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The picture story of
the Florida State Senior Games

by Bob Alman
photos by Florida Sports Foundation and others as credited
layout by Reuben Edwards
Posted December 24, 2013

Related Links
First-person reports on the American Bulletin Board of Croquet World


Florida and Maryland both debuted croquet for seniors in their official state games in 2013--Maryland with USCA 9-wicket croquet and Florida with Golf Croquet. Florida will probably repeat for 2014 their plan of two weekend days, Saturday for singles, and Sunday for Doubles, to provide maximum choice to participants in Golf Croquet; while Maryland will consider the wisdom of limiting their competition to only two days. The cost of the Florida event was competitive, at $25 for one day, or $40 for two days, including t-shirt, water, sports drinks, & snacks during the tournament--and, as it turned out, lunches from the State of Florida on Sunday Olympic-style medals in golf, silver, and bronze were awarded by the Florida Sports Foundation, and the Croquet Foundation was allowed to give $15 Gift certificates to the USCA scored winners as well as certificates of Attendance in the First ever Florida State Games.

John Rigg, master of the candid photo even for formal group portraits, gets a perfect snapshot of Victoria getting us organized on Day One, while several men point their advice and opinions.
The state guidelines required Victoria Albrecht, the State representative for Croquet, and the Assistant General Manager of the National Croquet Center, to demonstrate that croquet actually IS a game played statewide, and she did that, beginning work on getting croquet accepted as an official sport in the state games in 2012 with required local level games being played in 2013.

The 28 players competing in 2013 at Estero (a suburb of Fort Myers on Florida's west coast) came from seven different counties and the state of Minnesota. Most played both singles and doubles in a four- or five-game round-robin each day supervised by Fred Jones of the nearby Sarasota Croquet Club, which produced a majority of the players in these games.

John Rigg shot this photo without making sure everyone was ready and fully prepared--which makes it a lot more interesting than most such efforts. (This writer has NO IDEA who the person on the left end of the back row is, incidentally.) It's shot in front of the outdoor stage overlooking the ten croquet courts, which came in handy on the second day of the competition, when it rained in the morning.

This year, the plan was to play forty-five minute games with a 15-minute buffer between games. The schedule was planned for two games in the morning and three after lunch. And even though rain marred the second day, it also lowered the temperature with a cooling cloud cover and inspired Jones to reduce the doubles games to 40 minutes as a slight hedge against further rain.

Preparing a first-person report

This writer has not played in any kind of tournament since 2003, when I was managing the National Croquet Center. My handicap is still listed by the USCA as 1 1/2, and I think I may be playing like a handicap four these days, with the decline attributed to either the ill effects of aging, being way out of practice, or some combination of those factors. I'm not complaining--either number would have put me into the Championship Flight, which as it turned out, I didn't need to be in, at all.

This ground-level shot may be the best photo of the grass. The courts were mostly level, sometimes bumpy, definitely very slow compared to regulation lawns--but eminently playable. I heard nobody blame the lawns for losing. The players with the best results actually deserved their medals. Photo by Florida Sports Foundation.

Ken Tanguay of the Sarasota County Croquet Club was one of a few two-sport medalists in the Florida Senior Games State Championships. As a member of the Venice Shuffleboard Club, he won a gold medal in shuffleboard men's singles 60-64 bracket the week before and a silver medal in croquet men's singles. "I had a great time and will return next year," he told me. "The Florida Sports and Lee County folks who ran the events did a tremendous job preparing the venues. The new larger medals were also a surprise. I don't think that the rain on Day Two dampened anyone's spirits."

Ken reports that a fellow Sarasota club member, Frank Wong, competed in both pickleball and croquet: "He played pickleball singles on Friday and pickleball doubles on Sunday, and on Saturday he won the gold medal in my men's bracket in croquet singles."

Pickleball is a fast-emerging tennis-like sport played in singles and doubles either inside or outside, and played inside here in the gym adjacent to the croquet action. A huge contingent from The Villages in central Florida (with more than 130 pickleball courts of their own!) came down to compete and did well. Photo courtesy of Florida Sports Foundation.

Melding two different scoring methologies

The Florida State Senior Games scoring format awards medals in five-year age brackets for men and women separately. I'm appalled to report that I qualified in the FIFTH of the seven categories, and for next year's games will be fully eligible for the SIXTH stage, when I achieve the age of 75. (The "senior" categories begin at age 50, in five-year increments.)

Believe it or not, this panorama shows all ten 50 x 75 rectangular courts and part of one of Florida's great cloud displays. Florida Sports Foundation photo.

This melding produces some unusual results in the awarding of the state medals in gold, silver, or bronze, because the results count first in your age and gender category, and then the scores within each category . And if someone in the first stage (50 plus) pairs with someone in the seventh stage (80 plus) the results are counted as if both the players are in the lower age category.

The oldest senior (Fred Jones, left) and the youngest (Cheryl Bromley) were allowed to play as doubles partners, with Fred, at the age of 86, actually judged as part of the 50-something category. They won the doubles, proving that age in such small five-year increments, doesn't mean that much in croquet. Cheryl Bromley photo.
But the scores are also reported in the conventional way. Although I left in the middle of the second day, during lunch, Fred Jones reports the doubles scores according to their familiar USCA flight designations: "In the doubles games on Sunday there were three flights. Championship was won by the team of Cheryl Bromley and Fred Jones, undefeated in five games. Second was Skip Babcock and John Richardson. Third were Bob Lentz and Mark Claff. Fourth were Gary and Lee Anderson.

"First flight was won by Camilia Monteforte and Barbara Caiafa (Undefeated with three wins). Second went to Maryann and Robert Fisher, third place to Pat and Judy Given.

"Second flight was won by Judy and Peter Carlin, second place by Luann and Walter Merz, and third by Betty Ann and John Rigg."

Starting Day One as a hero

Cheryl Bromley listens patiently as Bob Alman explains why the indoor pickleball he's holding is different from the outdoor ball. Carole diFazio photo.
What difference would being in one flight or another make? Well, it probably made no difference to me at all. As reported at great length in the first-person diary of the event on the Bulletin Board I started the first day as a hero by giving Cheryl Bromley my place in the Championship Flight and taking hers in the First Flight--because she is not handicapped in Golf Croquet even though she was the sole American representative in the WCF Women's World Championship in New Zealand in 2011.

Although Cheryl was beaten by both Jackie and Fred Jones in singles, she was unbeaten by anyone in her own age category and thus won gold from the state! Cheryl told me, "Fred and I won the doubles together. It was a real treat to play with him. What a shot maker he is! The lawns were the most challenging I have ever played on."

Both Fred and Jackie Jones won gold as well. Bob Alman, on the other hand, was beaten handily in the First Flight by a contemporary in age and had to settle for silver. On my behalf, I will say that Golf Croquet is a great leveler of abilities. If you manage a good set-up shot after the current hoop, you have a good chance of winning the next one, and thus "trading points" to the end. In my case, I lost a game to a new player who has practiced only Golf Croquet since taking up the sport a year ago. In fact many of the competitors there, from Sarasota, play only Golf Croquet.

America's top all-round female player, Jackie Jones, with Bob Alman, whose ugly mallet is carrying grass cuttings. John Richardson photo.
A case in point is Sarasota's John Rigg, who said, "My wife Betty Ann was a bit apprehensive about entering a competition because we've been playing for barely one year. I convinced her that it is all in fun and we really had nothing to lose. We both enjoyed the weekend beyond all expectation. We will (God willing) be back next year for sure."

Although I left in the middle of the second day, during lunch, Fred Jones reports the doubles scores this way: In the doubles games on Sunday there were three flights. Championship was won by the team of Cheryl Bromley and Fred Jones, undefeated in five games. Second was Skip Babcock and John Richardson. Third were Bob Lentz and Mark Claff. Fourth were Gary and Lee Anderson.

"First flight was won by Camilia Monteforte and Barbara Caiafa (Undefeated with three wins). Second went to Maryann and Robert Fisher, third place to Pat and Judy Given.

"Second flight was won by Judy and Peter Carlin, second place by Luann and Walter Merz, and third by Betty Ann and John Rigg."

Good reports on everyone on the game and the lawns

Because the games have been awarded to Lee County for two consecutive years, they won't have far to travel from Sarasota County, about an hour's drive north.

More than half the field came out of the event with medals--large, impressive medals worn around the neck with red, white and blue ribbons. And in addition to state-awarded medals, the CFA awarded Certificates, and, with the permission of the Florida Sports Foundaton, Gift Certificates to the first place winners.

These three senior cuties comprise the female contingent from the National Croquet Center--Carole DiFazio, Nanci Hunt, and Victoria Albrecht, organizer of the event. Carole diFazio photo.

Nanci Hunt, head of the NCC social committee and recently retired from a long career teaching in the public schools and already at the THIRD level of "seniordom" (60 plus), reflects the feelings of many seniors when she said, "It never dawned on me that I was senior enough to play in Senior games. I don't play a lot of Golf Croquet, but I feel I have a fairly good handle on the strategy."

Even with her relative youth, the first day of singles drained Nanci's energy: "By the time doubles started, I could barely lift the mallet, much less get the ball to the wicket. The ground was as foreign to me as if we played in the desert. I had to hit the ball a lot harder to get a shorter distance. When I got back to the National Croquet Center lawns, every shot went ten feet longer than I expected. I have lots of readjusting to do." But like almost everyone, she also says, "I had a wonderful time. The people were delightful."

In mid-afternoon of the first day, all ten courts are filled with singles competitors, the skies are studded with beautiful clouds, the weather is warm but not hot, and many players are feeling the strain of the five-game schedule. Photo by John Richardson.

At the Saturday night after-party provided by the sponsor, Florida Blue, in the vast nearby Coconut Point Mall, which many croquet players attended in their whites and wearing their medals, several people asked me what the medal was for. "Croquet," I replied a couple of times, and enjoyed their surprised expressions. To one boy who appeared to be about ten years old, I responded, "For achieving the age of 74!" which must have seemed, to him, almost unimaginable. It certainly is, to me!

But the Senior State Games, which actually extend to ELEVEN categories for some sports, with the final one reserved for 100 years plus, are one of many rewards of living a long and reasonably healthy life. It's something to celebrate, and the games provide that opportunity in 23 different sports.


 
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