Mik Mehas of Palm Springs, California, outlasted Jerry Stark of Meadowood in California's Napa Valley in their best-of-3 final on Sunday, September 21, in Oakland, California, to win the 1997 USCA International Rules National Championship.
It was the first national championship Mehas has achieved in singles, though he has come close many times. When asked "What's next?" Mehas replied, "I'm going to win the American Rules Nationals in Palm Beach next month."
The final best-of-3 saw both players win games in which the opponent pegged them out. In the deciding game, Stark, trailing 21-2, took his first break around and pegged Mehas out to close the gap to 22-12 with 30 minutes remaining in the 2-hour-and-40 minute match. Mehas failed to score after his lift to contact and Stark quickly cut the lead to 22-19.
With the lift, Mehas chose to shoot from B balk at an angle, presumably to avoid rush-peeling Stark through penultimate - which could have left Mehas with a long and difficult reverse take-off to achieve good hoop position. Mehas hit the lift shot, with Stark's ball obligingly bouncing out from the jaws on the playing side of the hoop. He then finished the game.
Taking Revenge for Game One
Mehas got to 1-back, when he stuffed, and Stark hit in from the boundary north of 6 to save the game.
Block play was lead by Jacques Fournier, who finished 8-0, and led the tournament with four TPs. The fifteen-year-old from Phoenix also scored perhaps the most impressive victory of the tournament, with a six-turn wipe-out of Stark in block play. Fournier placed fourth in the tournament, just behind David Openshaw of England. All four of these players will be playing in the WCF World Croquet Championship in Bunbury, Australia, in November.
The tournament was also a warmup, of sorts, for two American players bound for Cairo in October to compete in the Golf Croquet World Championship - Mark Najarian and Sharif Abdelwahab. Sharif, who lives near Boston, is optimistic about his prospects. "We could win it," he says of the American contingent, which consists of Najarian and three native-born Egyptians living in the United States.
In the short First Flight, Melanie Marsac of Santa Rosa and David Gladstein of San Francisco also played out a grueling three-game match which ended with Marsac the winner by a hair.
With game times set at a full two hours and forty minutes, with stopping the clock allowed in the last fifteen minutes, a majority of the games went to the peg, and there were no complaints with regard to time. Nonetheless, a surprising number of critical games among the top players went long and forced the players into "time tactics." The Mehas/Stark three-game finals match lasted almost eight hours.
Championship Block Results
[CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE will cover the USCA American Rules National Championships in Palm Beach in mid-October.]
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