Club Team Championship Won by National Croquet Center
12-16 March 2008
It was the day before the Club Team Championships and Les Kelley was stirring his drink, perhaps reflecting upon future glory. In what has become a yearly tradition, Les had arranged for his Bombay (St. Croix) team to convene for a practice/lunch session at Palm Beach’s beautiful Mar-a-Lago Club. As to how much practice actually occurred remains speculative, but now, sitting upon the beautiful patio, the drinks were flowing. “We shall conquer all,” stated Les. “We are doomed,” muttered Karen Heckman. “Isn’t rum great?” offered Bernie Pattie, the only comment to find no argument.
Les, simply referred to as “The Commish” during the Club Team Championships but for reasons long forgotten, did have a good history to back up his positive thinking. This marked his and Bernie’s 20th straight Club Teams, and in fielding a record thirteen teams last year, St. Croix had captured the Division I Lyon’s Trophy. With the numbers almost identical, Les felt good: “I feel good,” he said. “Doomed, I tell you, doomed,” whispered Karen. Bernie, now out of rum, looked confused and when John Warlick uttered something undecipherable, the meeting was adjourned.
The Club Team Championships, always filled with colorful characters, is, without doubt, one of the more unique events upon the USCA calendar. There is no singles and individual teams must derive from and represent the same club. The Lyon’s Trophy, the Holy Grail of the event, is split into three divisions, each club falling into the large, medium or small division dependant upon total club membership, not representation. Granted, the more teams a club can send the better the odds are of gaining points toward a Lyons Trophy. St. Croix figured this out last year. This year they were not alone.
While it does not set an all time record, one hundred colorful characters, representing seventeen clubs, showed up to this years event, numbers not seen in about two decades. All twelve courts at the National Croquet Center were used with six time slots allotted each day. Four Flights were in play and matches were timed at one hour and fifteen minutes. Block play to a double elimination ladder was the format. There was no double banking, but should the entrants continue to increase, that may become a luxury of the past.
PGA National may best demonstrate the rejuvenated spirit in this event. Last year PGA sent one team – this year, under the guidance of Paula Phaneuf, the club sent eleven. Bert Myer deserves an award for his attempt to convince the USCA that all New Hampshire clubs should be considered one contingent. Unfortunately for Bert, since all New Hampshire players did not belong to the same club (now), this motion failed. Even so, Bert managed to encourage almost all (six teams) of his Hampstead Club to participate and was rewarded for it. If Les Kelley didn’t feel warm breath upon his neck, he should have.
Of course, no matter how many members a club brings, good play does have a huge bearing upon the final results. The National Croquet Center entered only three teams, all in the Championship Flight. Still, with a 26-5 victory by Stewart Jackson-Johnny Mitchell over the PBCC’s Dick Brackett-Derek Wassink, combined with a fourth place finish by Ted Quimby-Josie Jackson, the NCC made a serious run at a Division I Lyons. In the First Flight, Bert, teamed with Jay Digeronimo, secured the Division III Lyons with a 12-9 win over PGA’s Bill Taft-Gordon Paul. The star-studded Heatherwood Hills Club sent four teams this year, but while three of these four finished out of the money (top five or six in each Flight), Peder Theiste-Brad Mol defeated (14-9) Randell McAndrews-Perry Mattson to gain five points and capture the Division II Lyons by one point! Peter Oleson-Morgan Wayson (West River Wickets) overcame (13-11) Hampsted’s Jim McLaughlin-Marie McLaughlin in the Third Flight.
Naturally, amongst all of these numbers, there are questions still to be answered. Was Les Kelley’s enthusiasm warranted? Did Bernie “The Attorney” Pattie ever find more rum? Was Karen Heckman’s vision accurate? And what was it that John Warlick was actually trying to elicit?
The St. Croix would not find a team in the Finals of any Flight; actually had no team entered in the Championship division. Bombay would, though, secure three Third Place finishes, two Forth Place finishes and three Fifth Place finishes. Those numbers, when added together, were enough to capture the Division I Lyon’s Trophy. As to Bernie, his quest proved to be successful, particularly during the Player’s Dinner, where he and a slew of rum-driven maniacs entertained the crowd with The House Band’s version of the Ref-Rap classic. Karen’s spirits improved, and while finishing out of the money upon the croquet lawns, enjoyed the fantastic lunches and great camaraderie for which the Club Team Championships is so well know.
As is always the case, the Club Teams certainly stands out as the Social Tournament of the year. Silent auctions, the Annual Meeting and evening activities kept everyone’s interest up, even if they had been eliminated from the event. Great thanks go out to the entire USCA and NCC staffs for their attentive and friendly assistance throughout. Further thanks go out to Archie Peck and an incredible ground’s crew for the hustle and professionalism used to accommodate so many players and so much play.Whatever John Warlick said probably doesn’t matter. And what the numbers will reveal during the Club Team Championships next year is also, for now, a mystery. But isn’t that simply half the fun. For now, here are the facts …
Overall Lyons's Trophy Totals