Edgbaston was the second ever Croquet Club to hold a GC B Class Tournament, with 2018 seeing the 12th staging of this popular late-season event. There had been one previous C Class and this was re-introduced for 2018, primarily in an effort to encourage local players to dip toes into competitive water.
Lawns were shaved on the Sunday in readiness for Monday's C Class. Burning weather further enhanced speed, and 10% or 20% residual scorched areas from this year's tropical weather presented a tough challenge to the 7 to 12 Handicappers. All played with courage, in an impressively positive way. By late afternoon, most competitors still expressed surprise as approach after approach sailed past intended parking bays. Only one player had registered colour deficiency - he won - but all 12 failed to discriminate the brown patches from the green ones !
The event was a Manager's dream. No-one won them all; everyone registered at least one win; friendliness and sportsmanship overflowed. A lovely bunch with much playing potential. The impressive Freda Knight faded just at the wrong time and succumbed to Thomas Halliday in the semi. Naomi Whitehead maintained excellent consistent clearing to defeat Rod Ellis, en route to the Final. Here, Thomas Halliday, fresh from All England AC victory, played way above Handicap, even after cutting, to dominate and secure the prize. Deserved result for a player who is capable of bypassing C Class and B Class very soon.
The weather then played a perverse trick. Heavy overnight rain (happily not continuing during playing hours) turned the challenging lawns, that the C Classers had battled, into gentle even paced surfaces for the 3 & 4 & 5 Handicaps. Brown played as green (lawns, not balls) and these experienced competitors could showcase their prowess. The field contained three former holders of the imposing Abnalls Trophy, but Jane Tewson emerged victorious from the shadows. Her semi final qualification hung on the thread of her last Block match and some fancy countback maths. It is not how you play at the beginning of a Tournament, but your form at the "business end". David Ball had been unbeaten all day, until the Final, but Jane's mojo was ever rising, as David's diminished, allowing a thirteenth hoop squeak. Our Finalists had "seen off" the admirable Jean Ball and Roger Stroud, whose power was not quite enough to balance out inconsistency, in the earlier semi finals. The Draw and consequent Results had key matches between Mr & Mrs Ball, brothers McCausland and Chatwin & Skidmore. There were no reports of domestic disharmony on return journeys, thankfully.
Edgbaston trialled cold buffet lunches, rather than their traditional soup and "hot" and pudd. The new arrangement was well received, being convivial and more suited to afternoon sporting exertion. Whether this would have been so good in past years, needing 4 layers of September clothing, is less certain. Special thanks were expressed to Mij & Moira & Juliana & Esther for managing the all-day catering so expertly. Paddy's efforts to deliver such excellent playing conditions against an awkward Summer of adverse (for Croquet) weather were appreciated - especially by those knowledgeable folk who face similar challenges at their own Clubs.
Two very good days, notable for splendid sport and even better people.