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The big ones are out West in May and June of 1999

by Bob Alman & Mike Orgill;
layout by Reuben Edwards
Posted May 13, 1999
 INTERNAL LINKS:
 • Sonoma-Cutrer World Championship, May 16-22 1999
 • Golf Croquet Nationals, Merv Griffin Resort, May 25-30
 • The Resort at the Mountain Invitational, June 3-6
 • Solomon Trophy, Sonoma-Cutrer, June 20-26


Stacking the big events of 1999 in the American West into one six-week period beginning in mid May makes it practical for many international players to compete in more than one of them. It's also a golden opportunity for spectators and fans to be a part of the most entertaining spectacles in the sport and to see croquet played at its best at some of the newer venues. First, Sonoma-Cutrer produces its 14th World Croquet Championship, croquet's ultimate showcase event; then in late May the Merv Griffin Resort in Palm Springs hosts its first major croquet event, the U.S.C.A. Golf Croquet National Championships; in early June, The Resort at the Mountain in Oregon continues to expand their wine and croquet festival in the shadow of Mount Hood; and then the British send their best to Sonoma to meet the Americans in the annual Solomon Trophy test matches.

The 14th Sonoma-Cutrer World Championship

Twenty-eight top international players from eleven countries compete in the fourteenth World Croquet Championship at the Sonoma-Cutrer Winery in Windsor, California, beginning May 17. The tournament's top seeds are Robert Fulford (1998 champion and winner in 1992/93), David Maugham (1995 champion), Chris Clarke (1998 runner-up, 1997 winner) and Stephen Mulliner (winner in 1986/87/88). They're all British.

Six of the world's top ten players are competing in the tournament, and half of the field are ranked fifty or lower on the world ranking list. The top American seed is Arizona's Jacques Fournier, who came in second in last year's British Open.

The first five days of the Sonoma World's are a calm and quiet prelude to an extravagant finals day spectacle replete with wine, food, hoopla, and a couple of thousand people.
The first five days of the Sonoma World's are a calm and quiet prelude to an extravagant finals day spectacle replete with wine, food, hoopla, and a couple of thousand people.
WCC veterans returning this year include Americans Phil Arnold, Mik Mehas, Ren Kraft, and Doug Grimsley. Australians Helene Thurston and Max Donati are coming back for the second straight time. Egyptian Sherif Abdelwahab is making his second run at the title after an absence of several years.

Some rookies to watch are Americans Jim Audas, Carl Hanson, and Dan Mahoney. Chris Williams of Wales, Louis Nel of Canada, R. N. McInerney of Ireland, and Peter Payne of Switzerland are all tournament rookies.

American players will be under added pressure this year. The USCA selection committee has announced players for the Solomon Cup and the Carter Cup and must also find a good team for the MacRobertson Shield, in New Zealand in January/February, 2000. The Americans' performance at Sonoma-Cutrer should figure significantly in the selection process.

The tournament's focus is its final day charity auction and final game. Last year more than 1,500 spectators watched the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final game. The wine auction raised over $750,000 for the Make-A-Wish and Polly Klaas foundations.

The golf croquet warm-up tournament

The Sonoma-Cutrer World Croquet Championship inaugurates its first warm-up golf croquet tournament on Sunday, May 16. Play begins at 8:00 AM. Competitors in the WCC, along with visiting Egyptian golf croquet champions, will square off for a $1000 prize in the single-elimination event played according to World Croquet Federation golf croquet rules. Mik Mehas (finalist in the last WCC championship in the game) is the golf croquet tournament director.

Play in the main event begins on Monday, May 17. Block play ends on Thursday, May 20. Challenge round and medalist round play is scheduled for Friday, May 21. The golf-croquet final, WCC quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the final game, along with a gala finals day luncheon and wine auction all take place on May 22. Michael Orgill is tournament director, assisted by John and Rosemarie Taylor. Richard Hilditch is tournament referee.

Spectators are welcome at no charge from May 16 - May 22. [Contact Mike Orgill at (415) 974-2494 for information.] Admission to the final day is by ticket only. Individual tickets to the final day are $185 and are available at the winery. [Call (707) 585-7819 for information.]

The competitors at the Sonoma-Cutrer World's are:

Sherif Abdelwahab, Egypt
Phil Arnold, USA
Jim Audas, USA
Reg Bamford, South Africa
Graham Beale, New Zealand
Matthew Burrow, Jersey
Chris Clarke, England
Shane Davis, New Zealand
Bryan Dawson, Australia
Max Donati, Australia
Bruce Fleming, Australia
Jacques Fournier, USA
Robert Fulford, England
Doug Grimsley, USA
Carl Hanson, USA
Ren Kraft, USA
David Maugham, England
Dan Mahoney, USA
Alan McInerney, Ireland
Mik Mehas, USA
Stephen Mulliner, England
Louis Nel, Canada
Malcolm O'Connell, Scotland
Peter Payne, Switzerland
Tony Stephens, New Zealand
Helen Thurston, Australia
Chris Williams, Wales
Brian Wislang, Australia

Additional competitors for the golf croquet event are:

Ihab Abdelwahab, Egypt
Richard Hilditch, Wales
Mohammad Kamal, Egypt
Michael Orgill, USA

Merv Griffin hosts first USCA Golf Croquet Nationals

The Merv Griffin Resort in Palm Springs has recently built a croquet lawn which will be the showcase venue for the first USCA Golf Croquet National Championships, May 25-20. The resort and the associated Givenchy Spa lie at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains.

The spa and gardens at the foot of Mount San Jacinto are adjacent to the new croquet lawn at Merv Griffin Resort, focus of the main action at the first USCA nationals in golf croquet.
The spa and gardens at the foot of Mount San Jacinto are adjacent to the new croquet lawn at Merv Griffin Resort, focus of the main action at the first USCA nationals in golf croquet.
USCA national champion Mik Mehas is the "pro" at the Merv Griffin resort and is using his prominence as a player to promote both the resort and the debut tournament. (The resort is paying Mehas' costs for all the major tournaments he enters - including the recent San Francisco Open, from which he brought back his first top San Francisco trophy in singles. Mehas is the only player involved in all the events in this report.)

At this writing, entrants into the event - which will use the newly approved World Croquet Federation golf croquet rules - are low. Tournament director Mehas is thinking of cutting the announced five-day event to a three-day tournament. He promises everyone will be well taken care of if the event turns out to be a small one.

The competition will be singles only, and the winner is guaranteed an invitation to be on the American team for the next WCF world golf croquet championship. Merv Griffin Resort and Givenchy Spa will host the opening reception in the early evening of May 24. Before the reception, Mehas and the Egyptian-American players at the event will conduct a free golf croquet clinic on the resort's new court.

The Empire Polo Club in Indio has created four new croquet lawns for upcoming golf croquet events in the Palm Springs area.
The Empire Polo Club in Indio has created four new croquet lawns for upcoming golf croquet events in the Palm Springs area.
If abundant registrations don't materialize, other Palm Springs lawns within a radius of ten miles will be used more sparingly than planned. The Empire Polo Club has scalped, sanded and leveled four new croquet lawns beside Medjhool Lake in Indio in preparation for the tournament. Owner Alexander Haagen III has tentative plans, according to Mehas, to build even more croquet courts should the activity level of upcoming tournaments warrant. Mehas is discussing an international golf croquet event as well as a first annual "Desert Classic Association Rules" event in December.

Just how many international players and American croquet players and fans will come to Palm Springs for these events remains to be seen. From all reports (and from the evidence of our photographs) the venues are first-rate, even spectacular, but not many top players have yet shown a strong interest in winning trophies in Golf Croquet. The top players - most of whom work for a living - will be especially hard pressed to play in the abundance of events scheduled for the remainder of the year - not even to speak of the three-weeks-long MacRobertson Shield matches upcoming in New Zealand in January/February of 2000.

[For information, contact tournament director Mik Mehas at 760-321-7105, or by e-mail at badboycrowk@earthlink.net. For accommodations at special tournament rates at the Merv Griffin Resort, call 1-800-276-5000.]

The Resort at the Mountain's invitational features eight of the best

This third annual international rules tournament and "Wickets & Wine" charity event in the Oregon highlands brings its best field of players to a sparkling four-day affair that promises to continue to grow in stature. The Wickets & Wine event features not only the final game but a competitive pro-am tournament, a courtside lunch, a croquet art show, and other events and activities to benefit the Leukemia Society of America, Oregon chapter.

The Pro-Am Tourney is one of the many ways the public participates in the Resort Invitational.
The Pro-Am Tourney is one of the many ways the public participates in the Resort Invitational.
Competing for a cash purse sizable by croquet standards are Americans Mik Mehas, Jerry Stark (1997 winner), Jacques Fournier, and John Taves; David Openshaw of England; Max Donati and Brian Dawson of Australia; and Tony Stephens from New Zealand. England's Chris Clarke, 1998 winner, was originally scheduled to play but had to cancel; John Taves of Seattle, one of the most highly placed Americans on the international rankings, took his place in the eight-player lineup. Tremaine Arkley will direct the tournament for the third straight year.

All the Americans - including 17-year-old Jacques Fournier - are seasoned veterans of international competition, along with David Openshaw and Tony Stephens. The Australians have distinguished themselves in recent competitions.

Many Oregon wines are donated for the Wickets & Wine Garden Party.
Many Oregon wines are donated for the Wickets & Wine Garden Party.
Spectators are welcome to attend preliminary and semi-final play at no charge at The Resort at the Mountain in Welches, Oregon, on the slopes of Mount Hood. Tickets are available for the finals and Wickets & Wine event for $30, including lunch (or $50 a couple). Get tickets by calling the Leukemia Society at (503) 245-9866.

For more information, see the Website at www.TheResort.com. Call 1-800-669-7666 to arrange lodging.

The Solomon Trophy is hosted for the first time by Sonoma-Cutrer

Brit Chris Clarke poses with the Solomon Trophy during the 1997 matches, the last time the Solomon Cup was contested in the U.S.A.
Brit Chris Clarke poses with the Solomon Trophy during the 1997 matches, the last time the Solomon Cup was contested in the U.S.A.
Sonoma-Cutrer hosts yet another significant international event in June. The Solomon Cup comes to the winery for the first time from June 20 to June 26. A six-person team from Britain will contest a six-person team from the United States in International Rules singles and doubles. It's safe to say that future MacRobertson Shield competitors will be using the Solomon as a testing ground. The Solomon is not quite an annual event - it is not played in the years of the MacRobertson Shield, the ultimate team event, bringing together the four top croquet-playing countries of New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S.

The Solomon Trophy matches alternate between the U.K. and the U.S., and 1999 is an American year. In 1997, the matches were held at Sherwood Country Club Southern California; last year they were played in England at Bowdon, where the Americans did well to capture 7 of the 21 matches against a strong British team, equaling two previous high marks for American matches won, in 1991 and in 1994.

This year, The British are sending David Openshaw (captain), Steve Comish, Mark Avery, Colin Irwin, Phil Cordingly, and T. Burge. It's a good team, but it's not the British juggernaut the Americans have faced in the recent past. Expectations are high that the Americans will turn in their best performance yet in this event which they have never won since it was inaugurated in 1988. Eight wins in the 12 singles and 9 doubles matches comprising the test would make a new American high and bring them closer to the magic number needed to win the Trophy: 11 out of 21.

The President's Cup, a one-day USCA-rules competition, is also part of the Solomon Cup. Six Americans who are not members of the Solomon Team will compete against the British squad. The American team has not yet been chosen.

The 1999 American Solomon team members are:

Jim Audas, Northern California (alternate)
Jacques Fournier, Arizona
Doug Grimsley, Virginia (alternate)
Rory Kelley, Arizona
Mik Mehas, Southern California
Charlie Smith, Northern California
Jeff Soo, North Carolina
Jerry Stark, Northern California

[Look for frequent NEWSFLASH postings directly from the playing venues on the front page of Croquet World Online during all these major events.]


 
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