CANADIAN NATIONALS AND USCA REGIONALS IN THE WEST YIELD LOW POINT SCORES AND LEAVE OSBORN WAY OUT IN FRONT OF GRAND PRIX
reported by Louis Nel of Canada, Rich Lamm of Colorado, and Johnny Mitchell of Texas
U.S.C.A. PRESIDENT WINS CANADA'S CASH PRIZE AND GIVES IT BACK
The Canadian Open Championship of 1997 differed from its predecessors in several respects. Prize money totaling $1875 was up for grabs. The customary doubles championship flight was replaced by a singles flight in International Rules. The fine courts of two nearby lawn bowling clubs were used in addition to the "home" courts of the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. And a Golf Croquet tournament was held on the day before the "real" tournament started.
The USCA rules championship flight was divided into five blocks of five, giving four block matches of 75 minutes to each of the block participants. Eight advanced to the single-elimination playoff - block winners in addition to three wild cards. Dan Mahoney defeated Leo McBride in one semi-final while Jeff Soo got the better of rising star Jim Houser in the other.
The ensuing finals between Dan and Jeff was a hard-fought battle. Dan was ahead for most of the match, only to be overtaken by Jeff with the first ball of the last rotation. It seemed that Jeff had the match under control, but then disaster struck in the form of a routine stop-shot that went wrong. Jeff's striker ball rolled behind a wicket to wire him from the connecting roquet. His desperate shot at a boundary ball missed and gave Mahoney an additional ball to work with as he regained the lead by one point with the last ball in the match.
Dan Mahoney made Canadian croquet history by being the first USCA president to participate in the Canadian Open. Already a popular guest of honor, he brought out further smiles of approval when he re-donated his $500 first prize to Croquet Canada.
The International Rules championship gave each player four block matches of 120 minutes duration. Only the four block winners went to play offs. The final between Brian Cumming of Ontario and Jeff Soo was a match of fluctuating fortunes, with Brian emerging on top.
The unusual format created a computing problem for the Grand Prix scoring: point awards for each player were made on the basis of the combined results of American Rules and International rules play. On that basis, Jeff Soo of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, second in both tournaments, wound up in first place in the Grand Prix points award.
SOUTHWEST REGIONALS HELD IN HOUSTON'S MEMORIAL PARK
The Southwest Regionals were held for the first time in Texas, in Houston's Memorial Park. It was a small field but a fairly strong one, dominated in singles by former national champion Jim Bast. Championship doubles were won by Johnny Mitchell and Britt Ruby. Jeff Caldwell took First Flight singles as well as doubles, teamed with John Scott.
The regional was organized for June play during the San Francisco Open, where, in a conversation with Dan Mahoney, Johnny Mitchell of the Houston Croquet Association discovered that the planned date for the SW region would be too late to allow players to qualify for the American rules nationals championships in Palm Beach in October. The tournament was scheduled for an early date when the heat and humidity in Houston would be at bearable mid-day levels. The tournament came up short in numbers partly because of the short notification period.
The lawns at Memorial Park, now a year old, are home to the Houston Croquet Association. With two full-sized lawns on municipal turf used exclusively for croquet, it is only the second such publicly supported municipal facility in the country (after San Francisco's Stern Grove).
IN THEIR NEW REGION, DENVER HOSTS THE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Colorado has long been a favorite venue for USCA regionals - first in the old Western Region, then in the Southwest Region after the west was split. And even before the USCA voted formal approval last April to the local players' request to move Colorado into the Northwest Region, the Denver Croquet Club began laying plans to host the Northwest Regionals.
Following a western trend of recent years, the Championship Flight of the regional was short and weak (relative to the playing strength in the region). The Championship Flight final was a battle between two local players, Rich Lamm and Ed Merrill, with Lamm winning the top trophy. Karen Collingwood of San Francisco took First Flight, and Aaron Bregman emerged on top of the Second Flight
HOW THE NEW AMERICAN GRAND PRIX WORKS
The 1997 New America Grand Prix covers 16 of the most important croquet events in North America - all the national championships and USCA regionals as well as eight of the consistently strongest tournaments in the land. Designed to track the performance of the top-level players throughout the calendar year, the Grand Prix awards points to the top eight finishers in all these tournaments. The amount of the points award depends not only on the rank of finish in a particular tournament, but also the strength of the tournament as measured in four "scoring ranges", with a win or place in the toughest tournaments generating four times as many points as a win or place in the weakest of the 16 events. The Grand Prix also takes into account consistency: At the end of the year, the top performers' points are averaged among all the Grand Prix events they contested, and the "Player of the Year" is determined by computing the highest score. To be eligible for this ranking, at least three events must be played.
HOW GRAND PRIX POINTS ARE AWARDED
Grand Prix player rankings are updated after each event, based on reported results. Raw points are awarded on the following basis:
FIRST PLACE - 100 points;
The points are then adjusted according to the strength of the field, as measured by the aggregate handicap total of the top eight players registered in the tournament, as follows:
RAW POINTS for placing in events scoring 10 or more;
1997 GRAND PRIX POINT STANDINGS AFTER SIX EVENTS
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