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Solomon Trophy 2009: Day 1: USA lead GB 3-2

[<<] [>>] by Samir Patel at Mission Hills,USA
01 Dec 2009 (International)

The 2009 Solomon Trophy, contested by GB and USA at the Mission Hills Country Club, Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs), California 4-7 December 2009, is the 18th Solomon Trophy contest. The format is best-of-21 matches (9 doubles and 12 singles).

GB Team   USA Team
Ian Burridge (c)   Jeff Soo (c)
Robin Brown   Jim Bast
Jeff Dawson   Doug Grimsley
Tony Le Moignan   Danny Huneycutt
Stephen Mulliner   Ben Rothman
Samir Patel   Jerry Stark

Five of the GB team assembled at Mission Hills on 3 December for a recce and warm up; wise really since it transpires that several of the team haven't struck a ball since August! We believe that the sixth member of the team is in California, but have have yet to receive direct confirmation of this.

For those who have not been here, I'll try to set the scene. Mission Hills is a country club. A large country club. I have not idea of the exact size, but it's a fair drive around the perimeter. On arrival at the main clubhouse, we were first asked which (golf) course we were playing on, and then that there was no croquet on today. We ploughed on, and found a few players on a lawn next to the tennis pavilion.

"Pavilion" rather understates the building, which is on two floors, with sauna, gym, changing rooms and lounge. As you leave the back of the clubhouse (either via the lounge and terrace on the first floor, or directly from the ground floor), you are presented with a view over the main tennis court - one of approximately 45 at the club. This "centre court" is a sunken hard court, with bright green terracing for the crowd, Behind that is a flag pole flying the the Stars and Stripes and Union Jack.

Beyond that, are four croquet courts from right (lawn 1) to left, with you now standing on South Boundary. There are up to another 5 courts at the club (shared with tennis courts) some of which will be used for the singles. I haven't seen these yet, but am told that they are the same as the "front" four. There is a slight slope between courts 2 and 3, but otherwise it is an unbroken stretch of grass. Finely cut grass. Very even texture, and - despite having a "green sponge" appearance - running quite fast. We timed them at just over 11 seconds at around 10am, but they didn't seem to speed up during the day, despite unbroken sunshine, no wind and temperatures around 25 degrees. The ground is soft, making the hoops fairly forgiving; but they are still firm and tightly set. They will be in new holes tomorrow.

The afternoon saw the Presidents Trophy match, played to USCA rules. After much discussion which concluded only that the GB side didn't really know the rules, we embarked with the whole team taking an aggressive approach.

Ian lost his singles against Danny fairly quickly, but while Danny was clinical to win +24, this was only after Ian had some misfortune with south boundary. Jeff and Tony managed to get hold of their game having won the opening, but Tony hilled off his hoop 4 pioneer and that was that; -23. Samir and Robin had more luck, and with some aggressive lines of play (both approaching hoop 2 from mid-court) won +22, but not without finding some messy deadness-based positions en-route.

USA 2 - 1 GB.

Tomorrow sees day 1 of the main event, with the first round of doubles starting at 8am.

Teams in playing order with doubles pairs indicated by letters:

GB Stephen Mulliner (A), Robin Brown (C), Jeff Dawson (B), Samir Patel (B), Tony Le Moignan (A), Ian Burridge (C)
USA Ben Rothman (B), Danny Huneycutt (A), Jeff Soo (C), Jerry Stark (A), Doug Grimsley (B), Jim Bast (C)

Day 1

Play delayed due to frost! Palm Springs sits in a valley which runs NW-SE. This is fairly wide and flat, but with some high mountains on either side. The San Andreas fault, which runs through this valley, may explain all of this! The practical impact is that while sunset isn't until around 5pm, the sun actually disappears behind those mountains at around 4pm. This means it gets dark and cold quite quickly in the afternoon, so by 5pm it's actively cold. By the end of the day, we wished we had brought more cold-weather gear!

The next point to know about the weather is that there is an unusual low pressure bringing cold air down from Canada down the Rockies. To put this in perspective, an inch of snow settled in Houston today. While that misses us directly, it still has an impact, with temperatures down on the seasonal norm. Once the sun gets to work everything warms up nicely - we are in the desert after all! The forecast was for a high of about 18C (down on 23C yesterday and 26C Wednesday), so while by 10am it still felt nice and warm, it was slightly chilly in the shade, particularly with the wind blowing.

The overnight cold meant that the lawns had to be defrosted before they could be cut and set. Defrosting seems to be done by waiting until the sun deals with the main part of the lawn and then (around 7.30) using the sprinklers to deal with the rest. The laws were then cut and set with play getting under way at about 8.30.

The US team made a good start taking the first game in all three matches, but were met with a robust response from GB, who took the next two games in two matches in short order, and had chances in the third before a late comeback to ensure US took a point from the first round. In round 2, GB's shooting dropped away slightly which combined with tidy break play from the US team gave them wins in two matches; the third is pegged down in game two with GB leading 1-0. Given current knowledge of light and temperatures, hours of play have been put back to a 9am start rather than 8am. The first round of singles tomorrow will be played best of 5.

Brown and Burridge beat Huneycutt and Stark -26tp(H) +26tp(Bu) +26tp(Br)
Le Moignan and Mulliner lost to Grimsley and Rothman -17tp(G) +26sxp(Mu) -6otp(Mu)
Dawson and Patel beat Bast and Soo -5tp(S) +26tp(D) +16tp(D)
Huneycutt and Stark beat Dawson and Patel +13 +26tp(S)
Grimsley and Rothman beat Brown and Burridge +26tp(G) +16tp(R)

Le Moignan and Mulliner lead Bast and Soo +26tp(LM) (Le Moignan for hoop 2 has croquet on S Boundary in front of hoop 1 with another ball a yard away and a ball by hoop 4. Mulliner and Soo for penult, Bast for peg)

USA lead GB 3-2


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