2022 North Carolina Club Teams report

Posted 26 August 2022 to , by Jeff Soo
2022 NC Club Teams players at Linville Ridge Photo by Mieke Maloof

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

North Carolina Club Teams has seen many changes over the years. Mack Penwell started the tournament in 1996 at Pinehurst, but within a few years it found a home in the mountains at the three Linville-area clubs—Grandfather Golf & Country Club, Linville Golf Club, and Linville Ridge Country Club—where it has been a late-July fixture ever since. For its first nineteen years all the play was American Six-Wicket Croquet; after a two-year break the tournament returned in 2017 as a combined GC and 6W event. The host clubs joined forces to compete as “High Country” for several years; in 2021 the event was restructured into two teams, East and West. Finally, in 2022 the event has returned to its original concept, each club forming its own team. Also, GC took center stage this year, with 6W play offered as an optional extra.

One essential has never changed: the event retains its relaxed atmosphere and spirit of camaraderie, and remains a great introduction to tournament play for newer players. Linville Golf Club member Cathy Thompson provided a notable example of this: three weeks after taking up a mallet for the first time, she partnered with club pro Tom Balding to compete in Championship Flight.

The format was set for three flights of twelve doubles pairs each. After some late withdrawals and substitutions the final tally was 70 players representing twelve clubs. Seven of those club teams (26 players) came from the “Plateau”, the burgeoning GC hotspot in far southwestern NC. Another thirteen doubles pairs represented the three host clubs. Arbor Acres (central NC) and Bald Head Island (coastal) rounded out the field.

Modeled after its National namesake, NC Club Teams allows teams of differing sizes to compete in a standard block-and-ladder format. Players earn points for their club team in the overall competition for the Penwell Trophy. This year the scoring system was adjusted to make all games count: one point for winning a block or consolation match, then increasing by a point in each round of the main knockouts (two points for a quarterfinal and so on). This format rewards participation, but still gives smaller teams a chance, as this year’s results would prove.

Four pairs qualified from each block of six to the knockouts, with all twelve teams advancing at least one pair. Wildcat Cliffs had a team of three pairs, one in each flight, and all three qualified. Grandfather and Linville Ridge likewise qualified pairs to the quarterfinals in all three flights.

Each flight had a Plate for those not qualifying to the knockouts. The format was two cross-block rounds. Dick Johnston & Len Miller (Bald Head Island) won both their games to win the Championship Plate. David Moser & Tony Watts (Grandfather) did likewise to win the First Flight Plate. Second Flight had one fewer entry, and the Plate ended in a three-way tie.

Mary Stuart Hartmann once again showed that age is just a number. Aged 99, she and partner Lou Ann Lindsay (playing for the Grandfather club) qualified to the Second Flight Knockout, where they played top seeds Wade Mallard & Rick Loftin (Linville Ridge), losing 5-7 in a spirited quarterfinal.

Losing quarterfinalists dropped into Bowl (consolation) knockouts in each flight. The hybrid pairing of Adam Zaccara (Bald Head Island) and Sandy Stasiek (Linville Ridge) won the Second Flight Bowl. John Taylor & Harriet Engle (Linville Ridge) won in First Flight, and Chris & Gail Barley (Grandfather) won in Championship.

Both Second Flight blocks were competitive, so it was a little surprising to see all four pairs from Block A beat their Block B counterparts in the quarterfinals. Charles Duckett & Angela Pittman (Arbor Acres) won their rematch against the undefeated Loftin & Mallard to advance to the final, where they faced John Dobson & Leigh Green (Linville Golf). Dobson & Green had won their block match 7-5, and won the final 7-6.

Bob Hamilton & Robb Turner (Lake Toxaway) won all their Block A games, mostly by large margins, and continued the trend into the final. Steve Hawes and Jill Norman (Grandfather) followed a similar script from Block B. Hamilton & Turner won the final, 7-4.

The Championship knockout started with single-game quarterfinals and progressed to best-of-three semifinals and final. Both block winners were undefeated, and survived 7-6 quarterfinals to advance. Pat Cunningham and Billy Harper (Sapphire Valley) dropped the first game of their semifinal against Nancy Hart & Gene Raymond (Linville Ridge) 2-7, but finished the match with 7-6 and 7-4 wins. Dick Boger & Hammond Rauers (Highlands) faced Eileen & Jeff Soo (Highlands Falls), the Soos winning 7-2, 7-5.

With games running longer than expected on Friday and Saturday, there was only time for one round of 6W play. Johnston & Miller and Soo & Soo each won close games to earn another point for their teams.

The Soos made a strong start in the Championship final, winning 7-2. The second game featured many interesting battles and a few improbable shots, the Soos closing out the match 7-3.

Linville Ridge had the largest team (13 players) and had built an insurmountable lead in the Penwell Trophy race by the end of play Saturday, despite having no pairs in any of the finals. So the final day was a battle for second place, with six different clubs represented by the six finalist pairs, each with a chance to earn four points. Despite having one of the smaller teams (4 players), Lake Toxaway edged out Grandfather by one point for second-place honors.

The tournament was directed by Jeff Soo and managed by David and Mieke Maloof.

—Jeff Soo, T.D.

Penwell Trophy

1. Linville Ridge (26)
2. Lake Toxaway (19)
3. Grandfather (18)
4. Linville Golf (17)
5. Bald Head Island (15)
6. Highlands Falls (13)
=7. Arbor Acres (12)
=7. Trillium (12)
9. Sapphire Valley (10)
10. Wildcat Cliffs (9)
11. Highlands (7)
12. Cedar Creek (3)

Championship Flight

1. Eileen Soo & Jeff Soo (Highlands Falls)
2. Pat Cunningham & Billy Harper (Sapphire Valley)
3. Dick Boger & Hammond Rauers (Highlands)
4. Nancy Hart & Gene Raymond (Linville Ridge)
5. Chris Barley & Gail Barley (Grandfather)
6. Faith Schwaibold & Diane Walker (Wildcat Cliffs)
=7. Michael Albert & Karen Connery-Albert (Cedar Creek)
=7. David Maloof & Roberta Taylor (Linville Ridge)
9. Dick Johnston & Len Miller (Bald Head Island)
=10. Rob Byrd & Ted Thelin (Linville Ridge)
=10. Gary Gamble & Kathie Gamble (Trillium)
12. Tom Balding & Cathy Thompson (Linville Golf)

First Flight

1. Bob Hamilton & Robb Turner (Lake Toxaway)
2. Steve Hawes & Jill Norman (Grandfather)
=3. Jan Spoerl & Scott Spoerl (Trillium)
=3. Mary Anne Hamilton & Sybil Turner (Lake Toxaway)
5. John Taylor & Harriet Engle (Linville Ridge)
6. Mike Malpass & Patti Malpass (Bald Head Island)
7. Anne Killilea & Kevin Killilea (Trillium)
8. John Walker & Tom Webster (Wildcat Cliffs)
9. David Moser & Tony Watts (Grandfather)
10. Ballentine Carter & Lillian Carter (Bald Head Island)
=11. Craig Sellner & Judy Sellner (Trillium)
=11. Bill Hartman & Marie Jones (Linville Ridge)

Second Flight

1. John Dobson & Leigh Green (Linville Golf)
2. Charles Duckett & Angela Pittman (Arbor Acres)
3. Rick Loftin & Wade Mallard (Linville Ridge)
4. Debbi Patten & Keith Patten (Wildcat Cliffs)
5. Adam Zaccara (Bald Head Island) & Sandy Stasiek (Linville Ridge)
6. Bruce Rinehart & Gregg Wechsler (Linville Golf)
7. John Rundell & Luella Rundell (Arbor Acres)
8. Mary Stuart Hartmann & Lou Ann Lindsay (Grandfather)
=9. Cam McIntyre & Betty Robinson (Bald Head Island)
=9. Judy Hathaway & Judy Reeder (Arbor Acres)
11. Pinky Hayden & Charlotte Hubbard (Arbor Acres)