International Rules Championships Won by Brian Cumming, and Leo McBride & Doug Grimsley
The 2008 USCA Association ("International") Rules Championships, a six day journey with long days and many games, was competed this year amongst great weather at the National Croquet Center. After the late withdrawal of Jeff Soo and Paul Scott (due to the sad death of Eileen Soo’s father), eighteen singles players and eight doubles teams were in contention.
The singles event was comprised of two blocks of nine, the top four finishers within each block moving to a best-of-three single elimination draw. Stewart Jackson’s call to jury duty dropped one of these blocks to seven. Matches were timed at two hours and thirty minutes. Those that failed to make the Playoffs fell into an aggressive Plate event (two hours and fifteen minute matches) with the top eight competing within a single game straight knockout. Doubles, like the singles Playoffs, was comprised of a best-of-three single-elimination ladder with a 7.5-hour time limit.
Up to five lawns were in use, the courts themselves playing fast and true - the hoops set with limited tolerance. While Sunshinny balls were the advertised choice, the field unanimously voted to defer to the more universal Dawson version.
At the end of the block portion of the singles, Leo McBride (6-1) emerged with as the Block One winner with two losses (one to Ben Rothman and the other to Doug Grimsley, though this loss was erased due to Jackson’s withdrawal). Normally good news, that news turned a bit sour when McBride found his first Playoff round to be against Brian Cumming, the victor over McBride in the N.C. Finals just the week before. Cumming (5-3) was actually lucky even to make the Playoffs, forced to watch from the sidelines when his status suddenly became dependent upon the mallets of others. Cumming managed to survive not only the block, but McBride as well with a –26(tp), +2, +26(tp) victory. Cumming would then reach the Finals with a well-fought battle over David Bent (6-2) +19(tp), -3, +4. Bent had previously defeated (+16, +15) newcomer Wayne Davies (4-3).
Jerry Stark (7-1), winner of Block Two, also found some difficulty in his round one Playoff match-up against Doug Grimsley (4-3). While the match went to three games, it did go quickly, both participants playing well and wasting no time on their way to the eventual Stark –26(tp), +15, +26(tp) victory. What Stark might not have expected was the emergence of Ben Rothman (5-2), who would shortly later dismiss defending champion Rich Lamm (6-2) +6(tp), -10, +14. The Stark-Rothman set-up, another three game adventure, was filled with both great shooting and opportunities lost. Rothman would make the Finals, but by the narrowest of numbers: +1, -3, +4(tp)!
The Finals between Cumming and Rothman had a little bit of everything. Cumming won the first game by fifteen with a well-controlled TPO, both Brian and Ben starting their second ball at hoop one. Ben took contact, played a 'Hail Mary' roll to hoop one that worked, but soon failed upon a standard three-ball break. Unfazed, Ben won the second game +26.
In the third game, Cumming, working hard on his triple, settled only to achieve the final peel after rover and then peg- out, leaving the partner ball somewhere between the peg and the baulkline. Rothman hit, did manage to gain control and was shortly after was working hard on a straight three-ball triple. Things were looking good until the straight Irish peel at penultimate, the 'peelee' ball going through short – Rothman’s striker ball falling just slightly ajar from the jaws. And being the good sportsman that he is, Rothman called for a referee.
The funny thing was, the swing really didn't look that bad. It had style, and grace, and even a little bit of sex- appeal. And he really didn't need a referee, as he stated when the referee arrived, but there was a crowd, and setting a good example always made sense. The shot itself, well, not the example you want to be seen before such a nice crowd. No, it was not a fault. Nor was it a good shot, for when you try to hit your ball in croquet, it is always best to make contact with it, not simply swing over it. Cumming hit from no distance and finished, and if anything can be said, it is that both players showed poise, style, some great shooting and a pure enjoyment of the game. It was sad to see either lose.
The doubles? Well, Leo McBride can be far from boring. And Doug Grimsley is not even allowed to step foot in two States…so it’s heard. And yet, the doubles Final went quickly and without fanfare. In game one, Grimsley took a ball to four-back, only to have Jerry Stark, partnered with Rich Lamm, respond. And then fail. And then respond, and then fail. McBride tripled to win game one. Game two, in the word's of Doug Grimsley: "The plan was that I take it to four back and then Leo triples. It’s an easy game". And, indeed, that worked quite well in both of the very quick Final’s games…+13(tp-M), +26(tp-M).
Meanwhile, in the badlands of the Plate Playoffs, two neat things happened. For one, Ted Quimby experienced, apparently, an out of body experience while running an out of control quadruple peel. The second note of interest was that he then lost in the Plate Finals to Stuart Lawrence (-19), who after failing to make the Playoffs of the Main Draw with a 5-3 record certainly deserved some recognition.
It must be said that the spirit of all of the players was fantastic throughout the event. Great weather and a fantastic facility helped to make everything, win or lose, quite special. The USCA thanks everyone for their participation and the participants thank the USCA for the opportunity for all to gather, frolic and have a darn good time in a wonderful event! Till next year in Pinehurst!
BRIAN CUMMING defeated LEO McBRIDE –26 TP, +2, +26 TP
BRIAN CUMMING defeated DAVID BENT +19 TP, -3, +4
BRIAN CUMMING defeated BEN ROTHMAN +11 TPO, -26, +4
JIM BUTTS defeated MIK MEHAS 24-9
TED QUIMBY defeated JIM BUTTS +12 QP
STUART LAWRENCE defeated TED QUIMBY +19
SINGLES TRIPLE TOTALS
7-1 JERRY STARK
3-1 STEWART JACKSON (dnf)
PRE-PLAYOFF PLATE TOTALS
3-0 LEO McBRIDE