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Elite Croquet Returns to Buffalo

After last year’s widely publicized Buffalo Croquet Club Invitational, top croquet players from across the nation and overseas are returning to Delaware Park in August.

The three-day tournament drew widespread acclaim and attention last summer for both its on-court competition and off-court festivities. During the day, players ranging from adolescents to elderly, men and women, competed nonstop from morning to evening. At night, they hosted cocktail parties and galas at local homes and hotels.

“It can sometimes feel like a party-and-play marathon,” said Tournament Manager Ryan Thompson, a 40-year-old attorney who lives in the Elmwood Village. “You wake up at sunrise, play croquet, have lunch at a bar, play more croquet, and then have a different party every night. Sometimes it’s the 80-year-olds who are last to bed.”

But make no mistake about it – the tournament is very serious, and proper on-court etiquette is required, right down to the mandate that everyone’s attire be all white. At stake is the coveted bronze buffalo trophy, as well as free entry into the $200 tournament next year.

This year, the odds-on favorites include Chris Patmore, a world-ranked Brit with the lowest handicap on the roster; John Young III, the Bermuda Croquet Club president and grandson of one of the American game’s creators; and Jim Erwin, a Geneseo-resident who once served as president of the historic New York Croquet Club.

However, there’s also plenty of rookies, local 9-wicket players who are still learning the American 6-wicket version, and longtime croquet hobbyists coming from Florida, Canada, Kansas City and California.

“After 18 years of playing a hybrid brand of 9-wicket backyard croquet, the Buffalo Croquet Club has joined the circuit of both the U.S. Croquet Association and Croquet Canada – the only American club to be members of both!” said Bill Rupp, president of the Buffalo Croquet Club.

“Buffalo, as a border town, is uniquely situated to bring both associations together. And the Olmsted complex, with four lit courts, reception area and locker rooms, is one of the finest facilities in the Northeast. Like all things Buffalo, the facility’s good bones have lay dormant all of these years waiting for this new energy to come along and rediscover it,” Rupp said.

The time and geography was ripe for competitive croquet to come to Buffalo. With the growth of clubs in Ontario, Rochester and around New York City, the croquet world needed something here on the shores of Lake Erie, Thompson explained.

“Complement our tournament with our elite social events, mix in your typical Buffalonian with a smile on their face and beer in their hand, and I knew we would quickly become one of the most sought-after tournaments in the country,” Thompson boasted.

He was right. Thompson said that the 2017 tournament sold out in April, just a few weeks after the Buffalo Croquet Club was named “New Club of the Year” by the United States Croquet Association.

“People were very upset when they thought they were being overly cautious by registering three months ahead of time and were told about a waitlist,” he said. “I feel bad turning people away. We may have to open the tournament up to 40 people over four days next year … though I’d want to get some corporate sponsorship before getting too big.”

Many of this year’s players were fortunate enough to secure rooms at the boutique InnBuffalo mansion on Lafayette Avenue, and the official tournament dinner will take place at well-known Acqua on Niagara Street. Actual play is expected from Aug. 4 to Aug. 6 in Delaware Park, beside the Olmsted headquarters on Parkside Avenue near the Scajaquada.

EVENT: Buffalo Croquet Club 2nd Annual 6-Wicket Invitational

DATES: Friday, Aug. 4 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.), Saturday, Aug. 5 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.), Sunday, Aug. 6 (8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)

LOCATION: Delaware Park croquet courts, beside Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, 84 Parkside Ave., near the Scajaquada Expressway, Route 198.

COST: Free for public to spectate.

CONTACT: Ryan Thompson, (716) 697-4111, thompson77@gmail.com

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