USCA Tournament News
Lobster Invitational 2006 Won by Ben Rothman
by Larry Stettner
The fifth Lobster Invitational Croquet Tournament since its inception in 1997, aka “The Big Lobster”, was held under the auspices of the Mount Desert Island croquet club from September 5 -10, 2006. The Big Lobster is unique in including both 6-wicket American Croquet and 9-wicket Backyard Croquet in the same tournament. The singles competition was all six wicket and held in Brooksville, Maine at the waterside court of Marcia Chapman and Mary Gould. 9-wicket doubles play was in Southwest Harbor at the Historic Claremont Hotel’s two courts and the court of Eileen Holberg. 42 players from around the US and Canada participated, with handicaps ranging from minutes 1 through 13. They competed for the pure fun of it, of course, and for the hand carved “old lobsterman” trophies, awarded to the top three finishers in each flight. The spectacular scenery, sweet September weather, uncrowded byways and the always plentiful and luscious lobster once again provided the perfect background for what one participant called “ the best croquet experience of my life.”
There were four flights in the singles. In the third flight (Starfish and Seaweed blocks), for handicaps 10 and above, the winners were all local MDI club member, as Fred Beck was victorious with Perry Mattson second Jim Pearson taking third.
Second flight (Clam Block) was dominated by Uwe Dreyer who sailed through undefeated, while Fred Beck, playing in two flights as a fill in took second and Tom Kennedy of Isle Au Haut Maine garnered third place honors.
In the first flight ( Barnacle Block) competition was very close with Dave Jarvis of Toronto just nosing out his father in law , John Weld, to take first place. Patricia Duncan, of Greenwhich , Connecticut, playing in her first Big Lobster, took the third place trophy.
The Championship flight (Anemone Block), which drew a large crowd of local aficionados to Brooksville to see what top level play was like. They were not disappointed . Ben Rothman, Stewart Jackson and Neil Houghton in particular put on a dazzling display of spectacular shooting, shrewd acumen and hotly contested matches. Rothman, fresh from going 9-3 at the North American open in Sonoma Cutrer,including two wins over this year;s USCA champion , Leo Mc Bride , was at the top of his game and needed to be. He held on against a spectacular comeback by Stuart Jackson to win 23-20 and against the cagey Houghton just managed to squeak by, 16-15. Houghton prevailed over Jackson 17-16 and thus took second place while Jackson snared the third place trophy.
The doubles were not “ your father’s nine-wicket”. They were played on perfectly flat bent grass lawns, with wide rectangular wickets having thick and sturdy sideposts.The rules were a slightly modified version of those used at the Claremont Classic for the last 30 years. There is no carry over deadness and no penalty of any kind of any ball going out of bounds. This makes for an explosive offensive games where the 60 foot hit in is mandatory to get back “in” and the game can turn on a dime at any time. The wicketed ball rule spices the game up considerably and creates fascinating strategic conundrums for the players to figure out. This rule states if a ball running its wickets gets stuck in the jaws, then its turn ends right there. Further, any striker ball that hits that ball while it is wicketed loses its turn and misses its next turn. Still further when the wicketed ball completes its run through the wicket, it does not earn a continuation shot, since it did not run the wicket on one stroke. Thus a wicketed ball is a two edged sword and creates unique croquet situations. When 6-wicket players look at the wide wickets on a flat court and learn that there is no carry no-over deadness and no penalty for going out of bounds the game looks simple. Once they start playing it the complexity ensues and they eagerly seek out bits of strategic advice from the local 9-wicket players between games.
In the 1st flight doubles (Moose Block), first timers John and Diane Richardson from Caledon Ontario caught on fast and bested Big Lobster veterans John and Pat Weld to take first place. Wendy and Dave Jarvis, daughter and son-in-law respectively of the Welds took third.
In the championship flight (Black Bear block) the finals match consisting of Josie and Stewart Jackson versus Ben Rothman and Sarah Cunningham, was, to use an old fashioned word, a “doozy”. The day was perfect, as a crowd of 40 or so sat on the sunny hillside over looking the court with Sommes Sound and the mountains of Acadaia National Park as the backdrop.The National Bullseye Sailing championships were unfolding on the water before us as the croquet match progressed in the fore-ground. Mr. Rothman played brilliantly and Ms. Cunningham was very steady despite being a novice, a veritable lamb among lions.
Mr. Rothman was about to stake out both balls when he moved his mallet forward preparing for his shot and the referee ruled that this WAS his shot. Mr. Rothman to his credit, calmly accepted the call. Mr. Jackson now was in last turns, with his ball 60 feet away fro the other three balls on the end line behind the finishing stake. Further his ball was only for wicket six, the first of the two going into the turning stake, while Josie;s ball was for the peg. He nailed the 60 footer right between the eyes and managed to cut one of the balls off of the back line by about 15 feet or so. This left a 45 foot rolls shot to get to position at his hoop and have a ball to play off on the line behind the turning stake. As the crowd held its breath he pulled it off perfectly and ran the two ball around, ending with the double stake out and the victory. As good a moment as there as ever been in croquet for spectator and player alike! (Don Mathieson and Parsells took third place, just beating out the last Big Lobster doubles champions, Marg and Emery Branscombe.)
The social side of the tournament was, as usual, as inviting and congenial as the surroundings. There was the opening night BBQ, following the 9-wicket clinic, adjacent to the Holberg court complete with musical entertainment and a dance floor on the lawn and the traditional downeast lobster dinner on the water at the Morrings restaurant. The latter also featured nautical themed balloon sculptures by professional clown and balloon artist, Kathy Gurak. One could have sworn that the centerpieces were crystal, not latex! Lunches for the doubles were all at the Claremont Boathouse where indoor or outdoor dining was available, and for singles everyone received a truly big lobster special: a jumbo Lobster Roll., procured specially from a local “lobster shack.” The large Candadian contingent also put on their own impromptu lobster bake at harborside one night, graciously including a few americans and steak for the shellfish averse. The local MDI club members, grown in numbers considerably since the last Big Lobster, also enjoyed themselves thoroughly.. They voted soon afterwards to make the Big Lobster and annual event from now on.
Championship Flight Singles
First Flight Singles
Second Flight Singles
Third Flight Singles
Championship Flight Doubles
First Flight Doubles