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POWELL/BECKSTEAD FALTER
JUST ONCE AND LOSE IT ALL,
AS 1994 DOUBLES CHAMPS
MABEE/PHANEUF RECLAIM CROWN
by Nate Weimerskirch


With doubles completed, all eyes are focused on the singles playoffs on the five lawns of the Palm Beach Polo Club, national headquarters of the United States Croquet Association. The climax of the seven-day tournament attracts croquet fans as well as mainstream media, including this year, according to tournament director Nate Weimerskirch, a camera crew from ESPN's "Unbelieveable Sports." Believe it, ESPN! Weimerskirch, croquet pro at USCA headquarters, has not only directed one of croquet's biggest spectacles, with up to 140 games a day on as many as 13 lawns in four locations; he has also found time to file these daily reports, for which CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE and Internet fans of the sport are much in his debt. We'll give you his stories on the final two days of the tourney, along with more digital photos by New York croquet player David Gladstein.


For the second time in three years, the team of Carl Mabee and John Phaneuf are the National Champions in doubles. Mabee and Phaneuf won the single-game final 26-7 over previously unbeaten Richard Powell and Gar Beckstead. Mabee finisned the game on a two-ball break from 4-back, after Phaneuf had taken a break around from #3.

The game started slowly, as Powell and Beckstead picked up 5-ball deadness with little reward. Beckstead picked three balls from the line to get the Southern partnership back in the game, and Powell got clear when Phaneuf caught a bad break on an old wicket hole at #2. Mabee, the workhorse of the game, scored a wicket at a time until he could back-peel Phaneuf on a three-ball break. Powell eventually made #4, but missed the roquet on a scatter, leaving Phaneuf with the 3-ball he needed to get around.

Mabee and Phenuef had started the day with a critical win over John Osborn and Doug Grimsley. They then lost to defending champions Rodoni/Mehas in a tight contest, but then came back in the Semi-Final match to beat Rodoni/Mehas with a 26-19 peg-out and advance to the finals. In this critical game, Phaneuf ran an all-around break, rushing partner to #3 after making #2, taking off to the north boundary to pick up red, stopping red to pioneer to achieve the exchange, and finishing on a somewhat loose run.

NAJARIAN HERO OF THE DAY WITH LAST-TURN TWO-BALL BREAK
On the other side of the bracket, Powell and Beckstead's lucky red hankies prevailed as they easily dispatched the surprise team of the tournament, Bill Mead and Mark Najarian. Mead and Najarian suffered with deadness problems throughout in a 22-11 loss. Najarian however, was the hero of the day, in a 16-15 upset of Doug Grimsley and John Osborn.

In the waning moments, Osborn, Mead and Najarian were all for 1-back with Grimsley at 4-back. Osborn, three times times dead with yellow, received a favorable, controversial ruling on a block with Najarian in 1-back, but with a difficult hoop shot with his ball on the north boundary near three. The near 60-degree off-line shot was ruled makeable, so Osborn played to the boundary in front of 1-back. Najarian, needing to avoid the second block, backed out of the wicket, and after failing on his previous attempt, Grimsley plunked Najarian's blue from the west boundary.

Grimsley left Najarian, who was partner dead, on the back side of 1-back and sent Mead to the #4 corner, as last turns began. Mead hit in from corner to corner, tried to roll both his own ball and blue to position, but left himself short. After debating going after yellow on the line, Najarian told partner to let him have a crack at the two-ball, and Mead rolled to about 12 feet beyond 1-back. Osborn ran for cover, then Najarian made his first crucial hoop, a four-footer from a moderate angle. His rush was only barely downcourt, and his long roll left him at a tough angle from 8 feet. To the roar of the crowd, he scored 2-back, then pulled off a delicate shot to hit black near the string. The subsequent long roll to 3-back left him another 6-footer from an angle, which he again drilled, finally catching a decent downcourt rush.

Najarian's last rush of the game left him with a take-off from 20-feet which he put straight on, but about four feet back, an easier shot than the others, but a tester nonetheless. This was the point that counted. His final stroke caught the hoop dead center and gave his team their 16-15 come-from-behind victory. Young Najarian's superb performance under pressure in his National Championships debut marks him for a bright future in the top ranks of the sport.

CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLES RESULTS, WINNERS BRACKET
Mabee/Phaneuf 25-15 Osborn/Grimsley
Beckstead/Powell 22-18 Curtis/Shaffer

CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLES RESULTS, LOSERS BRACKET
Mehas/Rodoni 18-16 Hughes/Kroeger
Mead/Najarian 23-17 Dill/Ruby
Mehas/ Rodoni 16-10 Curtis/Shaffer
Mead/Najarian 16-15 Osborn/Grimsley

CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLES SEMI-FINALS
Mehas/Rodoni 19-17 Mabee/Phaneuf
Mabee/Phaneuf 26-19 Mehas/Rodoni
Beckstead/Powell 22-11 Mead/Najarian

CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLES FINAL
Mabee/Phaneuf 26
Powell/Beckstead 7


KOENIG/STETTNER WIN FIRST FLIGHT DOUBLES ON THE BOUNCE-BACK

FIRST FLIGHT DOUBLE WINNERS BRACKET
Bridges/K. Jones 21-14 Koenig/Stettner

FIRST FLIGHT DOUBLES LOSERS BRACKET
Morse/Summers 17-13 Mitchell/Wyatt
Spoonhour/Spoonhour 20-7 Yeilding/Connelly
Morse/Summers 18-10 Spoonhour/Spoonhour
Koenig/Stettner 21-9 Morse/Summers

FIRST FLIGHT DOUBLES FINAL
Koenig/Stettner 19-9,18-15 Bridges/K. Jones

SECOND FLIGHT DOUBLES WINNERS BRACKET
Kozusko/Maloof 12-11 L. Fusz/Ramey

SECOND FLIGHT DOUBLES LOSERS BRACKET
B. Birkhead/Parsells 18-14 McGonagle/Funk
B. Birkhead/Parsells 17-16 L. Fusz/Ramey

SECOND FLIGHT DOUBLES FINAL
Kozusko/Maloof 26-22 B. Birkhead/Parsells

THIRD FLIGHT DOUBLES WINNERS BRACKET
Cope/H. Stoy 17-8 C. Birkhead/Cassidy

THIRD FLIGHT DOUBLES LOSERS BRACKET
Horne/Pearson 17-16 C. Birkhead/Cassidy

THIRD FLIGHT DOUBLES FINAL
Cope/H. Stoy 14-13 Horne/Pearson

Oklahoma City native Tad Cassidy missed an opportunity to pick up a few pointers that may have helped improve his standing in the Third Flight of the tournament. The previous weekend, his airline flight into Florida from Houston had him sitting next to Wayne Rodoni, but he had no idea the stranger at his elbow was croquet's defending national champ until the plane landed.


 
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