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.
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 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For accommodations at special tournament rates at the Merv Griffin Resort, call 1-800-276-5000.]
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.
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.
For more information, see the Website at www.TheResort.com. Call 1-800-669-7666 to arrange lodging.
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.
[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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