Merion Invitational Won by Kenster Rosenberry
14-16 September 2007
What superlatives can be used to describe the Merion Invitational held over the weekend of September 14, 15, and 16, 2007 on the Great Lawn of the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, Pennsylvania? To start with, where can you place 23 croquet courts on one lawn in front of a magnificent clubhouse dating back to the 1890’s? As mentioned last year 6560 feet of string was used to mark out the courts, add another 1720 feet, to come up with 8,280 feet of string this year. Throw in $9600 worth of croquet balls lying on the courts, plus 46 deadness boards. To the above add 143 players, and you have what is probably the largest single site, number of competitors, croquet tournament in the world.
In a period of three days, everyone played in every match, on every court to come up with a total of 354 singles games and 164 doubles games, a total of 518 games. In a format differing from most tournaments, players, in singles, are seeded according to handicap and tracking points, with each block within a flight becoming an individual competition. Championship flight, which consisted of one block of nine and four blocks of eight, played seven singles games each, to determine a block winner. The winner of each block took home a trophy. A play-off of the two top players determined who would have their name engraved on the permanent trophy. The beauty, as has always been in this tournament, is that singles competitors played only against players with virtually equal handicaps. First flight with five blocks of eight played six games each, while second flight had 34 players in five blocks, playing five games each.
Doubles, on the other hand, combined thirty-four to forty players in each of the top flights in a Waterford Doubles format, playing six games over the three-day period. Eight players who attended the clinic on Friday then played fourteen doubles matches on Saturday and Sunday. All matches were seventy-five minutes, with double banking almost a norm. Additionally Merion was able to schedule beginner’s clinics each day, taught by teaching pro Bob Kroeger
Tournament officials were Archie Peck and David Bent as field referees, chasing upraised mallets in their golf cart, while Fred Jones was tasked not only with the scheduling of the tournament, as well as entering forty scores every seventy five minutes thereby keeping the standing up to date and posted. Behind the scenes before the tournament, was the fantastic job of organization, in structuring and controlling the myriad of details required to make the tournament a success, orchestrated by Jim Armour. Not only did Jim pull it all together, he also played a flawless tournament. Frank Tatnall, Mary Tatnall who took all the pictures, Neil Houghton, who laid out the general format, Jan Balson , Betsy Armour and their crew who prepared the 143 programs. Also the Lefton’s who managed the trophy presentation, and many other club members that gave valuable assistance to the committee.
In championship “A” nine players played seven games. Kenster Rosenberry went seven straight wins to end as number one, while Dick Brackett with five wins ended second in the block. Number three through number eight all had three wins, net points determining the standings. In the play-off, starting with an out game of two balls, Kenster started a three ball break after all balls were in the game, but stuffed number six to end the run. Dick tried to capitalize on Kenster‘s misfortune, but broke down very quickly. From that point it was all over, Kenster ran the court, set a leave, and ran the other ball around to take the match 26-3. As Dick and Kenster ended up in the playoff last year with Brackett taking the honors, it now stands at one and one. Next year may see the rubber match. Kenster name will be engraved on the permanent trophy for the fourth time.
In a tournament of this size, there are always unique situations that arise, such as Championship “A”, nine players, if you had three wins in the seven games played, you could have come in third thru eighth. All decided by net points.
In Championship “B” you could have had six wins out of seven and finished third. Skip Babcock noted in Championship “E” he either won or lost all seven games by one wicket. Of the 115 singles players only six went undefeated throughout the weekend. Kenster Rosenberry 8 of 8, Jim Armour 7 of 7, In 1st Flight Jerry Luecke 6 of 6, and in 2nd flight Bill Stempfle, John Joseph, and Preston Stuart with records of 5 of 5.
The hospitality of the Merion Cricket Club, and the members of the Croquet Committee did everything possible to make this a well organized, well attended, and well-run first class tournament. The planning taking place over the seven months proceeding the tournament, the updated invitation lists, the prompt answer to inquiries, the hours of tabulating and cross checking to insure that all functioned as a well oiled machine, to insure that everyone had a great time. I heard no one complain about a lack of games played. If you did not get enough to eat, it was due to oversleeping and missing the wonderful breakfasts, great buffet lunches, including hot and cold soups, and a selection of desserts. Saturday evening cocktails flowed prior to a participant’s dinner and dancing throughout the evening. An excellent presentation by Jim Armour brought everyone up to date on the power behind the throne, and the people responsible. Of course, there was High Tea Friday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00, in case you did not have enough for lunch, or you were catching an appetizer before dinner.There were plenty of trophies, fifteen in singles, one for each block winner within the flight, and twelve in doubles, for the first three places in four flights of Waterford Doubles. Late in the day Sunday, good-bys were exchanged, well wishes extended, and the one hundred and forty three participants headed back home, with fond memories of a wonderful tournament, and looking forward to another.