Mid-Atlantic Regional Won by Leo McBride, and Doug Grimsley & Rich Curtis
When the Mid-Atlantic Regionals were last held at the beautiful Merion Cricket Club three years ago, the temperatures hovered between 101 and 104 throughout the first three days. Meteorologists and TV reporters, nice teeth and all, looked as though they had just won the lottery. While records were being set above the courts, players were passing out, mid-swing, upon them. OK, no one really passed out, but an ambulance was, indeed, stationed courtside. Game times were willingly reduced to 45 minutes in duration, and endurance overpowered style.
This year things were different in several ways. First off, the temperatures could not have been any better … not quite sweater weather, but about as perfect as one could hope for. More importantly, the size of the field was more than impressive — 46 players split evenly within three Flights of both singles and doubles. Perhaps this good attendance was due to the double-tracking-point incentive, or the lure of the Cricket Club, but those participating were not only enthusiastic, but created one of the most gracious groups I have ever seen. Games ran on time and a dispute could not be found.
Nine lawns, thanks to the generosity of the Cricket Club, were used and maintained by a grounds-crew that truly enjoyed the chance to impress the many visitors. Matches were timed at one hour and twenty minutes for doubles and one hour and fifteen minutes for singles. Double banking was restricted to the Championship Flight singles and a handful of First Flight solo endeavors. Block to Single-Elimination was the format, and Sunshiny’s were the balls of choice.
Of course, all good thing must come to an end. While the first round of play Sunday went unscathed, unpredictable weather did emerge shortly after. Thunder and lightening now replaced the surreal calm that had taken place throughout most of the event … and the result was almost humorous from the sidelines. A siren would sound — players would retreat back to the porch — only to be followed by the all clear siren. Minutes later, the process would be repeated. And again. And again.
At least a dozen times this process was mimicked, those still in competition having the luxury of but a shot or two before being recalled into a safe haven. Still, the spirit of the players was astonishing. Things were as they were and everyone understood that, aside from that difficult wicket shot, there were certain things that were simply uncontrollable.
In a wonderful example which exemplified the great spirit exhibited throughout the event, the doubles divisions of both the First and Second Flights eventually agreed to allow for joint Champions, thus allowing enough time for the Singles Finals to, hopefully, begin and be completed.
The Championship Flight Doubles, on the other hand, was far too competitive to let go of. And rightfully so. The team of Doug Grimsley & Rich Curtis, the 1-9 Vegas favorites, was finding more than a handful of annoyance against the team of Tom Hughes & John (Lightening Rod) Oehrle. Between lightening strikes, and with time running out in the game, Doug managed to peg-out the Tom Hughes ball, leaving Rich with a minus one-hoop differential but with just enough time (five minutes) to regain control. Eventually, Rich scored the tying wicket, Doug pegged out and John missed the desperation shot. Final score: 21-20.
Drama could be found everywhere within the singles portion of the event. In the Second Flight, West River’s Matt Hawkins and W. Calvert Chaney both overwhelmed the competition throughout both the Block and Playoff portions. This came as a surprise in that both players were at the very bottom of the 16-player totem-pole, Hawkins listed as a 14 and Chaney as a … get this … 20! Both players went undefeated throughout, were both quickly post-dated to 10s and then put on quite a show in the Finals, Hawkins inevitably the winner (21-18) despite a late Chaney comeback. Watch out First Flight!
The First Flight Singles saw equal excitement. Stan Abrahamsom (5), playing great croquet, made the Finals with but one loss, but now was forced to play Tim Rapuano (4.5), undefeated until that time and place. Tim, on a handicap bob-slide, had actually teamed up with Don Heerens (2.5) in the Championship Flight Doubles and, again, actually finished tied for Third Place! Let me rephrase that … Leo McBride & Rufus Bayard (combined –2) failed to make the Playoffs while the Heerens & Rapuano team (7) finish Third. Go Figure. Anyway … after many lightening delays, Tim would finally out duel Stan with a 20-8 score, though great credit go to both players for a wonderful event.
Meanwhile, in regard to the Championship Flight Singles, Leo McBride (–2) spent most of Sunday watching the weather patterns. He had defeated Rich Curtis earlier in the morning (26-2) but was now biding time by talking to Patrick Little (asleep) about the variant leaves, angle and acceleration variables and portable variance. (Wonder why Patrick was asleep.) His opponent, Doug Grimsley (–2), had earlier, through a series of lucky, improbably and goofy shots, defeated John Osborn (–2.5) (26-20). And while Doug had also defeated Leo within Block play, that streak would, after all of the lightening had stopped, come to an end, Leo being crowned a noble 2008 Champion with a 26-10 victory.
Lee Hanna went 0-4 in singles Block play. And why is that worth mentioning (Lee is asking as she reads)? Probably because she, as the Mid-Atlantic VP, put in hours and effort beyond expectations to make certain the event ran smoothly. Teamed with the amazing Merion staff, breakfast’s, lunches, the Player Dinner and the general administration of the event went without a flaw. Special thanks also go out to Jim Armour and Frank & Mary Tatnall! Yes, Patrick Little tried hard to wear colored socks at an all-white Club, but aside from that temporary confusion, the diligent administrative aspect of this event, from the USCA office through Lee through the Merion Cricket Club, was unparalleled. And yes, it is tough to play well and donate such time to make everyone else feel so at home.
The site for next year’s Regional has yet to be determined, nor have the regulations involved within it. No matter. The grace and sportsmanship exhibited within the 2008 version was unparalleled, and should the same cast of characters emerge next year, I encourage everyone to enroll and be a part of what, this year, proved to be a very, very special event.
Final Order of Finish