Croquet England Logo
Croquet England Logo

Challenge & Gilbey

[<<] [>>]

pictureBrian Wilson awards the Challenge Cups clockwise from top left Fuller, Davis, Kibble & Magee

by David Fuller at Cheltenham
5th September 2022 (AC - Mixed)

I was recommended to 'try Cheltenham' by more than one of my A-Class croquet acquaintances. 'Do look at the trees at Sunset' advised DHW. I personally was not disappointed. Eleven pristine lawns disappearing into the distance, only halted by the aforementioned trees. Not only that but the CA Headquarters is 10 yards away, which meant that I could buy my first proper kit!

The Gilbey Goblet (Thursday/Friday)

I arrived early and met Tournament Manager Sarah Hayes who was sorting out the various admin tasks. I was quickly drafted in to help, which I was very happy to do.

The Gilbey Goblet (Handicap Singles) would be managed in four randomly selected blocks with winners through to semifinals the following day. The Consolation Event for those not qualifying would be managed using the Hands Ladder System aka an Egyptian, apparently developed at Cheltenham by Paul Hands (stop me if you know all this, but it was interesting for me). After Sarah's second attempt at explaining how the system worked, it seemed to me that Association Croquet itself is far easier to understand!

The random draw for the all-play-all blocks of four involving a beer glass and some raffle tickets seemed to cause some amusement among the stronger players as a Horror Block was developing where the highest handicap was scratch - Dave Kibble foolishly drew the last place in this block much to the delight of the Manager who was leaving her fate to being the last ticket in the pot - there being only three places left at the time.

Off to lawns 1-8 which meant no double banking and a relaxed day of croquet. The ambience was only punctuated by a couple of significant downpours in the afternoon, but no one seemed to mind.

On a personal note, during my third game of the afternoon, I was sitting watching my opponent and Sarah wandered past. After the game had finished the advice given was to 'Stand up straight man!' Well, I always do as I am told by a woman (especially when they know their stuff) and I followed her advice. Would you believe it? My game was transformed. I tell this anecdote because it reminded me, once again, how generous with advice and suggestions all of the senior players are. Dave Kibble later showed me a cheeky little trick to reverse take-off back through a hoop for running. I mention just two of many excellent conversations. I play this game because it is interesting and challenging, but I would like to know of another sport where mentoring/coaching occurs so readily.

Friday morning as we got to the sharp end with semifinals and finals to compete for the block winners, and a consolation event for those who didn't make it.

Sarah won the Final, completing a clean sweep of matches, and collected the Gilbey Goblet, which was presented by Andrew Hope who is Cheltenham's President and also a Vice-President of the CA.

The Egyptian (Hands Ladder) Consolation event was won by Dave Kibble. The scores were close and Sarah confirms that the result took a Pharaoh time to work out!

I had the pleasure of being Dave's last opponent and am chuffed to say that it was a six-turn game (chuffed on my part, I am sure Dave has had many). Dave hit in on Turn 4 and went round to penult with a nasty leave. I hit in on Turn 5 and did the same (with 2.5 bisques help) with a reasonable leave. Turn 6, Dave hit across the lawn and double-peeled home. Great to watch and a real learning session for me. But my real highlight was Mr Death appearing when I signalled for a referee. Blimey! Luckily I played this tricky shot perfectly and got a 'Good Shot' from James.

Don't forget, I am telling you what it's like for new and (hopefully) improving players. It's just great playing these tournaments and you should all do it!

The Challenge Cups (Saturday/Sunday)

And so to the perhaps more critical stuff of Level Advanced play. Four seeded blocks of four were formed, with an all-play-all on Saturday to decide who would play in each Class semi-final.

Of course, there were many high-quality matches being played. Mark Suter ensured a relaxing afternoon by finishing all three games in very quick time. As a newbie, I was pleasantly surprised to see first-hand that Triple Peels do actually exist; and they look so easy!

I was pleased to create a couple of (vaguely) Diagonal Spreads in my games. I also ventured an FSL - A Fuller Standard Leave (why can't I have one named after me?). To explain, an FSL is quite similar to a New Standard Leave, except there is a much greater flexibility on where the balls can be. Anywhere within about 4 yards of the normal NSL placements. I expect Croquet Terminology standards to be updated immediately!

Sunday semi-finals/finals day arrived. You can see all of the results in CroquetScores

( (note the typo is correct) but to summarise briefly:

D-Class, Keith Davis overcame Adam Moliver and then Eileen McGee to win the Stevenson Cup, and in doing so ruined the 'David/Dave clean sweep' which had the bookies worried for some time.

C-Class, David Magee beat Jim Blenkinsop and then Klim Seabright to win the Reckitt Cup.

B-Class, David Fuller (that's me, I can't believe I am typing this) beat Tom Johnson and then Peter Thompson to win the Council Cup.

I have to say that my match against Peter could have gone either way until that perhaps unsatisfactory 'Plus One on Time' result was recorded.

A-Class, Dave Kibble beat Sarah Hayes and then Mark Suter to win the Roehampton Cup.

Dave and Mark had a classic match in the final (from my perspective at least) with a TPO from Dave and a drawn-out three-ball end-game which was fascinating to watch.

The presentation ceremony was swiftly assembled, with Brian Wilson kindly officiating. He quickly confirmed that he was not, as some may have thought, the lead singer from The Beach Boys, but was in fact the South-West Federation Representative, Council Member and stalwart of the croquet community.

It was a pleasure to have him present the trophies, and to further congratulate Sarah for managing the tournament as accurately as her play on the lawn.

So, reasons to come next year: lovely club and surroundings, high-quality players to watch/play against/learn from, excellent lunches and afternoon teas provided, and, even players like me can win a trophy. What's not to like?


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this news web page are those of the Editor and contributors. Croquet England is not responsible for statements other than those clearly identified as being made on its behalf. The full editorial policy is available online. The Web News Editor is the Croquet England Office.