CLARKE WINS SINGLES FINALS 3/0 AGAINST MULLINER,
BUT MULLINER AND BAMFORD TAKE THE DOUBLES PRIZE
by Andrew Gregory
Since winning the WCF World Championship last year, Chris Clarke's winning
record has advanced with the kind of inevitability that not so long ago
characterized Robert Fulford's croquet career. Clarke was superb in the
Solomon, unbeatable in the President's Cup, and serenely confident in the
triumph at Sonoma Cutrer that gave him both world titles. Only the summit
of the world rankings has eluded him, for he has already passed Robert
Fulford and is only millimeters away from displacing Kiwi Aaron Westerby at
the top - but this remains to be formally confirmed.
The British Open Championships concluded at the Hurlingham Club on
Sunday, 13th July. The closing stages were contested by three Englishmen
and a South African.
The first game of the best-of-five doubles final match was most exciting:
Chris Clarke took the first break to four-back, but before his partner
Robert Fulford could embark on the triple, Stephen Mulliner hit the
lift, made one peel on Clarke's ball then cross-wired Clarke and Fulford
at hoop 1, and laid up in third corner after six hoops. Fulford missed
the 35-yarder, and Reg Bamford then played a most adventurous turn:
peeling Clarke through his last two hoops AND his partner through three
hoops. He even considered popping Fulford through hoop one to collect
all four clips. He finished by pegging out Clarke and himself to leave
Mulliner on 4-back v Fulford on 1.
The only flaw to Bamford's turn was leaving Mulliner's ball just 6 yards
South of third corner. Eschewing the contact, Fulford lifted his ball
to third corner and violently cut rush the other ball to within 8 yards
of hoop one. Thence he established a two-ball break, which came to an
untimely end on the wire of hoop 4. A relieved Mulliner scrambled home.
The remaining games in the match were not as competitive: 26 (Clarke TP);
26 (Fulford TP); 26 (Mulliner fails TP but Fulford's shooting is shot); 26
(Bamford TP). So the older team of Mulliner/Bamford took the doubles final
from Clarke and Fulford by a one-game margin.
CLARKE TAKES SINGLES REVENGE IN THREE-GAME SWEEP OF THE MATCH
Clarke had the chance for instant revenge in the singles final. He had
already beaten Bamford 3-1 in the semi-final, and faced Mulliner in the
singles final. (Mulliner's semi-final victim had been - need you ask? -
The first game went to Clarke 25tp. The second game saw both players put
down a triple peel, with Mulliner's error decisive: Clarke +2. The
third game presented Mulliner with another easy opportunity, but this
time his triple collapsed at 2-back with 2 peels done. Clarke took a
ball round and peeled and pegged out Mulliner. The three-ball ending
was more protracted than is usual at the top level, with Mulliner having
more than one opportunity to progress from 2-back. None was taken, and
after some tactical exchanges with both clips on 2-back, Clarke finally
got a three-ball break to finish.
IT'S CLARKE'S FIRST WIN IN THE BRITISH OPEN
Of the four singles semi-finalists, Mulliner, Bamford and Fulford have
each won the title three times. Clarke had never won it, and his
determination was the greatest.
Chris Clarke now holds the two highest individual British honours: the
President's Cup and the Coronation Gold Cup presented to him as winner for the
British Open. Internationally, he reigns as WCF World Champion, and he
won the Sonoma Cutrer tournament in May. We await the statisticians'
pronouncement op who sits atop the computer rankings, but the (gold and)
silverware already in Clarke's possession is singularly persuasive.
[Andrew Gregory has promised us a more detailed acccount of the British Open
to follow in the coming week.]