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Colin Grove Finalist in the Croquet One Ball National Final at Surbiton on 9th May 2021

Match Report by Kevin Carter

Thank you too for your tolerance of my occasional slip-ups. Having, among the 42 players,  four Richards, for Johns, two Colins and two Anthonys added to my confusion, if not yours. Perhaps next year I should put the clock back a few decades and refer to you all as Mr Andrews, Mrs Brown, etc!

As you know, at lunchtime we had a 'cut': putting the fourteen players with no more than one loss into one section, to compete for the main prizes, and keeping the remainder in a different section to play for a 'Best of the Rest' prize. Incredibly, this year's top section was all-male. We usually have several women doing well and in recent years three ladies have won the final.

So, in the the afternoon, I set about whittling down the fourteen and in due course I was down to four, all on 6/7. All four were very different in their profiles:
Peter Dowd (Compton) is a top-flight GC player (ranked 19th in the UK), playing off -3. He hits the ball at a million miles an hour, with formidable accuracy.
Colin Groves (Woking) is a well-rounded AC player with good 'touch'. He again played above his 6 handicap on this visit to the OB Final (he was runner-up last year).
Simon Kewley (Lym Valley) is very new to croquet and plays off the maximum 20 handicap. He clearly has a natural flair for the game and used his forest of bisques to good effect.
Joel Taylor (High Wycombe) is a top-flight player in AC (with a 31st UK ranking) and in GC (25th in the UK) but had to play off a OB handicap of -5.

In the first semi-final between the first two above, it came down to Peter's last stroke. He completed rover but then had to hit back through the hope in an attempt to either hit the peg or Colin's ball lurking a yard from it. He missed both and Colin went through to the final. The second semi-final was a fascinating battle in which Simon had a massive 8.5 bisques, so Joel's plan was to hit in and take a break round to the peg. Although he did not achieve a finishing break, Joel did hit in several times and made two or three shorter breaks to put the game beyond doubt.

In the final Joel found Colin a more canny opponent and the game developed into a tactical battle, but Colin's four bisques were not quite enough to counter Joel's accuracy. So, Joel won the traditional engraved crystal decanter and Colin now has a pair of runner-up goblets.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the field, we had three players unbeaten after lunch: John Rowley (Cammerton), Richard Andrews (Hurlingham) and Richard Jelly (Bath). In the next round John lost and so the battle between the two Richards became the Best of the Rest Final. With both players for the peg, it was Richard Andrews who hit first, to earn a crystal goblet.

The manager's prize for the best break was interesting. Mark Ormerod(Dulwich) completed two eleven-hoop breaks and in one of them contrived to still lose the game. This is what can happen when you are playing off -6....

It was heartening that many of those with no pretensions to the prizes kept returning to the manager's desk to seek another game, just for the love of playing. Some notched up ten or eleven during the day.

This year, Surbiton experimented with no fixed charge for the excellent all-day food, for which many club members contributed dishes. Instead, players and guests were encouraged to contribute 'what it was worth', in the knowledge that the club was donating the net proceeds to this year's charity, the British Heart Foundation. You contributed £650, so a big thank you for that. Overall, the total proceeds from this year's competition stands at a record £7000 and more funds and Gift Aid is still trickling in. When the dust has settled, I shall prepare a final report, circulate it to all heat organisers and offer it to the Gazette.

Best wishes, Kevin

PS When we put away the lawns yesterday evening we seemed to be short of two or three clips. If you find you went away with one in your pocket could you please pop it in the post to Surbiton Croquet Club, Alexandra Drive, Surbiton, Surrey KT5 9AA.

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