haslam (Colchester) 4
Arthur Reed (Watford) 5
David Kitson (St Albans) 7
Tim Brewer (Wrest Park) 8
Robert Staddon (Letchworth) 9
Martin Beacon (Nottingham) 10
John Smallbone (Watford) 10
Ron Atkinson (Newport) 11
Janet Booker (Nottingham) 16
Mick Haytack (Ashby) 18
Monica Tanti (Colchester) 18
The twelve disciples gathered at Newport on Saturday morning knowing that they were in for a hot weekend in more senses than one - the sun beat down on both days and the competition was fierce. John Bevington, as the lowest handicapper, had volunteered to manage the event in Jim Potter's absence, and got round his total lack of managerial experience by first arranging to borrow Wrest Park treasurer Eric Audsley's laptop and Swiss management program and then having Tim Brewer collect it and thus be the only trained operator.
Conditions were tricky; the lawns had had a growth spurt (it has not been an easy summer for groundsmen) and the hoops were generous, but the odd rabbit run meant that they still had to be treated with respect and many players found themselves with hampered shots after just struggling through what appeared at first sight to be an easy hoop. After Saturday's three rounds the Watford pair of John Smallbone and the old campaigner Arthur Reed were undefeated, with Ron Atkinson, David Kitson (a former All England winner), Martin Beacon and Tim Brewer hard on their heels with two wins each. Martin is one to watch; a sportsman from his youth he only took up croquet two years ago and plays with the easy style of a pro. Tim was also showing good form - having had to give up for a while due to a series of operations he is now playing better than ever.
Monica Tanti deserves a special mention. Never having played in such an event and without a win she was worried about the prospect of having to play a third game in such unaccustomed heat, but stuck to it and was persuaded of the importance of her participating the next day. Her just reward came with two wins on Sunday, the last against her club mate and chauffeur David Haslam, who ungallantly pegged her out and paid the penalty. In the fourth round the game between the Watford pair resulted in a win for John, Martin kept up his challenge with a win against Ron Atkinson and Tim demolished David +25 with controlled 3-ball breaks.
And so to the final round. John completed a clean sweep by beating Tim, Martin had a solid win against Arthur, and Mick completed a late surge by beating Janet for his second win of the day. David Kitson just edged out Ron, and John Bevington finally broke his duck against Robert Staddon in the last game to finish. Taking the backward ball round in a turn during which time was called, he did the rover peel (which left all the clips on the peg) and, having run into partner, attempted a cannon peg-out of the partner ball which failed but left his balls north of the peg fortuitously wired from Robert's ball south of rover. Robert narrowly missed the shot at his other ball which allowed John to peg out for a +1T win .
Our thanks to the Newport club for hosting the event, and to Ron Atkinson, who looked after us as well as deputising as a player. And I would also like to thank Mrs Kitson, who ferried David to Newport and spent two days quietly reading in what shade there was. The best of luck to the four finalists, and let's hope one of them can collar the cup.