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2024 USCA Association Laws National Championship

Jeff Soo - TD | Published on 3/18/2024

USCA Association Laws National Championship

March 18-24, 2024
Sarasota County Croquet Club

Watson Balding
Finalist Zack Watson with AC National Champ Tom Balding

Order of Finish

Championship Doubles

1.  Tom Balding & Steve Scalpone

2.  Wy Louw & Jeff Soo

3=  Jay Hughes & Stuart Lawrence

3=  Brian Cumming & Doug Grimsley

5.  David Druiett & Chris Percival-Smith

6.  Paul Bennett & Patrick Sweeney

First Flight Doubles

1.  Matt Griffith & Gene Raymond

2.  Jane Beharriell & Arlene Parker

3.  Preston Stuart & Roger Vorraber

4.  Becky Essick & Tim Williams

5.  Sandy Janitz & Chris Smith

Championship Singles

1.  Tom Balding

2.  Zack Watson

3.  Stuart Lawrence

4.  Jeff Soo

5=  Wynand Louw

5=  Paul Bennett

5=  Brian Cumming

8.  Steve Scalpone

9.  Doug Grimsley (Plate winner)

10. Patrick Sweeney

11. Jay Hughes

12. Randy Cardo

13= David Druiett

13= Chris Percival-Smith

13= Michael Todorovich

First Flight

1.  Gene Raymond

2.  Matt Griffith

3.  Preston Stuart

4.  Arlene Parker

5.  Walt Janitz

6.  Tim Williams

7.  Roger Vorraber (Plate winner)

8.  Chris Smith

9.  Jane Beharriell

10. Becky Essick

The thirty-eighth annual USCA Association Croquet National Championships returned to the Sarasota County Croquet Club for the third time since 2019, and the first time since the club’s expansion to seven full-size courts. Only five of those courts were needed for the doubles, which occupied most of the first three days. First Flight, with five pairs, played a double round robin with no playoff. SCCC members Matt Griffith and Gene Raymond went undefeated to win handily. Jane Beharriell and Arlene Parker were runners-up.

Championship Flight, with six pairs, started with a block and finished with a best-of-three knockout for the top four. Wy Louw, playing his first tournament after a 19-year break from croquet, teamed with Jeff Soo to win the block and earn top seeding. Their one block loss was to Tom Balding and Steve Scalpone, who finished just behind on net points. Both pairs advanced to the final, where in each game Scalpone made the first break and Balding closed out with a triple peel. This was the first US national title for Scalpone and the second for Balding, who had won the GC doubles title with Blake Fields in 2023.

With three inches of rain forecast for Friday, Tournament Directors Jeff and Eileen Soo advanced the singles schedule as much as possible, starting singles block games in place of doubles Plate games on Tuesday and Wednesday, then squeezing in extra games on Thursday. As it happened, Friday turned out to be much more playable than expected, but better safe than sorry.

First Flight Singles started with two blocks of five, the top three from each block advancing to a modified Draw & Process, only the block winners earning a second life. Matt Griffth and Preston Stuart won their respective blocks with four wins each. Gene Raymond came second in Block B after a one-point loss to Stuart, but won a spot in the final by winning three games in the Draw on Saturday, including wins over Griffith and Stuart. Griffith beat Stuart in the Process final to earn the other finalist spot. Raymond took an early lead in the final, but Griffith equalized and then took a one-point lead in the first turn after time was called. Raymond hit and scored two points to win the First Flight title.

Championship Singles had blocks of seven and eight, four advancing from each block to a best-of-three knockout. Top seeds Zack Watson and Tom Balding went undefeated to win their respective blocks, each with four triple peels. Balding then advanced to the final with four successive triple peels. Watson had a bumpier road, adding only one triple peel to his tally, and dropping a game in his semifinal. Just how well Balding was playing was shown on Friday, when he completed an adventurous sextuple peel in a Plate game. He continued his outstanding form in the final, winning in straight games with two more triple peels. Ten triples and one sextuple in fourteen games, with no losses, is the kind of form that took him to the semifinals of the world championship in 2023. The results of this tournament lift him to his highest-ever ranking, #10 in the world and #1 in the USA.

Each flight played a singles Plate in the flexible Swiss format. Roger Vorraber won all three of his Plate games to win the First Flight Plate. Doug Grimsley and Brian Cumming had the best records in the Championship Plate, Grimsley winning the final.

Nancy Hart was Tournament Manager, assisted by Gillian Merritt.

— Jeff Soo, TD