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Tuesday
Jun272017

2017 Croquet News Volume 1, Web Edition

The 2017 Volume 1 issue of the USCA's Croquet News magazine is now available as a PDF for USCA members on the magazine page of the USCA website (log in required).

Here's the full run-down of articles you'll find in the 2017V1 issue:

  • 2017 World Golf Croquet Championship
  • 2017 USCA AC Laws National Championship
  • Club Teams / Croquet Week Coverage
  • 2017 Florida Golf Croquet Regional
  • Member Profile: Johnny Mitchell
  • Club Profile: Sarasota County Croquet Club
  • 2016 USCA Awards Winners
  • On Tactics: Plan Your Escape

ABOUT THE PDF EDITION: All website and e-mail links should be live in the PDF. If you see an interesting reference, you can click through to dig deeper or reach a contact right away. On computers, the PDF version is best viewed as "two-up" and "show cover page" if you want to see the full spreads (on your Adobe Reader top menu: View/Page Display). The PDF should also be viewable on most tablets.

Friday
Jun162017

2017 States Shield Rosters

All four states for the 2017 Croquet Network States Shield have submitted rosters. The teams were allowed to submit up to six players, but only three starters will play in each of the test rounds. Round one starts in July with Illinois taking on Wisconsin in Milwaukee on July 22. Kansas will play Missouri in Kansas City during the same weekend. Official dates are expected to be announced soon. The winners of those two tests will meet on August 19 for the championship to be held at Kactus Creek Croquet Club in Kansas City.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun072017

States Shield Expands to Four Teams

Croquet Network is proud to announce an expansion for the 2017 edition of States Shield Golf Croquet team test. The GC team test started modestly in 2016 with Kansas and Missouri facing off last May with Missouri taking the inaugural title 7-3. For year two, Illinois and Wisconsin will join the mix and the first round tests will take place during the weekend of July 22. Wisconsin will host Illinois at the Milwaukee Croquet Club and Missouri will host Kansas at the Kactus Creek Croquet Club. The winners of those two tests will square off for the Shield in the Kansas City metro on August 19, 2017 at the Kactus Creek Croquet Club.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May162017

Video: New Zealand's Dramatic Win vs USA


Video from Chris Clarke: The last action of the USA v NZ Test at the 2017 MacRobertson Shield held at Mission Hills. We join it with USA leading 10-9. Chris Shilling is in the third against Stuart Lawrence and Aiken Hakes is game up against Jeff Soo.
Thursday
May112017

Ted Prentis

From USCA President Sara Low:

It is with deep sadness that I have to report the death of Teddy Prentis. Teddy was in Bermuda playing croquet, doing what he loved most, when a tragic road accident took his life this morning.

A giant in the croquet world, Teddy was inducted in the U.S. Croquet Hall of Fame in 1989. Throughout his life, he held eight USCA National Titles and served as Director of the USCA’s National School in addition to winning or running an uncountable number of club tournaments and teaching positions. We all loved him for his athletic ability in the sport, his knowledge of and position within its history, his commitment to teaching us to improve our play and his great sense of humor.

You will always be a player of distinction, Teddy. We will miss you terribly.

Sunday
May072017

Soo 18: 2017 Mac Wrap Up

All that history, and now our names too -- Malcolm and Greg Fletcher with the MacRobertson Shield. Click to Zoom.

On the final day of the 2017 MacRobertson Shield, England and Australia extended their leads. Two singles matches were left unplayed, due to the extreme heat (officially 105/40, but probably hotter on the lawns) and the fact that both tests had been decided the day before. The final tally:

1. Australia (3/3 test matches, 40/63 individual matches)
2. England (2/3 test matches, 38/61 individual matches)
3. New Zealand (1/3 test matches, 22/61 individual matches)
4. United States (0/3 test matches, 24/63 individual matches)

Australia's victory is notable in many ways. It is their first series win since 1935, and their first outside Australia. It is the first time since 1935 that the England or Great Britain team has been beaten twice in a row, the first time three siblings have played in the event, and the first time that the defending champions have finished lower than 2nd.

ROUND THREE PHOTO GALLERY

What lessons can the other teams draw from Australia's performance?

It's good to have the world's #1 player on your team. An obvious point, but beyond assuring a healthy number of wins at the top position, this engenders a lot of confidence for the rest of the team.

Strength in depth is critical. The top performer for the series on percentage of matches won was Greg Fletcher, playing at #5 and winning 5/6 singles and 7/9 doubles with Simon Hockey. Every team has at least one player ranked in the world top ten; it's at the bottom of the order that the differences are most pronounced. A team that can legitimately put very strong players at #5 and #6 has a huge advantage.

Team unity and discipline play a role. During Great Britain's streak of seven successive MacRobertson Shield championships, their team-of-rivals style worked well enough, because of their overwhelming advantage in playing strength for most of that period. In a more competitive series, Australia (and New Zealand in 2014) have shown the value of a unified approach. This applies to on-court matters such as tactics and doubles compatibility, as well as logistical arrangements for travel, housing, etc. An effective team manager is a big help.

Thursday
May042017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 3

Third Tests Review

It would be all too easy to write about the hoard of errors that we have seen over the past five days. To do so would completely fail to acknowledge the extreme temperatures that the players have had to endure. I would certainly not have been playing at multiple junctures, with temperatures reaching 106 F. The pull on the balls had increased noticeably, with some players commenting that the black has been too hot to pick up.

Therefore, I will just comment on a few of the high quality matches that have still occurred. Jamie Burch played well to beat Paddy Chapman, Aiken Hakes played well to beat David Maugham who also played well back and Robert Fletcher played well against Ben Rothman.

England comfortably beat NZ 15-4, although the match should have been tied 3-3 after day 2. Australia played solid croquet to achieve the basic Mac pattern of winning each day 2-1, 4-2, 2-1, 4-2, 2-1. The USA were competitive throughout.

The event lacked several things and one thing.

  • Finishing – so many basic finishing turns failed to finish.
  • Understanding – there was a lack of understanding of how to make lift leaves, play pegged out endings, optimise non-lift leaves and optimise openings.
  • Leaves – so many games featured leaves giving away 9 yarders, or doubles.
  • Firm hoops – it was too easy to run hoops gently from distance and angle.
  • Originality – there was a lack of popping combined with hoop leaves.
  • Reliability – very few players were able to produce a consistent performance level.
  • Desire – from the English to turn up fully prepared to play the Australians in the first Test.

Below is an overview of each team followed by my thoughts on the individual players. Whilst we were over here, we had the NFL Draft after which some reporters gave a grade to each of the 32 teams. I have tried to do the same with the players, considering how they performed compared to expectations. Grades run from A+ to E-. The fact that I have given no-one a low grade is an indication that there were no walkover “guaranteed” wins this Mac. All players can leave with a degree of satisfaction.

USA

This was a good performance from Team USA. They were constantly competitive and picked up a large number of wins. I disliked their response R 9 yards E of the peg in response to supershots (particularly long ones) and this opening was unsuccessful most of the time. Overall, their breaks were scrappy and their leaves left a lot to be desired. They started well in all Test matches but looked much more nervy as the winning line became closer.

New Zealand

This was a team that only knew its true identity a couple of weeks before the event. For them to mount a comeback from 4-7 against the USA was a massive achievement. They got into every Test, but at times it appeared that they were researching for a new book called “101 ways to put down winning turns.” They could easily have picked up another 9 or 10 match wins. They will view this year as a transitional one and look forward to introducing their exciting young prospects into the next Mac and hopefully welcoming back a couple of their strong experienced players.

England

Started poorly and improved slightly. There were some good performances capable of winning the event, but too many mistakes combined with poor tactical decisions cost them. Clearly playing the strongest opposition in week 1, when out of season, was an additional handicap. The fact that they were playing a different game to the one normally played in England cannot have helped them. In 2006, GB destroyed their opposition, reaching 11-0 in the final before cruising to a big win. In the 11 years since, England/GB have failed to win the most matches in any MacRobertson Shield and have lost two Solomon Trophies. They seemed unaware that TPOs and sextuples were bad tactics. I have written for many years that England turn up to these major events unprepared with untried doubles pairings. This year it cost them.

Australia

Almost the opposite to the England team. 30 months of preparation combined with a clear tactical game plan and good doubles pairings set the solid base for a good all round team performance. I’m not sure that they pegged anyone out at all before the last day. They have a youthful team that could go on from here and will no doubt have great support when they defend their title in Australia in 2021. Worthy winners.

Player Analysis


Robert Fletcher: Grade A-
When you come into a MacRobertson Shield graded 200 points higher than the next player, it is tricky to meet the expectations that everyone has of you. Robert made close to zero errors having made the first hoop of his turn, but did fail hoop 1 on a few occasions. His shooting was mixed and the easy lawns meant that he suffered more defeats than he would have liked.

Simon Hockey: Grade B
Probably the least consistent of the Australian contingent. Simon often looked classy when on a tp, but his shooting and leave making often fell below expectations.

Ian Dumergue: Grade B
Got his team off to a good start in the first test before weakening in later Tests. Variable shooting ranging from good at long range to suspect at short range. Lovely positive character – excellent captain.

Malcolm Fletcher: Grade B+
Error prone towards the start of the event, but improved as he settled. Breakplay still far too loose for my liking, but enjoyed the easy playing conditions that allowed recoveries from previous misplay.

Greg Fletcher: Grade A+
Probably the best shot in the event, clearly having benefited from playing in the GC Worlds. Whilst he did make quite a few errors, I have felt forced to give him an A+ due to his ability to win openings, regain the innings and complete triples when playing on his debut.

Stephen Forster: Grade B
Once in the balls, Stephen always looked graceful and possessed some of the best touch of any of the players. The first shot of his turn was highly suspect, with him having recently changed to centre style Solomon for these shots.

David Maugham: Grade A
Very few errors combined with quality leaves made this a strong performance. In terms of the future, his ever diminishing backswing must cause concern.

Jamie Burch: Grade A-
Shot very well as always. Still too loose a break player for my liking, but improving. Nice speed of play.

Samir Patel: Grade B+
A little too inconsistent to quite gain an A- grade. Played plenty of good turns but slightly too many poor ones. More likely to take good tactical lines of play than some of the other English players.

Stephen Mulliner: Grade C+
Attempts at a sextuple and many failed tpos and losing tpos made this a disappointing event for the World Champion. Finished his dead match with an entertaining sextuple that had a straight quadruple with half-jumps at 4-b and rover.

James Death: Grade C-
Fun to watch as ever, but surprisingly making a lot of breakplay errors and compounding that with long periods of poor shooting.

James Hopgood: Grade B+
A mixed bag from the debutant. Plenty of high quality turns were mixed with some dreadful games.

Paddy Chapman: Grade A-
Probably my favourite player to watch. He was elegant, played controlled turns and attempted more popping than any other player. Not quite on top form and always slightly vulnerable against the best shots.

Aiken Hakes: Grade A-
The only unbeaten player in singles with several excellent matches. Doubles disappointingly less effective or cohesive. An impressive debut.

Joe Hogan: Grade C+
Great to have the first ever World Champion back in the Mac. He played several good turns and regularly hit his last shot to generate game winning turns. Regrettably, most did not finish. Shots such as irish peels and peg outs really showed the difficulty of using a basic 9” unweighted mallet.

Jenny Clarke: Grade B
The best performance level I have ever seen from a player who won such a low percentage of games. Plenty of third turn balls round and good leaves always seemed to be followed by her opponent hitting and finishing in two turns. Spoke well at the functions.

Chris Shilling: Grade A
Had one of the best combinations of controlled hoop stroke and croquet strokes in the event. Fabulous debut. Would have got an A+ if he had taken one of his finishing turns to make it 3-3 vs England on day 12.

Harps Tahurangi: Grade C+
Starting mid-series is a tough ask and Harps was always competitive. Great tp to win his first match on day 12, but too many easy breaks put down overall.

Toby Garrison: Grade B-
Tough ask to come and play at number 2 in a Mac having not played for some time. Improved day by day and was a fabulous team member.

Ben Rothman: Grade B-
Playing at the club where he used to be pro, I expected a strong performance from the British Open Champion. However loose break play cost him matches he should have won. Seemed unhappy with the hoops, complaining that they should be wider.

David Maloof: Grade B-
Loose break play once again caused some unforced errors that proved costly playing at number 2.

Danny Huneycutt: Grade C+
Perhaps the most Jekyll and Hyde performance of all. He interspersed solid triples that showed his underlying ability level with a jerky set of single ball strokes that indicated he was battling with the yips.

Jeff Soo: Grade B-
Once again playing too high in the team order for my liking, he played plenty of solid turns. However, a tendency to slam at key hoops caused his undoing on multiple occasions.

Stuart Lawrence: Grade B+
Good debut. Played some good peeling turns, but combined that with some games that degenerated rapidly in quality.

Stephen Morgan: Grade B
Good debut. Still lacking the controlled breakplay that he will need when playing in trickier conditions. Always looked solid at longer hoops. Needs to develop greater control and improve his leaves.

Matthew Essick: Grade B+
The ultimate in uncontrolled croquet. Five and six yarders regarded as normal. It is a style of play that I struggle to appreciate, but it did work in some of his matches.

Thursday
May042017

Chapman 15: Final Day

England's Stephen Mulliner on Day 15

Last Day is the Hottest

Today was the last day of play in the 2017 MacRob. Australia had already sealed the title yesterday, and England had already secured second place, so there was only pride at stake today. The forecast also had today as the hottest day of the entire event, at 41 degrees celcius. With this in mind, the two NZ/England matches with late starts had agreement between all 4 players that they should be abandoned, and so there would only be 4 points up for grabs today.

The 4 matches today were:

- Jenny vs Stephen Mulliner
- Joe vs Samir Patel
- Harps vs James Hopgood
- Chris vs James Death

Jenny had a chance to take the first game vs Stephen but an unfortunate "death roll" penult peel going to 2-back left her with a long roquet on her 2b pioneer which missed into baulk. Stephen made no mistake in taking the game from there. In the second, Stephen embarked on a SXP which finished with a very adventurous straight QP - to record the only sextuple in the event.

ROUND 3 PHOTO GALLERY

Joe had a few chances early on against Samir, hitting with all the balls in the middle, but a long angled hoop 1 was failed, allowing Samir into the match. After this, Joe never had the run of the ball and Samir won 2-0.

Chris Shilling. Click to Zoom.Harps had a similar match vs James Hopgood. James completed two consecutive clinical 26-0tp games and Harps' only error was to miss a few long shots by the proverbial coat of paint.

Chris had an excellent match vs James Death. He built on his excellent record in this, his MacRob debut, to record a 2-0 win with yet another solid break-play performance.

It has been a great event, played in good spirit between all players. Congratulations to Australia on comfortably winning their first MacRob for over 80 years. A very deserved win which was built upon several years of preparation. It sets an example to the other teams who I'm sure will be looking to implement a similar strategy in the lead-up to 2021.

Wednesday
May032017

Soo 17: AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!

Malcolm Fletcher plays the Shield-winning turn

Australia wins the MacRobertson Shield

On the hottest day of the tournament, the Aussies felt right at home. Fittingly, it was the three Fletcher brothers who gave their team the 9th, 10th, and 11th points to win the final test match against USA, and to claim the MacRobertson Shield. Simon Hockey added another point to make it 12-6, with a final round of doubles to be played tomorrow.

World #1 player Robert Fletcher got the first point of the day, with a +25tp, +8tp win over USA #1 (and, as of the start of the match, world #4) Ben Rothman. Greg Fletcher put his team "on the hill" with a +26tp, +17tp win over USA's Stephen Morgan. Stuart Lawrence (USA) kept his team's hopes alive with a +2, -26tp, +17tp win over Stephen Forster (AUS). Jeff Soo (USA) beat Aussie captain Ian Dumergue +24tp, +15 to make it 10-6.

In the late-starting matches, Malcolm Fletcher won the first against USA captain Danny Huneycutt, +24tp. Simon Hockey won the first against David Maloof (USA) +10. Fletcher had a chance for a standard triple in game 2, but it became more and more delayed and ended with one peel done and an OSL. Huneycutt missed the short shot. There were not many easy shots in Fletcher's winning turn, but he held his nerve and pegged out to win game, match, test match and championship. Hockey joined his teammates for an emotional celebration, before returning to finish his match with Maloof.

England swept the doubles round against NZ to take an unassailable 12-3 test-match lead. Currently trailing Australia by 3 individual matches won, they have a chance to overtake Australia on that statistic in tomorrow's final round.

Wednesday
May032017

Chapman 14: Disappointing Day in Searing Heat

Australia claims the 2017 MacRobertson Shield

Going into today we were 9-3 down to England, so somewhat staring down the barrel. To have any hope of a test victory we really needed to pick up 3 doubles wins today.

The match-ups today were:

- Aiken & Paddy vs Jamie Burch & James Death
- Joe & Chris vs Stephen Mulliner & Samir Patel
- Jenny & Harps vs David Maugham & James Hopgood

The day got off to a promising start with NZ taking the first game in two of the three matches. Jenny & Harps had plenty of play vs David & James but some random errors enabled England to take a 2-0 win.

Aiken & Paddy's match was somewhat error strewn, with mistakes from all players over the course of the 3 games. NZ took the first with a TP and had a finishing turn in the second, before England had a finishing turn of their own. Chances on both sides were missed, but England finally levelled the scores. In the decider, NZ had a 3rd turn ball to 4-back but the second ball was hampered after H1. England had their own finishing turn but could only reach penult & peg. The lift was hit but another error enabled England to take the victory.

Joe & Stephen also took the first vs Stephen & Samir, with 3 solid breaks. In the second, NZ had a potential finishing turn which eventually came to grief at 4-back and penult. This let the English pair into the match and they quickly leveled the scores. After a long lunch break, the decider was all England early-on, reaching rover & peg before NZ had started. Joe hit the last lift but failed H1. Samir then took a mid-length shot at partner, but hit the peg leaving all the balls in-lawn. This enabled Chris to make a break to 4-back but England then hit back to finish and take the game 26-9 and match 2-1.

Congratulations to England on winning the test. All players were very pleased to escape the heat of the sun on what was a particularly oppressive day (approx 40deg celcius).

A short while after the England/NZ test was wrapped up, Australia scored their 11th point vs USA to take the MacRobertson Shield for 2017 - congratulations to them on their first win in this event since 1935. This is probably the first MacRob in over 50 years where Australia has gone into the event as favourites, and it shows in their play as they have been the team to beat for the whole event.