This tournament was Guildford and Godalming's contribution to the B-level series from which qualifiers will reach the national final weekend in October, As manager, I have to say that I was the recipient of an enormous amount of good fortune. It had rained heavily and steadily for a good portion of the night, but what had been parched lawns the day before had absorbed everything and by the morning were damp but playable. Lucky break number one.
Second piece of good fortune - everybody arrived on time and turned out to be a super bunch of people -well, that's the norm with croquet players, I guess. Third piece of luck was the weather. Sandwiched between the previous night's rain and the expected arrival of the remains of hurricane Bertha, we had an absolutely glorious day - plenty of sunshine and just the right temperature. Perfect!
The 12 competitors came from as far north as Nottingham and as far south west as Hamptworth. Play consisted of two all-play-all blocks, with the block winners to contest the final, the runners-up to contest 3rd and 4th places, and so forth. Competition was fierce, with quite a few upsets; the consequence being that by lunchtime, with three rounds completed, nobody had three wins, but eight players had registered two wins. Eight people were most assuredly in the hunt. More fierce tussles ensued, but after five rounds, Farooq Malik (Dulwich) and Mike Huxley (G & G) had qualified for the final with Janet Trueman (Hamptworth) and Amanda Bentley (G & G) contesting third place.
In a closely-fought game, Amanda pipped Janet for third place. Following on, on the same court, Farooq and Mike were engaged in a nailbiting game. One all, two all, three all, Mike goes ahead five-three, Farooq takes the next three hoops to lead six-five, Mike levels at six all. So, on to the thirteenth, which I am reliably informed, took well over ten minutes to resolve. Clearances here, clearances there, both players jockeying for position. In the end, the advantage seemed to lie with Farooq. If he cleared one of Mike's balls, he was likely to have an eminently runnable attempt at the hoop with his other ball, unless Mike cleared from distance. Cue the fates. Farooq smacked his striker's ball with extremely high velocity, and with the greatest of misfortune managed to peel Mike's ball through hoop 13 and quite some way down the lawn. Manager's lucky break number four, though I wouldn't have wanted to win that way, given the choice. Many commiserations to Farooq.
1st Mike Huxley
2nd Farooq Malik
3rd Amanda Bentley
4th Janet Trueman