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2021 USCA Golf Croquet Eights

Jeff Soo | Published on 5/20/2021

2021 USCA Golf Croquet Eights

May 20–23, 2021 Western North Carolina (Chattooga, Highlands Falls, Lake Toxaway)


The USCA Golf Croquet Eights was started in 2017, making it the newest major tournament on the USCA calendar. For its first three years the event was held in Florida. As with so many other tournaments, 2020 was a lost year due to COVID. The 2021 event, well timed to coincide with the lifting of most COVID restrictions, was held in Western North Carolina, the hotbed of Golf Croquet in the USA. Unfortunately Canada had not yet lifted its quarantine requirement for returning travelers, effectively barring Canadian players from the tournament.


The Eights has an unusual format. The field is ranked top-to-bottom and divided into groups of eight, and each Eight plays in a round robin format over three-and-a-half days. No playoffs or final, just the block, making every game count. The First Eight (and, in some years, the Second Eight) plays a round robin of best-of-three-games matches. Each other Eight plays a double-round-robin of single-game matches. Either way, it is a full schedule of play.


Three two-lawn venues were available—The Chattooga Club, Highlands Falls Country Club, and Lake Toxaway Country Club. With some creative scheduling this allowed four Eights to compete. All three venues provided their lawns free of charge to the USCA. This generous offer was a key element making the tournament accessible for all players—entry filled quickly and there was a long waiting list. The outstanding hospitality, beautiful surroundings, and excellent fast playing conditions were much appreciated by the players and guests.


Matches in the First Eight were untimed. Games in the other three Eights used an 80-minute time limit, with two rotations after time was called. Only 3 of the 168 timed games ended with a winning score lower than 7, evidence of a good pace of play all around. In all there were 233 games played, 2,592 hoops scored.


Local “Plateau” players won the Second, Third, and Fourth Eights, and also took most of the second- and third-place finishes in those Eights. Dallas Denny (Highlands), playing in just his second ranking tournament, took the lead in Fourth Eight on Day 2. He retained the lead despite losing his first match of Day 3 to Billie Ray (Highlands Falls), and won his next three matches to finish the day one game ahead of Ray and two ahead of Dennis Howard (Cullasaja). Denny won his final two games on Sunday to make it five wins in a row, winning the Eight with a final tally of 12 wins in 14 games.


The Third Eight was neck-and-neck from the get-go. Jim Jamison (Trillium) and visiting player Bill Simmons (The Plantation of Ponte Vedra) tied for the Day 1 lead. Ken Scoggins (Sky Valley) moved into a first-place tie with Simmons by the end of Day 2. Gary Gamble (Trillium) won four in a row on Day 3 to move into a three-way tie with Scoggins and Jamison. Scoggins and Jamison each won their final two games on Sunday, Scoggins winning the Eight on net points. Interestingly, they had split their two games against each other by the same score, 7-4 and 4-7.


Jochen Lucke (Sapphire Valley, Chattooga) was the fourth seed in Second Eight, but played like he belonged in First Eight. He had a few close games but many that weren’t, and he won the Eight with a perfect 14-0 record, with +44 net hoops. Rich Dell (Wildcat Cliffs), Helen Covington (Florida Yacht Club), and Billy Harper (at-large member from Florida) tied for second place at 8-6.


In the First Eight, Mohammad Kamal (Pasadena), Jimmy Huff (Carrol County), and Matt Griffith (Kactus Creek and Sarasota) won both their Day 1 matches for the early lead. On Day 2 Kamal was undefeated again, while Huff lost to Brian Lozano (Mission Hills) to drop into a second-place tie with Jeff Soo (Stoneridge, Highlands Falls, Sarasota). Kamal survived an epic battle with Griffith on Day 3, 7-6, 7-6, then beat Huff to remain the clear favorite, while Soo likewise beat Huff and Griffith to retain second place, one match behind Kamal. Sunday’s match-up between Kamal and Soo was thus a final of sorts, Kamal winning 7-6, 7-5 to win the Eight 7-0 on matches, 14-1 on games. Having lost to the top two seeds on Day 1, Lozano finished out with five straight wins for third place.


Michael Albert and Eileen Soo volunteered their time as Assistant Tournament Directors, corralling the players, refereeing, and posting live updates to Croquet Scores throughout each day’s play. Highlands Falls member Linda Fuchs organized a team of volunteer scorekeepers to cover every match at that venue. Highlands Falls had just debuted its new electronic scoreboards, giving a clear view of the scores of all four matches not just to the players and spectators at the venue, but also to remote spectators watching via webcam on the HFCC website. A tournament held at multiple clubs is a logistical challenge for players and organizers alike, but "the Plateau", with its tremendous concentration of clubs and players playing Golf Croquet, was an outstanding venue for this event.


— Jeff Soo, T.D.

First Eight

1. Mohammad Kamal

2. Jeff Soo

3. Brian Lozano

4. Jim Teel

5. Matt Griffith

6. Jimmy Huff

7. Dick Boger

8. Cheryl Bromley

Second Eight

1. Jochen Lucke

2. Rich Dell

3. Helen Covington

4. Billy Harper

5. James Creasey

6. Stephen Jackson

7. Bo Prillaman

8. Gil Flowers

Third Eight

1. Ken Scoggins

2. Jim Jamison

3. Gary Gamble

4. Bill Simmons

5. Clint Dawkins

6. Jim Podraza

7. Pat Cunningham

8. Geoff Parker

Fourth Eight

1. Dallas Denny

2. Billie Ray

3. Dennis Howard

4. Ray Barrett

5. Patrick Dugan

6. Kathie Gamble

7. Candra Seley

8. Tom Bown

1st Eight Winner - Mohammad Kamal

2nd Eight Winner Jochen Lucke with Eileen Soo assistant TD

3rd Eight Jim Jamison, Ken Scoggins (winner), Gary Gamble

4th Eight winner Dallas Denny with Eileen Soo assistant TD