The New Zealand team have now been in Rancho Mirage four days, with most of this taken up with practising on the picturesque lawns of the Mission Hills Croquet Llub. Our team comprises Jenny Clarke (captain), Joe Hogan, Toby Garrison, Aiken Hakes, Chris Shilling, Harps Tahurangi (week 2 onwards) and myself.
The Mission Hills club has excellent facilities and is a really nice place to spend time. Our impression of the lawns is that they are nothing at all like NZ playing conditions. The lawns here are soft and green, with very forgiving hoops. This means that almost 100% emphasis is placed on shooting, with breaks and large peeling turns taken somewhat for granted. We are likely to see some very short playing days, where all matches may be finished at or shortly after lunch.
Day 1 started in glorious sunshine (as per usual) with a very strong start by the USA. On lawn 3, Joe and Chris had a slightly difficult start due to their opponents playing exceptionally well in beating them “no croquet” - we will see a lot of “no croquet” games over the coming days due to the playing conditions.
Aiken Hakes and Toby Garrison also had a tough day at the office, although a slightly more interactive match vs Ben Rothman and David Maloof, with the Americans eventually winning 2-0.
Jenny and myself had an excellent first game vs Stephen Morgan and Danny Huneycutt, but with the wind picking up in the second game there were a couple of errors from both sides before Jenny and I scraped over the line.
So at the end of day 1, USA lead NZ 2-1 with still 18 points up for grabs. All in all, a fair result from the first day’s play.
PLAYER JOURNAL FROM PADDY CHAPMAN