Today was the opening day of the North Carolina Open’s Championship Qualifying and B Division. This four-day tournament is itself the start of an eleven-day extravaganza of Association Croquet at Pinehurst. Next will be the second annual NC v. Canada test match, in which two twelve-player teams face off in a friendly yet highly competitive challenge. Finally, the main event: the 2005 North Carolina Open. In all, over fifty players will take part, easily making this the largest Association Croquet event in North America.
With twenty-three entrants, the NC Open Championship Qualifying and B Division proves that Association Croquet tournaments are no longer just for elite players. And these players have moved well beyond the one-hoop-at-a-time “Aunt Emma” style of play. The first day’s games have set the tone for aggressive shotmaking and a focus on break play. The top two players in this event will earn automatic qualification to the 2006 NC Open.
The NC v. Canada test series seems assured of long-term success, thanks particularly to the Canada side’s enthusiasm in assembling a worthy team of twelve players to travel all the way to NC. Of course most of these players are also participating in one division or the other of the NC Open.
The NC Open is now well established as one of North America’s major Association Croquet events. This year’s field will feature the current holders of the USCA’s top Association Croquet titles: Bob Cherry—national singles champion, and Damon Bidencope—Selection Eights champion.