Ross Bagni wins the Wrest Park GC A-Level
On 23rd and 24th April, Wrest Park was the venue for both the opening tournament in the GC A-Level National Series and English Heritage's St George's Festival which offered the spectacle of an armour-plated St George slaying the Dragon every hour on the hour. The croquet competition was not as fierce but an unrelenting east wind on the Saturday ensured that it was challenging.
A full field of 16 players was split into 2 blocks and played on an all-play-all basis. In Block A, Mike Hills (Northampton) and Jane Humphreys (Sussex County) mastered the conditions best and each recorded 6 wins. Geoff Johnson (Watford) had 4 wins but there was a scramble for the final place in the Knockout as Paul Gunn (Wingrave), David Frost (Enfield) and Ron Carter (Ealing) all finished with 3 wins each. Ron's superior hoop count enabled him to progress.
In Block B, Neil Humphreys (Sussex County) justified his position as top seed with 6 wins. His success was equalled by John Taylor (Watford), who defied his 2 handicap to take some notable scalps. Ross Bagni (Leighton-Linslade) and Andrew Larpent (Ryde) each scored 4 wins.
Sunday dawned fine and sunny with a gentle breeze. The Quarter-Finals were contested on a Best-of-Three 13-point basis in accordance with the newly-introduced Standard Format. Mike Hills and John Taylor both maintained their good form to defeat Andrew Larpent and Geoff Johnson in 2 straight games respectively. However, neither Jane nor Neil Humphreys could recapture their prowess of the previous day. Jane lost to Ross Bagni (7-6, 5-7, 4-7) and Neil succumbed to Ron Carter (5-7, 7-5, 2-7).
In the Semi-Finals, Ross beat Ron (7-6, 7-4) and Mike eventually prevailed over John (7-5, 5-7, 7-4) whose disappointment was eased by his handicap being reduced to 1. In the Final between Mike and Ross, the turning point proved to be the 13th hoop of their 1st game which Ross ran when his ball went through at an unlikely angle following a clearance shot. Mike's form dipped and Ross won 7-6,7-4. His handicap reduced to 0 from 1.
The Plate was contested between 8 players on an all-play-all block basis, again following the new Format. By good fortune, the final round of games pitched Stephen Custance-Baker (Taunton Deane) and Tim Brooker (Himley) together with 5 wins each. Stephen won 7-2.
Manager, Richard Keighley presented the prizes and thanked his clubmate George Collin and his team for excellent ground preparation. He also appreciated the help of Stephen as R-o-T and that of David Frost and Mike Bilton (Gainsborough) as supporting referees. The players departed to the sound of a cannon from the Festival.