From USCA—NC District President, Danny Huneycutt
The year 2004 will be a prominent one in the history of North Carolina croquet. While maintaining our American 6-Wicket schedule of events, District leaders have built an Association Croquet (“International Rules”) program that has had and will continue to have a national impact. During the past few years many of our top players have been concentrating on Association rather than American 6-Wicket croquet, so it was time to provide more AC opportunities.
Two essential elements of this program are the willingness of our top AC players to provide training at all levels, and the need to continue to serve our base of 6-Wicket players as well as ever. These new opportunities to learn and play the Association game are complementary to our existing 6-Wicket program.
Forty-three players from NC and neighboring states attended the first 2-day AC training session in October 2003 at Pinehurst, NC. Players were divided into four groups, levels A through D. Instructors included five National Champions, Jeff Soo, Paul Scott, Damon Bidencope, Bob Cherry and Mack Penwell, along with Danny Huneycutt and Andy Short.
Forty-one players braved frigid conditions during the March follow-up session. Between sessions there was a twenty-player tournament that allowed several players to establish their grade and index. In February eight North Carolinians traveled to participate in the first-ever sanctioned tournament in Hawaii, the 2004 Croquet Fever kickoff.
Activity heated up in early Spring during ten days of Association play at Pinehurst that started with the NC Open Championship Qualifier and 1st/2nd flight tournament, continued with the inaugural North Carolina/Eastern Canada “test match”, and finished with the NC Open Championship, now well established as one of the premier AC events in North America.
It was a pleasure to host the Eastern Canada team of Leo McBride, Louis Nel, Paul Emmett, Bob and Audrey Wille, Ken Shipley, Christian Paquet and Jane Beharriell. On the North Carolina team were Bob Cherry, Mack Penwell, Bill Berne, Andy Short, Jack Stevens, Dick Loew, Bob Minick and Kathy Kuhasz. The AC training program showed its worth as North Carolina won the test match 25-19 and had four of the top five finishers in Championship Qualifier Flight, 1st Flight and 2nd Flight, and three of the top four in Championship Flight.
Association Croquet continued to draw top players and new players alike through May and June. Gene Young, NC District VP, held the annual Carolina Challenge on the spectacular lawns at Etowah Valley Country Club. Danny Huneycutt’s Croquet Fever at Pinehurst featured Association play in Championship Flight. Finally, the inaugural NC Sextuple Challenge included Association singles and “1-ball”. The Sextuple Challenge was an evaluation tournament designed to include six different disciplines of croquet. There was a coin toss prior to each playoff game and whoever won the coin toss would determine which discipline would be played. More people have requested the return of the Sextuple Challenge than all the other tournaments combined, so it will certainly be repeated next year.
July was another fantastic month for NC’s Association players. The first-ever North Carolina/Australia test match was followed by a Croquet Fever tournament, both events in beautiful Linville, NC. It was a great privilege for NC to host our friends from Australia that included Tony Hall (Past President of the World Croquet Federation), Ross Marshall, Jonathan Bowen, Ken Edwards and Margaret Strickland. The NC team of Danny Huneycutt, Jeff and Eileen Soo, David Maloof, Andy Short, Harold Allison and Ed Roberts prevailed 17-8.
The Croquet Fever tournament was the largest yet, and featured an exciting finish in the Championship division. Going into the final round of block play four players had 5-1 records and the four players were scheduled to play each other, with only two to advance to the final. North Carolinians Jeff Soo and Danny Huneycutt would play in one game and Australians Tony Hall and Ross Marshall faced off in the other. Tony Hall won with a triple peel and Danny Huneycutt prevailed after Jeff Soo quadruple-peeled Danny’s forward ball out of the game. Danny Huneycutt completed the wonderful week of croquet by defeating Tony Hall 26-0 with a triple peel in the final.
Also in July, Jeff Soo—Team Captain—and Bob Cherry represented the USA in England at the Solomon Trophy and the British Open.
August was icing on the cake. Earlier in the year the USCA International Committee accepted the bid from NC and the three Linville clubs, Grandfather Golf and Country Club, Linville Ridge Croquet Club and the Eseeola Croquet Club to host the 2004 USCA National International Rules Championship. North Carolina players Eileen Soo and Bill Denton were the top two finishers in 1st Flight and Bob Cherry won the National singles title. North Carolina also claimed five of the top eight spots in the Championship Flight. In block play NC players Bob Cherry, Danny Huneycutt and Paul Scott were undefeated. Paul Scott teamed with Jerry Stark of California to win the National doubles title. Bob Cherry also accepted an invitation to play in the world class Resort at the Mountain tournament in Oregon.
Just like everyone else, North Carolina is always seeking ways to attract new players and enhance the croquet experience of existing players. Golf Croquet is a great development tool and we have found out that AC and AC 1-ball can also stimulate the development process. Even if American 6-Wicket croquet is the prevalent game played in your area, Association Croquet can be used for developing new players. Though AC may be a more difficult game to master, it is a much easier game to learn and new players are exposed to break-play much quicker. Without a deadness board and the need to learn rotation, the learning process is that much simpler.
Alongside all these new events, the American 6-Wicket game continues to thrive in NC. Our Club Team Championship had 40 doubles teams from across the state—just as large as the National Club Teams Championship. Participation in our state Singles Championship increased from 24 players in 2003 to 39 players in 2004. Club and state developers planning to have more AC activity should remember that the vast majority of the USCA membership plays American 6-Wicket exclusively. We’re not trying to change what game people play, but to provide options. As an afterthought, can you envision the day when Great Britain is trying to wrest the MacRobertson Shield away from the USA?
Just like Florida, California, Texas, Kentucky and many other states, North Carolina is a great place to play croquet. We are fortunate to have a long and proud croquet heritage and we honor those who have brought us into the twenty-first century. We encourage all our friends across the US to honor our USCA founders by striving to be ambassadors of croquet.
Last modified on 12 December 2004 by Jeff Soo