On September 2nd, 12 hopefuls from the North West's croquet clubs arrived at Pendle & Craven Club for the first day of the qualifying finals for the All England Handicap competition. Bowdon fielded 5 players, Bury 2, Ashby 1, Huddersfield 1, Pendle & Craven 2 and Fylde 1. The competition was a 5 round Swiss event, full bisque, base 10. 3 people were to qualify for the finals in Nailsea on 16th and 17th September.
From the outset, the lowest handicappers in the competition - Liz Wilson (4) and Abdul Ahmad (4.5) - played with great gusto and a cheerful, if philosophical, approach which belied their feelings that in this competition the handicap odds may be stacked high against them!
As the first round started the rain became heavier and heavier and, after 2 hours of play, even the strongest players struggled to roll a ball the width of a lawn. Water began to collect in deep puddles and the now horizontal rain began to impede vision. Apparently waterproof trousers became saturated and see-through, to the chagrin of their wearers. And yet...the 12 players struggled on against all odds to complete their games. At the end of round 1, it became obvious that play could not continue. Players enjoyed a wonderful lunch, whilst clothes steamed and the rain became more torrential. We renamed the game "Soaket."
By mutual agreement, play stopped for the day. To ensure the completion of 5 rounds, it was agreed to play 4 x 14 point rounds on the following day.
Sunday saw slightly brighter skies and a renewed high spirit. Leonard Ainsworth (Fylde) and David Cotton (Bowdon) had each won all their games in the first three rounds. Robin Delves (Pendle & Craven) had proved master of the Rover peel and spirits remained high. By round 4, Leonard was beginning to prove invincible. His methodical, steady approach and good use of bisques robbed David off his 4th game. Meanwhile, Paul Kenworthy of Bury beat Jenny Dennis of Bowdon to take his 3rd game of the competition and Liz Wilson (Pendle & Craven) joined Abdul Ahmad (Bowdon) and Malcolm Daines (Huddersfield) in winning her 2nd game.
By now, Leonard seemed to have it in the bag. Steadily working his way round he took the 5th round from Paul to win all 5 of his games and 1st place in the competition. Robin Delves won his 4th game to take 2nd place and no less than 5 people tied for 3rd place.
The 5 way tie for third was resolved by a shootout at the peg as advertised before the start. The first 2 tiebreaker clauses had failed to produce a result. However, 3 of the 5 people tying for third place were unable to go to Nailsea, so time was saved by only having the 2 who were able to go take part in the shoot out.
In a nail biting finish, Paul Kenworthy took 3rd place and Malcolm Daines was nominated as first reserve.
Many thanks to Peter Wilson for his great organisation of the competition and to Pendle & Craven for their splendid hospitality.