World championship golf croquet
debuts in South Florida
text and pictures by Bob Alman
layout by Reuben Edwards
Posted February 12, 2002
This championship will be known as a watershed event: the first time all the
top players in both Golf Croquet and "Association Croquet" competed together
for the individual championship in the fastest growing form of the sport.
The participation of these players confers upon Golf Croquet a higher level
of acceptance in the world croquet community. Whether they win or lose
against the past masters of Golf Croquet, their blessing will help to ensure
a healthy future for the game and perhaps a new beginning for the sport,
with broader public appeal. After two days of play, it's too soon to predict the
outcome. All the top players - in both Golf Croquet and "Association
Croquet" have won all their games and matches. They have yet to face each
other. The acid test will come in the elimination match round.
|Eleven of the 22 member countries of the World Croquet Federation are competing.
The National Croquet Center was supposed to be complete by now - that's why
the championship and the International Croquet Festival were scheduled in
February. Now we know that the most earnest pronouncements of architects
and project managers must not be believed. If you need to know exactly when
the clubhouse will be finished, you should ask a gypsy.
|The officials: Len Canavan and Archie Peck install the player cards and the scoring system on 10 of the Center's 12 lawns.
But it hardly matters. The lawns are great, the place is beautiful. The
Festival Tent and the large Utility Building provide more support for large
events than most other croquet venues. And after a year, the staff has
learned to manage them well.
|The Egyptians - theirs and ours: Khaled Younis (left) has the best record in the game and represents Egypt; US-born Mohammad Kamal lives in Los Angeles,
plays for the United States, and appears to be in top form.
What matters is that the first world championship held at the National
Croquet Center will long be remembered for many "firsts." The six-inch
wooden barriers - more than 3,000 feet - are the most vivid reminder of the
specialness of this event. They protect the players, spectators, and
officials from balls that are hit as hard as 40 mph.
|The barriers: More than 3,000 feet of pine wood protect players and
spectators from harm.
An unanticipated "first" was the 7- to 9-inch rain that fell on the first
day of play, also overwhelming the 500-foot-long "dry retention basin" used both
as an overflow playing lawn and for the occasional downpour.
|The players seeking shelter: Left to right, they are Norman Eatough
(Switzerland), Ihab Abdelwahab (U.S), and Reg Bamford (South Africa).
More volunteers and officials are needed for a Golf Croquet event than for
other forms of the game. The referees are expected to be actively involved
in the game, not simply on call; scorekeepers are needed; and, ideally,
ball-persons. Although the volunteer pool in Florida is large, it is also
shallow. Golf Croquet has not been played seriously here. The referees had
little training for the many difficult calls they are expected to make.
Chief referee Gary Weltner and all the officials knew that refereeing would
be the biggest weakness of this event. After only two days of play, there
is much talk of how the refereeing can be beefed up for the final and critical
To make up for a scarcity of trained volunteers, players and their guests
are pitching in with help on many fronts. My estimation is that the tournament
officials and WCF president Tony Hall will be able to ensure an elimination
round with refereeing sufficient to ensure a just result in the
|The referees: They are being briefed by Chief Referee Gary Weltner.
As the world championship winds towards a public draw on Wednesday evening
to determine the places for the top sixteen in the final elimination round from
Thursday through Sunday, we can't predict how it will turn out - we can show
you what it looked like during practice and on the opening day of play.