The 2003 Belgian 14-point Open, played on the delightful lawns of the Chateau de Lac at 'Brussels Croquet Club at Genval' over the scorching weekend of August 9/10, attracted entries from seven different countries, given that Mike Town is now Lux-based and Nelson has actually been back to NZ. The main event resulted in a win for Peter Payne while Don Gaunt won the consolation Golf event.
In the heat of Saturday, surprisingly, the four blocks of four were completed ahead of time, finishing much as expected by the seeding. This enabled the quarter-finals to be played that evening, the main upturn being that local favourite Jonathan Lamb beat Don Gaunt for a place in the Semis.
The real main events in Genval, of course, are the backgammon tournament (well, there is money to be made) and the dinner and concert, which this year was at the Villa de Lac (another part of the John Martin hotel empire) just up the hill from the Chateau but with the added attraction of an outdoor swimming pool where half the crew ended up after an excellent meal !
Sunday morning dawned just as warm, but with the advantage to the sore of head that only the semi-finalists were needed till 11 a.m. (as it turned out, somewhat later) as the Best-of-Three semi-finals were single-banked on the two lawns. Kevin Carter defeated Nelson Morrow in two straight games which included his attempt at a mostly 2-ball straight triple that only failed at the rover hurdle with three peels done and a missed roquet on Nelson's boundary balls.
Meanwhile, all the heart-stopping action was on the other lawn where Peter Payne took the first game +3 and Jonathan Lamb replied with a +1T. Jonathan looked to have the match sewn up, approaching peg with his second ball and Peter stranded still on 1-and-1, but a hampered roquet after rover left a distant peg-out attempt and the front ball alone on the lawn. As so often happens, this was to prove his nemesis as Peter two-balled and Jonathan shaved the peg, Jonathan trickled up and Peter hit him away till the inevitable conclusion - Peter by +1.
The consolation 'Plate' event this year was golf croquet since the Belgian Golf Croquet Open had not been played and the silverware was still available. The twelve who had not made the Semis played in blocks of three, giving four semi-finalists. Don Gaunt beat John Swabey to book one place in the final, while "Monsieur le President" Charles-Eric Vilain XIIII beat Mike Town in the other semi. Don then made up for getting dumped out of the Association by winning the splendid John Martin Cup by 7-6, 5-6, 6-2. John Swabey added a sartorial note by inventing the combined referee and mobile scoreboard, hanging the red and blue pegs from either side of his sun-hat.
And so to the Final. In game one, after both had given contact, Peter with the single ball profited from a wiring lift to come out the winner, then Kevin took the second closely. Finally, Peter dominated the decider to win by +13 and take his first European title this year, thus adding a Swiss name to the French, English and Italian previous holders of the prestigious silver salver.
Yet again - a superb venue, splendid weather, courtside hospitality second-to-none, excellent company and exciting play - "Bravo Belgium !!"