International Polo Club Invitational Won by Leo McBride
20-22 October 2007
With acres of manicured grass to behold, the view from any point within The International Polo Club, located in Wellington, Florida, is one to savor. And nothing there should be taken for granted. The majestic grandstands hover at the center of what may well be the definition of casual eloquence. From the Clubhouse to the beautiful tennis facility to the calming effect of the tranquil pool, everything flows gently from the eye to the soul. The staff, at every turn, welcomes both members and guests with a smile that is both warm and honest. No, nothing is taken for granted, but nothing is overbearing either. Relaxation comes naturally. And playing croquet there was, and is, nothing but a pleasure.
While the staff and management of International Polo bend over backward to accommodate any need, those who have promoted croquet within the facility breath with equal enthusiasm. Don Jacobson, always available to help those showing interest, spawned the idea for this tournament some time ago. Teaming up with croquet Chairman, David McCoy, the two managed to gather one of the strongest fields available for any USCA sanctioned event. Eight players were on hand, their handicaps ranging from an impressive –1 to –2.5, each attracted not only by the healthy prize money, but by the promise of what this beautiful facility had to offer. And no promises were broken.
While International Polo, today, boasts of but one lawn, it is one of the best anywhere. In the effort to make everything just perfect, the court, after it’s original installation, has been redone twice … with absolutely no need for further improvement. An unfortunate roll could not be found, and the speed was simply blistering. In a game that boasts no advantage for strength of body, the lawn at International Polo proved that touch and control do prevail, and that style will survive even an errant mistake.
Not to say that upsets did not occur. With a level field and a level lawn, who would expect otherwise, and as play entered the final day, six of the eight competitors found themselves tied with 3-3 records. Leo McBride, already holding a 5-1 record, was guaranteed a birth in the Finals. Mike Zuro, staggering into the last day with a 1-5 record, enjoyed the view. Everyone else did math: if he loses to him, and he wins by so-and-so. Aleve was dispersed and the games began.
John Osborn, seeded second going into the day, had the unfortunate problem of facing Leo McBride. The score was 3-26 … enough said. David Bent simply had to win over Johnny Mitchell, which he did (19-13). Tim Bitting and Ron Lloyd, seeded sixth and seventh, were the two players most deeply entangled within the numbers game, Ron needing to beat Mike Zuro by more than six wickets than Tim Bitting could beat Dick Brackett. Or, if you were Tim Bitting, you had to…oh, never mind. Lloyd defeated Zuro 26-3, and while Bitting defeated Brackett, the victory was shallow in points. Bent and Lloyd would now have the chance to battle it out for the chance to play the powerful McBride.
While the Lloyd-Bent match certainly promised to be an entertaining game, most of it went unnoticed, a wonderful lunch proving to be a worthy competitor. With significant prize money looming like clouds over the players, neither participant excelled. Opportunities came and went, and at the end, Lloyd, seeded seventh but just a few hours earlier, found himself (19-10) in the Finals. And an interesting Final it was.
For most of the match, McBride seemed to have total control. As he had all weekend, his aggressive play led to breaks which demonstrated both style and grace. And yet sometimes it is but just that one mistake that can change the tide of progress, and in this case Leo’s minor lack of focus while playing that winning break threatened to cost him everything. Lloyd, now with a well conceived break of his own, looked both comfortable and positive … until he reached four-back. No, not just near four-back, but only inches away from four back … a wicket shot that was not even worth watching. And no, there are no mulligans in croquet. McBride finished, 26-10 etched as the final score of what will hopefully be an event that gains prominence throughout the years.
It really cannot be said enough how well this event was enjoyed by all of the players, win or lose. A more beautiful facility is hard to be found and the efforts by Jacobson, resident teach pro, McCoy, Jane van Pelt and all of the International Polo members will not be quickly forgotten. Should the Club decide to develop more croquet lawns, there is little doubt that International Polo will become a regular stop for all croquet players who enjoy great hospitality, amazing croquet lawns and an aura that best brings out all that is wonderful about this wonderful game.