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BERNE, MEHAS, POWELL AND SHEELY RULE WINNERS BRACKET AS LAST-CHANCE SURVIVERS BATTLE THROUGH LOSERS LADDER
by Nate Weimerskirch; photography by David Gladstein


The Saturday climax of the USCA national championships always draws a crowd in Florida, home to more croquet players than any other state. The event at the Palm Beach Polo Club is elegantly catered and attended by a sizeable crowd of spectators - both serious croquet fans and elments of Palm Beach society drawn by one of many spectacles marking the beginning of "the season". The mainstream press is always there, puzzled by the action on the lawn, trying to figure out how to report a sport beyond their comprehension. We'll explain it all in our next story - the one to follow the report below on the penulimate day's action.


According to Assistant Tournament Director Bob Kroeger, "Fresh, tight hoops leading to lots of turnovers" was the story of the day at PGA National, where the top players battled it out for boss positions in the ladder. Still alive in the Winners Bracket at the end of Friday play were minus handicappers Bill Berne and Mik Mehas, who will be going up against Richard Powell (1 handicap) and Rick Sheely (1.5 handicap), respectively.

"Mik Mehas is playing very steady, tournament-ready croquet," Kroeger reported, "and Bill Berne is playing well, but Sheely would be standout player of the day."

Players from all regions of the United States and Canada qualified for these national championships, as evidenced by the top four: North Carolina (Bill Berne), Alabama (Richard Powell), California (Mik Mehas) and Minnesota (Rick Sheely).

SHEELY AND NAJARIAN SURPRISE STANDOUTS IN STRONG FIELD
Rick Sheely of Minneapolis started the day by toppling defending national champion Wayne Rodoni, 17-13, then won 26-7 over Gar Beckstead, then 26-15 over Mark Najarian. Najarian has been impressive all week long, including Friday in victories over John Phaneuf and Doug Grimsley.

Several games were decided in last turns, including Mik Mehas' victories over John Osborn 19-17 and Pat Roach, 16-15. The fourth undefeated player, Richard Powell, has the honor of being the only player to beat Archie Burchfield in the tourney. Powell reached the Winners Bracket semifinal with a near-perfect 26-6 win over Burchfield.

HUGHES AND GRIMSLEY DOUBLY ELIMINATE MABEE
Among the most notable players eliminated were Wayne Rodoni, whose hopes to repeat his 1995 triumph were dashed by Osborn 26-3; and the '94 champ Carl Mabee, defeated 26-11 by Jim Hughes and scratch player Doug Grimsley. A subsequent 26-7 drubbing by Britt Ruby sent Grimsley home early.

With one section of Losers Bracker running late into the Palm Beach sunset, the outcomes were unavailable at posting time. In one late match, Archie Burchfield was playing John Osborn, with the loser out of the competition. In another, Najarian was fighting for life against Hughes. In the third late elimination match, Ruby was leading Fornier.

WINNERS BRACKET RESULTS, CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Mabee 26-16 Hall
Fournier 26-4 Degnan
Curtis 20-14 Thomas
Cumming 20-16 J. Hughes
Najarian 26-8 Phaneuf
Sheely 17-13 Rodoni
Osborn 26-10 P. Fusz
Roach 22-18 Ruby

Berne 26-14 Mabee
Fournier 26-2 Brown
Burchfield 19-16 Curtis
Powell 21-11 Cumming
Najarian 18-11 Grimsley
Sheely 26-7 Beckstead
Mehas 19-17 Osborn
Shaffer 16-10 Roach

Berne 26-4 Fournier
Powell 26-6 Burchfield
Sheely 26-15 Najarian
Mehas 16-15 Roach

LOSERS BRACKET RESULTS, CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Mabee 26-6 Thomas
Hughes 22-19 Brown
Curtis 18-14 Hall
Degnan 24-14 Cumming
Grimsley 19-14 Fusz
Ruby 23-17 Beckstead
Osborn 19-17 Phaneuf
Rodoni 23-8 Shaffer

Hughes 26-11 Mabee
Degnan 19-16 Curtis
Ruby 26-7 Grimsley
Osborn 26-3 Rodoni

Najarian vs. Hughes LATE (Hughes leading 23-20)
Roach 26-6 Degnan
Fournier vs. Ruby LATE (Ruby leading 12-8)
Burchfield vs. Osborn LATE (Osborn leading18-11)


CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE will continue to cover the 1996 USCA National Championships throughout the Friday and Saturday singles playoffs and the singles finals late Saturday.


 
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