Joel Taylor played the most consistent croquet of the weekend to end up clear winner of the Kate Jones.
The manager had decided to apply yet another new format to the lower tier of the selection events for GC. This format matched that of the AC Eights: a double round robin. GC often adopts a best-of-two format for block play but that involves playing the two games back to back.
A double round robin works well for either an eight or a six in GC over the two days of a weekend.
On this occasion, only six players were available, so each game was 19 points (for eight players, 13 points would be appropriate).
On the Saturday, the players completed six games (i.e. the complete first round plus the first game from the second round), leaving four games for the Sunday and enough time for play-off games in the case that more than one player shared the highest number of wins across the double round robin.
The games across the weekend were not all close but the final results indicated overall competitiveness between the players.
William Ormerod was the defending champion but finished last this time round. His results though included two 9-10 losses, which would otherwise have put him close up with the rest of the players. He did, however, maintain his usual exemplary standards of gentlemanly conduct in terms of own mental composure and effusive compliments to opponents who played skillful shots in even the tightest of his games.
Tom Weston was the only player who joined Joel at the end of Saturday on four wins (out of six games). These two players though were only one game ahead of Tim King and Andrew Dymond, so the final result was still far from certain.
Sunday almost became interesting when the slowest game in the penultimate round involved William keeping in close touch with Joel. This slowness allowed the other players to watch the end and realise the potential for Andrew and Tim to remain in contention to force a play-off with the right results in the final round.
Having drawn level at 8-8, William was able to get one of his balls into the jaws of hoop 17.
Joel faced only one glimmer of hope: a very angled short-range jump shot. He had previously shown his ability at these shots against Tim and, sure enough, he did not fail on this occasion.
William continued the chase though, taking hoop 18 without too much fuss, although he did not pass through far enough to have a clean shot to land in front of hoop 19.
Joel then prolonged the drama by failing to get his first approach to the running side of 19.
William made no such mistake and the pressure was on Joel, who then found a response to prevent any immediate advantage.
After a few more shots, Joel had the chance he needed and ran the hoop from the boundary, making for a fitting way to achieve certainty of his win for the whole weekend.
Despite knowing who was destined to be champion, the players duly completed the final round, continuing in what had been perfect weather across the two days.
Joel achieves his success in only his fourth ranking GC tournament, having honed his skills in AC. He plays his clearances with calm, controlled precision. He will, without doubt, continue to learn from more exposure to the different positions of GC and progress further up the rankings.
With no play off necessary, the players were able to leave Hamptworth by tea time. The play off, if necessary, would have followed the scheme defined by the WCF regulations for blocks in World Championships.
Everybody seemed content with the format, which included awarding the toss in the second round to the player who had played red and yellow in the first round. This seems likely to be the choice for future years.
Hamptworth were perfect hosts for the weekend and the courts were a fair test of skills.