2021 North Carolina GC Open report

Posted 13 October 2021 to , by Jeff Soo
Team West at the inaugural East/West Challenge: Eileen Soo, David Maloof (Team Captain), Ted Thelin, Kathie Gamble, Anne Killilea, Rich Dell Photo by Anne Killilea

For complete game scores see the event listing on Croquet Scores:

The inaugural North Carolina Golf Croquet Open was held on three courts at the Bald Head Island Club. It has been several years since the club has hosted a state tournament, and they rolled out the red carpet, offering to house all visiting players at member homes, getting the courts into top condition, and hosting excellent lunches and dinners at the club.

The event was preceded by the inaugural East/West Challenge, a low-key GC doubles team competition between Eastern and Western NC. Team West won seven of the nine games to win the match comfortably.

The weather forecast for the four days of the Open called for significant rain, but the “Bald Head Bubble” seemed to be in effect, the heavier rain passing inland or staying out to sea, and there were no play stoppages. Wind was a factor at times, but never reaching “Bald Head Breeze” levels, when it can be a challenge just to stand upright, let alone swing a croquet mallet.

All games were played without time limits. While typical first-day jitters and very solid hoops led to some long games on Thursday, the pace of play returned to normal by Friday and there was no problem getting all the games in.

Championship Flight, with eight players, started with a complete block. The four top seeds won all their games against the lower seeds to advance to the best-of-three knockout. David Maloof and Mike Taylor earned top knockout seeding, each with 6-1 records. Jeff Soo and Rich Dell, each 5-2, rounded out the knockout. In the semi-finals, Maloof beat Dell 7-4, 7-4, and Soo beat Taylor 7-4, 6-7, 7-4.

First Flight had fourteen players, divided into two blocks of seven; the top four from each block would advance to the knockout. Mike Malpass won Block A with a 5-1 record. Anne Killilea, Kendall Hendrick, and Dick Johnston each finished 4-2 in Block A to also advance to the knockout. Alex Galasso, in his first year of tournament play, won Block B 6-0. Laura Hendrick (5-1) and Tom Howell (3-3) also advanced, as did Kathie Gamble (2-4) on a net-points tiebreak.

Due to time constraints, the quarter-finals were single-game matches. And all four matches resulted in upsets, at least according to block records. Gamble and Johnston, who had finished fourth in their respective blocks, advanced to the final. Gamble won 7-3 over Malpass, then 7-5, 7-3 over Kendall Hendrick. Johnston won 7-5 over Galasso, then 4-7, 7-4, 7-6 over Howell.

Consolation events guaranteed that every player would play at least two games on Saturday. The Championship Plate was a modified Draw & Process. Eileen Soo and Ted Thelin advanced to the semi-final stage, where they were joined by the losing semi-finalists from the main knockout. Dell and Taylor each won, and Taylor won the Plate final 7-6.

In First Flight, the six players who did not reach the knockout played the “Zed” block, with three cross-block games each. John Gottshall, Kim Gottshall, and Tom Bown finished tied on wins, John Gottshall winning the Zed (and ninth place overall) on net points. The four losing quarter-finalists from the main knockout played a two-round Plate knockout. Galasso and Malpass advanced to the Plate final, which Galasso won 7-3.

Gamble continued her solid play into the final, winning the first game 7-6. Johnston got into a higher gear for the rest of the match, equalizing the match with a 7-3 win in game 2, then finishing with the same score in the deciding game.

In the Championship final, Maloof won the toss and led throughout most of game 1, winning 7-5. Soo reached a 6-2 lead in game 2, but Maloof came back to 6-all and had a routine shot for match point at the golden hoop. But his ball bounced out of the hoop, and Soo leveled the match. The deciding game was close throughout. At 5-all, Maloof had the better position at 11, but Soo managed to jaws from the boundary and Maloof’s jump attempt gave Soo the point for 6-5. Soo had control at hoop 12, until Maloof’s clearing shot from near the penalty area cleared both of Soo’s balls and left Maloof in the jaws. With the first shot to hoop 13, Soo negotiated the slope to get to excellent position with red, and Maloof missed his clearing attempt with black. But Soo didn’t manage the slope so well with yellow, ending in the jaws to block red’s shot. Maloof took position with blue; Soo shot gently with red to push yellow out and leave red in the jaws. Maloof shot black from the line to clear yellow, but barely moved it, and Soo cleared blue back to the line, three yards west of corner 3. Maloof took great care lining up a backwards-swing bouncing jumper; blue had enough height on the bounce, but bounced off the outside edge of the eastern upright, and Soo tapped through for the match.

Local artist and croquet player Janice Alexander created the trophies: hand-crafted ceramic plates, beautifully painted with Great Blue Herons for the winners and Snowy Egrets for the runners-up.

The Tournament Managers were Barbara Adams-Miller and Len Miller.

— Jeff Soo, Tournament Director

Championship Flight

1 Jeff Soo
2 David Maloof
3 Mike Taylor
4 Rich Dell
5 Eileen Soo
6 Ted Thelin
7 Bill Simmons
8 Doug Ledgett

First Flight

1 Dick Johnston
2 Kathie Gamble
=3 Kendall Hendrick
=3 Tom Howell
5 Alex Galasso
6 Mike Malpass
7 Laura Hendrick
8 Anne Killilea
9 John Gottshall
10 Kim Gottshall
11 Tom Bown
12 Patti Malpass
13 Cindy Howell
14 Mary Galasso

East/West Challenge

(Western NC names first)

David Maloof & Anne Killilea beat Jeff Soo & Patti Malpass 7-6
Rich Dell & Ted Thelin beat Doug Ledgett & Kim Gottshall 7-3
Eileen Soo & Kathie Gamble beat Mike Malpass & John Gottshall 7-4
David Maloof & Rich Dell beat Jeff Soo & John Gottshall 7-2
Ted Thelin & Anne Killilea beat Dick Johnston & Patti Malpass 7-1
Ted Thelin & Eileen Soo lost to Dick Johnston & Doug Ledgett 5-7
Anne Killilea & Kathie Gamble lost to Mike Taylor & Kim Gottshall 2-7
David Maloof & Eileen Soo beat Mike Taylor & Doug Ledgett 7-3
Rich Dell & Kathie Gamble beat Jeff Soo & Mike Malpass 7-5

Western NC beat Eastern NC 7-2