Delaware Croquet Club Invitational Won by David Lyon, and Tom Hughes & Rufus Bayard
There is a simplicity that has always run through (or perhaps created) the currents that make up the Delaware Croquet Club. Wilmington itself is stitched together with streams and brooks, deer and wildlife for which handbooks are always of assistance. And croquet has been played here longer than the twenty-five years this Invitational has now celebrated. These currents, as they always are, prove to be stronger beneath the exterior surface that most see, and with that power the Club has continued to offer one of the most relaxed yet focused opportunities to truly enjoy both company and competition.
This year was of no difference. While the Club promotes primarily through conversation, and while these soft-spoken words result in a smaller participation than possible, those wise enough to enjoy the atmosphere are always rewarded.
Two Flights of Doubles began this Memorial Weekend celebration, thus allowing many players to enlist only within the Singles portion of the draw. Likewise, given the number of Doubles participants, Waterford Doubles proved to be the format of choice. And, with this option, the results proved to be fascinating.
Two players, surprisingly enough, either opted or preferred to play Doubles only. Rufus Bayard, straight off of his Waterford Doubles victory at Piping Rock the week before, finished well enough, though not without drama, to make the Final Four. (As opposed to many Waterford Tournaments, the top four actually play off in a Final’s match.) Linda Prickett, a 6-handicapper and now swimming with both the current and the sharks went 4-0 within the Block and was now teamed with the number two seed Craig Smith. Rufus, unfortunately or not, beat out Barry Gibson by one net point and now was saddled (good word) with Tom Hughes. The Final: Rufus and Tom prevailed 19-7.
In the First Flight Doubles, Patricia Duncan ruled. (And probably scared some of the wildlife as she did.) And yet, despite the 4-0 record she accomplished, her inability to read an invitation forced her to leave Sunday night, thus missing the Playoffs. With the Playoffs now a bit askew, hotshot Ken Northrop snuck through the backdoor and, teamed with Kevin Joyce, showed little respect to the sexy team of Polly Moore and, as listed in the program, “the beautiful, erotic, exciting and marvelous” Lauren Hammond. The gentlemen prevailed (thugs) 19-6.
In the Championship Singles Division Finals, it is hard to believe that Barry Gibson did not see the vultures circling. And yes, they were there. Playing against David Lyon, Barry managed to hit the outside stantion of the first wicket with blue, and the outside stantion of the left with black. That should have been a clue, as David, playing well, captured his first Championship Flight Singles title with a 26-9 finish. Interestingly enough, David barely made the Playoffs … he needed the grudge match between Tom & Jim Hughes to be decided by more than 18 net points to make the Final Four … Tom won 26-6, only one of two matches to be finished within the one hour and twenty minute limit.
In the First Flight, Ken Northrop, with only one singles lose throughout the weekend, defeated the charging Whickey Knight, while in the Second Flight, Kevin Joyce defeated Lauren Hammond (17-9) to complete his 7-0 Singles event!
What is truly amazing is how all of the loses were well absorbed, and the wins slowly digested throughout the entire weekend. Five rounds per day with one hour and twenty minute matches upon the three Wilmington Country Club courts gave everyone a chance to relax, and when not dressed in white, the hospitality was simply phenomenal. Tom and Joan Hughes hosted the opening reception while Craig and Amy Smith overfed everyone and the Player’s Dinner, one that once again honored the long service and friendship of Larry Moore. Lunches throughout the event left little to be desired.In retrospect, it was not the great weather that made this weekend so beautiful. Or the food, or the fantastic sportsmanship. Or the social events that let everyone take an unneeded breath. It was that atmosphere that comes naturally, and an attitude that allows everyone to simply enjoy the wonderful game of croquet, an enjoyment within which no outcome is worthy of debate. Twenty-five years may seem like a landmark, but it is not … it is simply another day within which everyone was lucky enough to participate. Thanks go to Barry Gibson (Club President), and Jim, and Tom, and Rufus, and everyone else who thought not twice to make the rest of the field feel like family. It’s special in Delaware … enough said.