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2023 USCA National 6W Championship

Rich Curtis - TD | Published on 10/8/2023

USCA National 6W Championship

October 8-14, 2023
National Croquet Center

            Stuart Lawrence was a force to be reckoned with at the 46th USCA American Six Wicket National Championships held at the National Croquet Center on October 8-14, 2023, winning the singles title, as well as a second consecutive doubles title with his partner, Brian Cumming.  In a tough field that included six former singles champions with 11 titles between them, Lawrence defeated Danny Hunneycut two games to one in a best-of-three final.


            The tournament began on Sunday with doubles play, which continued through Tuesday when it concluded.  The weather throughout the tournament was hot and muggy, with some rainstorms later in the week.  In Championship Flight, one block of six teams and a second block of five teams played a round robin format with four teams from each block advancing to a double elimination ladder.  Although Lawrence/Cumming lost two of their four block games, they advanced, as did all the other top four seeds in each block. 


            Things got more interesting in the playoff ladder.  As expected, the teams of Lawrence/ Cumming, Hunneycut and Randy Cardo, and Doug Grimsley and Rich Curtis all won their first matches.  However, in the other first round match, Bob Van Tassell and Ron Eccles upset the strong third seeded team of Shane Hettler and Zack Watson, sending them to the loser’s bracket.  The next round saw Lawrence/Cumming advance with a win over Grimsley/Curtis and Hunneycut/ Cardo defeat Van Tassell/Eccles.  In the loser’s bracket, Grimsley/Curtis put Hettler/Watson out of the tournament, only to be sent home themselves in a loss in the next round to Van Tassell/Eccles, who were looking more and more like Cinderella.  Lawrence/ Cumming dispatched Hunneycut/Cardo to the loser’s bracket where they defeated Van Tassell/ Eccles to earn a spot in the finals.


            That set up a rematch between Lawrence/Cumming and Hunneycut/Cardo with the Lawrence/Cumming only needing one win and Hunneycut/Cardo needing two for the title.  Both teams made shooting errors in the first game, but Hunneycut/Cardo won it 26-10 when Lawrence missed a return roquet after running 3-back and Cardo set Hunneycut for the finishing break forcing a second game. Lawrence/Cumming were not to be denied and took the second game relatively easily 26-8.  It was Cumming’s seventh American 6 Wicket doubles title.


            On Wednesday, the singles competition got under way with three blocks of eight players each.  After seven games of block play, the top 12 finishers advanced to a double elimination face-off ladder.  John Osborn, playing again after a long hiatus, surprised everyone with a perfect 7-0 record in Block A, while Hunneycut and Cardo also posted undefeated records to take Blocks B and C, respectively.  All three earned first round byes and the fourth bye went to Watson with a 5-2 record.


            On one side of the draw, Cardo beat Grimsley and Lawrence bested Watson.  On the other side, Osborn upset last year’s champion, Hettler while Hunneycut beat Cumming. Lawrence then defeated Cardo, sending him to the loser’s bracket and in a battle of the only two remaining undefeated players, Hunneycut beat Osborn.  That meant that Cardo faced Cumming and Osborn faced Watson, both of whom had worked their way through the loser’s brackets.  Cumming and Watson continued their winning ways as Cumming dispatched Cardo and Watson did the same to Osborn, ending his quest for a fourth singles title 36 years after his first one.


            The stage was set on Saturday morning for Lawrence to play Watson and Hunneycut to square off against Cumming.  Both Lawrence and Hunneycut had the advantage of only needing to win one of two games while their opponents needed to win both games to move on.  As it turned out, Lawrence and Hunneycut each only needed one game to make their way to the finals with Lawrence winning 26-9 and Hunneycut winning 26-2.


            Hunneycut was seeking his fourth American 6 Wicket singles title while Lawrence was after his first.  In the first game, Lawrence attacked with blue and set the break for black. Red cornered and black began the break but was unable to peel blue at #2.  At 1-back, black abandoned the break, instead electing to try to back peel blue and escape to 2-back off yellow.  Unfortunately, Lawrence neither peeled blue nor was he able to make 2-back.  Burdened with significant deadness, Lawrence played blue to position at #2 with red (also for #2) and yellow (for #5) joined in the fourth corner.  Yellow managed to make #5 and incorporate blue into the break through 4-back.  Later, red began a break, but after peeling yellow at rover while red was for #5, Hunneycut played yellow rather than red.  It made little difference and red finished on the next turn giving Hunneycut the game 26-8.


            In the second game, Lawrence took an aggressive tact and yellow unsuccessfully tried to roquet blue and black in the first corner but missed.  Black ran the break, failing at 4-back.  Lawrence put together a four-ball break for yellow but was hampered on the reception ball after making #6 and missed a shot at the pioneer at 1-back.  Blue then ran a break to the peg but was unable to peel black to clean it and left it an angled shot, which black stuffed.  Lawrence finished in two turns, first with red and then yellow, which pegged blue out before pegging out himself for a score of 26-23.


            The rubber game was anti-climactic.  Hunneycut came in blue and took position at #2.  Lawrence punished him for that tactic by running a two-ball break to 4-back with red.  A few turns later, yellow attacked into the fourth corner and failed to make #2, bouncing off with black nearby.  Blue guarded red’s shot on black by going to the north boundary, but red shot at and hit yellow.  Red ran a flawless break through rover, peeling yellow.  Black missed a shot at the leave and yellow finished for a 26-2 win and Lawrence had his first Nationals singles title.


            Of note, Sandra Knuth won the Peyton Ballenger award as the highest placing female player.  The award is given annually in honor of Peyton Ballenger, whose elegant play was cut short by an untimely death in 1992.


            In First Flight doubles, five teams competed in a round robin block with all the teams advancing to a single elimination ladder.  Greg Clouse and Jon Spaulding went undefeated in block play, followed by the team of Jack Rush and Carl Archiniaco at 3-1 and the team of Steve Grassbaugh and Gene Bryan at 2-2.  However, in the ladder, Grassbaugh/Bryan knocked off Rush/Archiniaco in the semi-finals to meet Clouse/Spaulding in the finals.  In a nailbiter, Grassbaugh/Bryan won 14-13.


            First Flight singles involved a lot of play with ten players playing nine games in a single round robin block and the top four advancing to a single elimination block.  Jack Rush went undefeated in the block and secured the top seed in the ladder, along with Yen Sullivan, Jon Spaulding and Greg Clouse.  In the semi-finals, Clouse got by Rush 18-15 and Sullivan won a squeaker over Spaulding 12-11.  Clouse was strong in the finals and won 20-9 over Sullivan to grab the First Flight singles title.

Championship Singles

1. Stuart Lawrence
2. Danny Huneycutt
3. Zack Watson
3. Brian Cumming
5. John Osborn
5. Randy Cardo
7. Doug Grimsley
7. Adam Lassiter
9. Shane Hettler
9. Jay Hughes
9. Michael Todorovich
9. Patrick Sweeney
13. Mark Fields
14. John Brown
15. Conner Helms
16. Sandra Knuth
17. Rodney Lassiter
18. Brian Hovis
19. Lynda Sudderberg
20. Randy Reid
21. Jeff Morrison
22. Ron Eccles
23. William Trower
24. Rich Curtis

First Flight Singles

1. Greg Clouse
2. Yen Sullivan
3. Jack Rush
3. Jon Spaulding
5. Stephen Grassbaugh
6. Gene Bryan
7. Christine Smith
8. Kathie Hart
9. Georgia Carter
DNF Carl Archiniaco

Championship Doubles
1. Brian Cumming & Stuart Lawrence
2. Danny Huneycutt & Randy Cardo
3. Ron Eccles & Bob Van Tassell
4. Doug Grimsley & Rich Curtis
5. Zack Watson & Shane Hettler
5. Adam Lassiter & Rodney Lassiter
7. Conner Helms & John Brown
7. Patrick Sweeney & Brian Hovis
9. Lynda Sudderberg & Sandra Knuth
10. William Trower & Jeff Morrison
11. Jay Hughes & Randy Reid

First Flight Doubles
1. Stephen Grassbaugh & Gene Bryan
2. Greg Clouse & Jon Spaulding
3. Jack Rush & Carl Archiniaco
3. Christine Smith & Georgia Carter
5. Kathie Hart & Priscilla Flowers

Championship Singles Plate

1. John Brown
2. Mark Fields
3. Brian Hovis
3. Rodney Lassiter
5. Sandra Knuth
5. William Trower
7. Conner Helms
7. Randy Reid
7. Jeff Morrison

Championship Doubles Plate

1. Conner Helms & John Brown
2. Jay Hughes & Randy Reid
3. Patrick Sweeney & Brian Hovis
4. Lynda Sudderberg & Sandra Knuth
5. Bill Trower & Jeff Morrison