This was played as an all play all 'round robin' format involving 16 players who had already qualified by winning their local competition or had earned enough points to gain a place in this prestigious final. The players had come from all over the country and were welcomed by yet another glorious sunny day at Cheltenham croquet club. The lawns looked magnificent and all were eager to start not least of the manager, who did hold some reservations, that 8 games might be a stretch too far for handicaps of 7+ on entry to this competition? However, he was pleasantly surprised and relieved to find that very few games actually went to the one hour time limit (apart from the one maverick result of 3-2 between Robinson and Good).
By the end of the day an exhausted but content set of players had all experienced the joy of winning or taking part and the leader board was starting to take shape. The youngsters Jack Good and Henry Gosnell were showing all the confidence of hitting hard and taking on those challenging 'jump' shots that comes with youth and were playing well to stake their claim. However, David Brame, Izzy Poyntz and local boy Ray Bassett were also showing their class and playing beautifully with touch and precision. The general standard was far greater than the manager had anticipated and the idea of finishing the next day with a further 7 games started to seem like an achievable goal!!!
Unfortunately, the weather turned dramatically over night and so the manager made the decision to offer competitors the opportunity not to double bank but use the free lawns instead which was greatly appreciated by all. This allowed for us to finish by 6pm and the competitors to travel home in some day light, at least for a while. It was great to see all the lawns being used with such enthusiasm, despite the weather. The leader board was still very open with new challenges coming from Russell Robinson and another local 'boy' Edwin Bone who ended up with 9 wins (and with 3 golden hoop losses, who knows what might have been).
In the end it went down to the very last round with David Brame needing to win to take victory with a tally of 12. Unfortunately, fate decided that he and Izzy Poyntz both ended the competition with an impressive 11 wins out of 15. However, Izzy gained the trophy with a superior net points score of 19 which was fully deserved bearing in mind she had beaten her nearest 8 rivals!!!
Third position was even closer with three players finishing on 10 wins again being separated by net points in the following order, Jack Good (+30), Russell Robinson (+15), Henry Gosnell (+11).
Finally, my gratitude goes to those Cheltenham members who gave up their time to set the lawns and the caterers that made the weekend such an enjoyable experience for all. Also, to Graham who took on many of the refereeing duties for me. I'm sure we will be seeing a great deal of handicap changes in the near future especially by the youngsters.