2008 Stoneridge Spring Handicap Weekend

Posted 14 July 2008 to Tournaments, Handicap Play by Jeff Soo
Club president Frank Thompson presents finalists Jeff Soo and Neal Deputy with prizes at the 2008 Stoneridge Spring Handicap Weekend Photo by Eileen Kupstas Soo

The Stoneridge Croquet Club continued its pioneering series of American-rules handicap tournaments with a sanctioned weekend tournament held June 13–15. Nine players played a total of thirty games, all but two of which involved bisques. Top performers were Jeff Soo, going undefeated while giving bisques in every game, and Neal Deputy, playing his first tournament of any kind and reaching the final with a 5/7 record while playing off handicap 10.

In the semi-finals both Deputy and Soo posted 26-2 wins, over Frank Thompson and Tommy Harrington, respectively. This latter game was a rematch of the Soo/Harrington semi-final at the previous Stoneridge handicap tournament, which Harrington had won 26-2 with bisques still standing. But this time, after a Soo break and defensive leave, Harrington spent four bisques in a comically ill-fated attempt to make a corner-to-corner roquet: the first shot went out of bounds, requiring a replay bisque. The second attempt stuck in a wicket, requiring another bisque just to get free and a third bisque for another attempt, which again went out of bounds. One more replay bisque also failed, leaving Harrington to retire in exasperation with only a half bisque remaining.

Another amusing note came earlier, when Soo realized that he had to give a half bisque to Paul Scott, current national champion; furthermore, that he stood to win only two tracking points for a win, whereas he would have won three in a level game against Scott.

In the final, Soo picked up a break and cannoned the fourth ball into the game. He went to the peg and made a bisque-extracting leave, putting the hot ball near corner I, the spent ball between hoop 3 and corner 3, and his balls on the east boundary by hoop 4 with a rush up the lawn. Deputy used two bisques to safely approach and roquet the boundary balls, getting them both well into the lawn, then another bisque to get a rush to hoop 2. Having used three of his twelve bisques to lay out the four-ball break he needed only four more to continue to rover with a good leave. Soo cornered and Deputy bided his time, looking for an opportunity to set up another four-ball break. This he eventually did at the cost of a couple more bisques, continuing until they ran out. With time running low Soo was able to pick up another break, finishing to win 26-18.

Of the twenty-eight handicap games played, nineteen were won by the player giving bisques and nine by the player receiving bisques. While this is not quite the ideal 1:1 ratio, it is competitive enough and easily explained by the challenging court conditions, which tend to favor the lower-handicap player, and by the fact that the USCA handicap system is not fine-tuned for handicap play. Yet. A start would be to make each handicap game worth a full four tracking points. But, as did the previous Stoneridge handicap tournament, this tournament shows that the new handicap rules are effective, challenging, and fun, and a vast improvement from the previous rules.