Walls walks away with Clarke Salver
Sidmouth Croquet Club hosted their Open Handicap Weekend for the Clarke Salver. This three-day event is open to all, but has been won by Sidmouth’s Keith Thorley for the last three years.
This year he decided to give others a chance and did not enter. The Swiss format was used in which players are paired with opponents who have won a similar number of games. Three games into the tournament only Colin Walls and Roger Mills remained undefeated, so the game between them was effectively the final and it was interesting enough to be worth describing in some detail for croquet aficionados.
For the first part of the game Roger managed to prevent Colin from getting more than the odd hoop; then a long hit-in enabled Colin to assemble a four-ball break which got his white ball round to the peg. Roger replied with a break of his own. He hit in to a most unpromising situation and, by sheer excellent long shot play managed to wrestle a three-ball break round to where the brown ball sat on the yard line. Having picked up the brown he then ran a much more comfortable four-ball break round to the peg. Here he decided to peg out his opponent’s white, put the pink far away, and roll his own brown and green to hoop 1. The situation now was that the white ball was off the lawn, having scored 13 points; the pink ball was for 1-back, having scored 6 points, giving Colin a total of 19. The green ball was for the peg, having scored 12 points and the brown ball was yet to score, giving Roger a total of 12 points, 7 points behind, but with two balls against one and therefore a favourable situation.
At this point Colin fired at green and missed, going off the lawn behind hoop 1 and Roger set up to run hoop 1. Unfortunately he ended up with a very hampered shot which was likely to result in a foul. At this point he could have used one of his two bisques to get an extra turn, picked up the pink, and ended up with a three ball break under control, but he chose to save the bisque, fouled the shot and ended his turn. Colin now managed not only to hit the 8 yard roquet on brown, but also rushed the ball 15 yards further onto the lawn, most of the way to 1-back. He then did an 8 yard take-off to get behind 1-back, ran the hoop, going 5 yards through it, and had a stroke of luck, getting a long rush to 3-back. Having successfully made the rush, Colin now had the brown ball at his next hoop but one, and the green ball still sitting at his next hoop. With a three ball break under control Colin rapidly ran off the remaining five hoops and pegged out to win the game, leaving Roger looking ruefully at his two unused bisques.
Colin went on to win his remaining two games, and therefore the tournament. Roger Mills also won his remaining two games and was a worthy runner-up. The prize for the fastest game was won by Ian Friedlander, well-known for his bold play, and the tournament was managed ably as ever by Julie Horsley. The prizes were presented by salver donor David Clarke as Barbara Clarke is recovering from a recent operation; our thoughts are with her at this trying time.