Golf National Championships Won by Leo McBride, and John Osborn & David McCoy
They say that timing is everything, and with hurricane Fay lurking off the coast of Cuba, the 2008 USCA Golf Croquet Championships were actually lucky to have been completed without any serious interruptions. Of course, the timing and the choice of location for the event did raise some questions. To quote one unnamed high-ranking USCA Official (Rich Curtis): “What the heck were we thinking about!?” Nevertheless, the event did finish on time, high humidity and scattered lightening doing little to break the spirit of those participating.
While the field itself was understandably small, eight contestants in Singles and four teams in Doubles, the cast of characters was neither bored nor boring. In the Singles division, block play with 19-point matches led to a single elimination ladder with best of three 13-point games, the top four participants reaching the Playoffs. The Doubles used block play with best of three 13-point games with the top two teams gaining a birth in the Finals, the same set-up in play there. Sunshiny balls were in use, the hoops were set with minimal clearance and the lawns proved to be in fantastic shape.
As is always the case with Golf Croquet, the general flow of play varied. Of the 27 19-point matches, only one game went the full distance, Dick Brackett edging Leo McBride 10-9. On the flip side, Leo did find himself benefiting from the most lop-sided 19-point score with a 10-2 victory over Bill Martin. Of course, once hands had been shaken and the balls removed from the lawn, both Leo and Bill were informed that the actual score (at that time) was 9-3. While a spirited discussion, almost as interesting as the game, naturally ensued, the players eventually moved on.
In the Singles Semi-Finals, Leo McBride, having gained the top-seed with his 10-7 victory over Sherif Abdelwahab at the end of block play, made quick work (7-5, 7-2) of the number four seed, Dick Brackett. The other Semi took both longer to play … and to start. Needless to say, when a referee is called out before a coin has even been tossed, there are probably issues out there failing to fall into that warm and cozy category. Bill Martin had earned his way into the Playoffs with an exciting 10-8 victory over the easy-going Jimmy Huff, though while he may have dismissed of Jimmy, his issues with Sherif, stemming from day one, once again reemerged. Bill asked for a referee to be on-court. Sherif asked for a one-minute shot clock. Neither request was granted, though the suggestion of a no-talk game was offered and accepted. Sherif won with 7-5, 7-5 scores.
The Finals, between Leo and Sherif, lived up to all expectations. Loosely seeded as the top two players, and that having been reconfirmed after block play, both players were now rounding into great form. In game one, Leo jumped into a surprising 4-0 lead, Sherif just slightly off in some of his impressive rocket-shots. Hoops were swapped, and Leo found himself with a 1-0 (7-4) lead. Game two could not have been any more different. In this case, Sherif, perhaps a bit miffed over his game one performance, gained that quick 4-0 lead. And he did not let up, coasting to a 7-1 victory!
While many might have thought that the results of game two would affect the approach of the tired Leo, those with such thoughts were quickly proved to be wrong. Leo again gained a surprising 3-0 lead, yet as opposed to game one, that lead would not last, the game eventually finding itself tied at 4-4 and at 5-5. But, as mentioned earlier, timing can mean everything. Leo managed to score an aggressive eleventh hoop, and after a short battle and after Sherif missed a long distance desperate attempt, Leo scored #12 from moderate distance to capture the Title.
It must be said that the shooting within the Finals match was quite impressive, the combination of power and touch by both players impressing the small but enthusiastic crowd. Leo now, as reported by Dick Brackett, has hit for the cycle, winning both the Singles and Doubles in the USCA Championships, the USCA Association Rules Championships and the USCA Golf Croquet Championships! Beyond impressive … and saddened by the fact that Leo has intimated that this upcoming USCA Nationals may be his last, his focus to be devoted toward other versions of the game. Of course, it’s Leo … who knows?
While the Doubles Finals (Osborn-McCoy vs. McBride-Brackett) lasted but two games, those two games managed to last a very, very long three hours. In the first of the two, the score stayed close throughout, John scoring #12 to tie things up. Leo then lagged even with #3, the winning hoop. At this point in time, John suggested that David, shooting from a different zip code, aim to score #3 from the wrong side and dribble through to a perfectly wired position. And if you hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t believe that it actually happen! Dick took a Hail Mary, John did nothing of importance and when Leo was unable to dislodge David from the hoop, game one was over.
Game two took on a quite a different nature, Leo and Dick jumping to a quick 3-0 lead. Still, John and David, recovered now from the shock of the first game, captured the next four. Then Leo and Dick took two. Then John and David took one, and another, and when Dick Brackett missed a jump shot from a mile and a half away, the match was over 7-6, 7-5.All in all, aside from the occasional sideshow, the attitude of this year’s Golf Croquet Championships was wonderful. More importantly, the play this week only exemplifies that the game of Golf Croquet, in general, holds more value than many recognize. It may be that few have experienced this version of croquet in tournament conditions, but all are encouraged to do so … it may not change your life, but it may expand upon the wonderful possibilities. Thanks go out to the USCA, Archie Peck and the NCC for making everything happen. It is hoped that next year the field will be larger, the game even closer and that the excitement continues to become contagious.
Sherif Abdelwahab lost Leo McBride 5-7, 7-1, 5-7
John Osborn-David McCoy defeated Leo McBride-Dick Brackett 7-6, 7-5
Leo McBride defeated Dick Brackett 7-5, 7-2
Final Block Singles Records
5-2 Leo McBride
John Osborn-David McCoy defeated Sherif Abdelwahab-Mik Mehas 5-7, 7-6, 7-5
Jimmy Huff lost to Mik Mehas 6-10
John Osborn-David McCoy defeated Leo McBride-Dick Brackett 7-5, 7-5
Dick Brackett defeated Jimmy Huff 10-8
Leo McBride-Dick Brackett defeated Mik Mehas-Sherif Abdelwahab 7-2, 7-6
Jimmy Huff lost to Bill Martin 8-10