Stuart M. Smith wins the Sidmouth GC Open Series tournament
Stuart M Smith receiving the Chalice Cup from Louise (Photo: Ed Dolphin)by Louise Smith at Sidmouth
13th July 2023 (GC)
Sidmouth Croquet Club once again attracted 16 players from clubs across the country to compete for the Chalice Cup in the GC Open Series tournament.
The format followed the usual Block play followed by a knock-out and consolation events. Block A was dominated by the top two seeds, Stuart M. Smith and Stephen Custance Baker who progressed to the Quarter Finals alongside Andy Loakes and Richard Brand.
In Block B, 6th seed Neil Fillery put in a super performance winning 6 from 7 games to take 1st place in the group. The rest of the Block was highly contested with four other players gaining 4 wins apiece; Les Heard, Diana Wilson, Steve Leonard and Louise Smith. Sadly, Louise missed out on the Quarter Finals with -5 net hoops compared to Diana and Steve's joint +1 hoops.
The shuffle of expected seeding positions in Block B meant that Steve Leonard now faced Stuart M. Smith in the Quarter Final round. Despite some long-distance hoop runs from Steve this match ended fairly swiftly with a 2/0 win for Stuart. Stephen Custance Baker also beat Diana Wilson 2/0, with the other two Quarter Finals stretching to three games. Les Heard and Andy Loakes had three x 7/5 results, with Les gaining two of those in his favour. Similarly, Richard Brand and Neil Fillery's close three game results saw the on-form Neil march on to the Semi Finals.
The Semi Final produced another 2/0 win for Stuart against Les, with the two Taunton Dean players Stephen Custance Baker and Neil Fillery battling it out over three games. Stephen took victory in the third 7/6 to progress to the main Final.
Meanwhile, the cross-block plate produced three players from Block A and one from Block B all on three wins. This led to a Semi Final and subsequent Plate Final in which Martin French played David Thirtle Watts. This was a very competitive game with Martin eventually winning the Plate title with a 7/5 score.
The Bowl knock-out produced two tight matches for progression to the Bowl Final, with Steve Leonard and Richard Brand beating Andy Loakes and Diana Wilson respectively. The subsequent three game Bowl Final saw a 7/3, 5/7, 7/2 winning scoreline for Steve.
The main tournament Final featured the two strongest competitors from Block A, in which Stephen Custance Baker had inflicted Stuart M. Smith's one game loss so far. The Final gave the spectators a good display of both players skills, making for a very enjoyable match. In the end, it was Stuart's long-range clearances and centre ball strikes that secured him the Open title, 7/4, 7/4.
Sincere thanks are extended to the Sidmouth Club for their hospitality, and in particular to Philip Harris for all of the court preparations.