Level play golf croquet teams in action

Both Chester’s level play golf croquet teams were in action this week.

The Chester Chariots team of Pat Clare (captain), Chris Thomas and Jayne Taylor played away at Culcheth on Wednesday, 15 September.  Culcheth has only one lawn but it was in good condition and the team were made very welcome on a warm sunny day. It was a very close match with both teams even until the very last game which Chester won, making the score 10-8 in the team’s last game of the season.

The level play match between Chester Centurions and Llanfairfechan was held on the following Friday, 17 September, at home on another warm sunny day. Llanfairfechan fielded a very strong team comprising handicaps of -2, 0 and a 3 against Chester’s Mark Lloyd 0, Garry Greenwood 1 and John Hampson 5. This strong team beat Chester 15 – 3 despite there being a couple of close games which could have gone either way.

Out of six matches played this season Chester Centurions have won five and this one loss has not affected Chester’s position in the league, and the team has emerged as this year’s winner of the North West Federation level play golf croquet league.

Five out of five for Chester Centurions

As the end of the croquet season approaches Chester Centurions chalked up their fifth win in five matches in the North West Federation’s Level Play Golf Croquet league. Having just one more match to play this puts the team in an excellent position to retain the league championship for the 2021 season. In their latest encounter, on Wednesday, 8 September, the team was represented by Mark Lloyd (captain), David Boyd and John Hampson (in his second match for the club), when they played an away match against Bury Croquet Club. In brilliant sunshine the morning session was evenly balanced but Chester managed to edge just ahead by one game by lunchtime. This lead gradually increased during the afternoon finishing with a final score of Chester 11, Bury 7.

Success for Mark Lloyd

Mark Lloyd represented Chester in the North West Federation’s Millennium  Advanced Tournament at Bury Croquet Club over the weekend of 4-5 September. Six of the north west clubs were represented in what is essentially the north west “open”. Mark won all of his 3 games on the first day with 2 of those games against players with minus handicaps. On the second day he won one of his 2 games and won the overall competition with 4 wins out of 5.  More

NW Federation chairman Paul Rigge, left, presenting Mark Lloyd with the Millennium Advanced trophy at Bury Croquet Club

Latest league match results

The final away match in the NW Federation mid-week handicap association league was played at Pendle in brilliant warm sunshine on Saturday, 28 August. Because of player availability it had been agreed that this would be a 3-aside match. By lunch the score was 1 – 1 with Chester taking the doubles, while the singles game was heavily lost with bisques still in the ground. This pattern continued through the afternoon to give Pendle a straightforward victory of 4 – 1.

The final mid-week handicap league match of the season saw Chester entertain Bowdon on Chester’s extremely testing lawns under cloudy and cool conditions on Wednesday, 1 September. An entertaining morning doubles game was won while both the singles games went to Bowdon. The afternoon games were hard fought. Chester could only manage a solitary win although two of the other singles were lost by the finest of margins. The final score was Bowdon 5, Chester 2.

Congratulations are in order as the Bowdon team have been unbeaten through the season.

On Sunday, 5 September, Chester played away at Bowdon in the short lawn association league with a much better result, beating Bowdon 13 – 3. The team of Jayne Taylor (captain), David Boyd, Derek Bell-Jones and Robin Tasker played well in glorious sunshine in the final game of the short lawn league.

Chester lose to Sheffield in Secretary’s Cup semi-final

On Sunday, 22 August, Chester Croquet Club played at home against Sheffield in the semi-final of the national Secretary’s Shield competition. Under an initially grey sky, the Chester team of Robin Tasker (captain), Richard Smith, Brian Walton and Paul Watson won the two singles games in the morning but lost the doubles game giving a 2 – 1 lead to Chester by lunchtime. In one of the singles games Sheffield had run 21 of the 24 hoops before Chester had barely started but, in two dazzling breaks, Richard Smith managed to catch up and overtake his opponent to win the game. The weather brightened after lunch and so did Sheffield’s performance. Under pleasant late summer sunshine they forged ahead and won all four singles games in the afternoon. In a reverse of the remarkable game in the morning Sheffield managed to catch up from well behind and eventually overtake Chester in one of the games. After a good but challenging day’s croquet, the overall result was a well deserved 5 – 2 win for Sheffield who now go forward to face the winner of St Albans v Church Stretton in the national final later in the season.

On the previous Sunday Chester was pleased to host an annual croquet afternoon for members of the Cambridge Society of West Cheshire and North Wales. Seventeen players took part including several teenagers. Everyone enjoyed the event despite two heavy showers and an early tea with cakes helped to keep everyone going!

Croquet galore at Chester and Southport

Chester has been playing croquet on large stages on the last two weekends.

On 7 and 8 August Chester hosted the national golf croquet A-level series tournament.

During a weekend of heavy rain the schedule of play was disrupted but not abandoned. The lawns, though extremely wet, drained very quickly after each cloudburst. The ten players are greatly thanked for their patience and flexibility as the tournament manager was compelled to change formats several times to accommodate the weather.

Relative newcomers made an impact with the tournament winner being James Thomas, an up and coming under-25 from Llanfairfechan Croquet Club. It was not plain sailing for James though, since he faced surprising opposition from John Hampson of Chester. This was John’s first major tournament and he entered on a handicap of 6 as an improving beginner. In the final critical round of play John beat James in a thrilling best-of-19 ending in 10-8 to John. In sunshine, neither player could be left with a hoop shot since both were unerringly accurate. So the play was very open with long clearances and many shots being taken from all boundaries. John’s nerves of steel escaped him on the final hoop as he blobbed twice, accompanied by ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the lookers-on. This was a game to be savoured by the spectators. However, James’ points difference on the final day saw him lift the Maggie Cowman Trophy, a keepsake medallion, and a prize bottle of specialty wine.

For the tournament plate, Tom Grievson of Chester just managed to prevail against Martyn (Sam) Seal of Llanfairfechan after five wins each and a count back to who-beat-whom. With all these foremost players coming from the North West and North Wales, and being well-used to the odd deluge, one wonders if rain on the tournament had presented them with a slight advantage?

Chester’s John Hampson (right) receiving his runner-up award from tournament manager David Crawford

On the following weekend of 14 and 15  August Chester fielded four croquet teams in the North West Festival of Croquet held at Southport. This is reputed to be the largest gathering of croquet players in the world. The weather was mixed sun, cloud and rain but nothing dampened the enthusiastic players from twelve croquet clubs across the North West.

The short lawn players were Jayne Taylor, Paul Taylor, Val Sanders, Helen Brophy and Sally Slater. Chester won the trophy last time but were not so successful this year.

The golf croquet level play team of John Hampson, Jude Wise and Val Hughes however, reached the final play offs on Sunday afternoon, but were beaten by two young players from Bowdon. They achieved joint third place overall.

Robin Tasker, James Thomas and Elmyr Hughes represented Chester in the advanced association croquet, and the golf handicap teams were Jill Foley, Mel Hagan, David Booth, Chris Slater, Jude Wise and Kerry Dadson who travelled up to Southport for the first time since joining the club last year.

The overall tournament winners were Pendle first, Fylde second and Bowdon third.

Chester members Chris Slater, Jayne Taylor, John Hampson and Jude Wise wearing their mauve team colours at Southport
Left: Val Hughes and John Hampson from the level play golf croquet team before their final match and right: Sally Slater lining up in her short lawn match

Mixed weather, mixed results

Chester Croquet Club played in Cumbria on Thursday, 5 August, against Crake Valley in the North West Federation golf croquet handicap league. It was a very enjoyable match in variable weather in a lovely setting, sharing the lawns with friendly rabbits. Sadly the team of Jayne Taylor (captain), Pat Clare and Tom Grievson were defeated by the home side 14- 4, though the games were more closely fought than the final score suggests.

There was a better result in the association croquet handicap league when Chester played Bowdon on Sunday, 8 August. Play was delayed by torrential rain but by mid morning the lawns had drained well and play got underway. The Chester team of David Boyd (captain), Sally Slater, Robin Tasker and Paul Watson was 3-1 up at lunch and they maintained that lead into the afternoon with the final score being 4-2 to Chester.

Mid-week win against Bury

After two weeks of exceptionally hot and dry weather the croquet lawns must have relished the combination of heavy showers and mild sunshine when Chester played at home against Bury in the NW Federation mid-week association croquet handicap league on Wednesday, 28 July. For the players it was a different matter – alternately donning waterproofs and sheltering under umbrellas and then adjusting to  variable lawn conditions during short intervals of sunshine. The Chester team of David Guyton (captain), Elmyr Hughes, Brian Walton and Nigel Worthington faced an experienced team from Bury which resulted in some close games with only two pegging out before time.  By lunchtime Chester was just ahead having won the doubles game and one of the two singles games in the morning.  The four singles games in the afternoon were also closely fought with Chester eventually winning three of the four to give an overall result of 5 – 2 in Chester’s favour.

Chester member plays for Oxford University

Osian Williams of Chester played in the Oxford University AC croquet team which defeated Cambridge University this summer. He won his doubles but lost his singles.

Osian joined Chester last summer but with Covid had limited opportunities for competitive play both at Chester and Oxford.

Nevertheless he got his AC handicap down to 14 to make the team.

The back drop to the photo is of course not the Chester clubhouse but Hurlingham where the Varsity match is played.

Osian Williams playing for Oxford University at Hurlingham

Sun and hoops in July

On Thursday, 15 July, a Chester golf croquet team comprising Edward and Liz Baskerville and Sandy and Tom Grievson travelled to Bowdon for a North West Federation handicap match. The sun shone brightly and the heat intensified relentlessly as the day progressed. The Chester teams got off to a good start by winning their respective doubles games but then fortunes were reversed as the singles got underway. By lunch Bowden had pulled ahead by one game. Chester was rejuvenated in the afternoon session to win 9 games to 6 with 3 drawn games, with each member of the team contributing to the match result.

Sunday,  18 July, was another glorious day, but not a brilliant day for the club. Chester played away against Bowdon in the second round of the national Mary Rose competition for advanced croquet. The Chester team of Mark Lloyd (captain), Jerry Guest, David Guyton and Robin Tasker found themselves facing a strong team from Bowdon which had won the competition in 2019 and were determined to do so again. The doubles game in the morning finished very quickly in Bowdon’s favour followed by the two singles games which went to time but still finished in Bowdon’s favour. Two more singles games in the afternoon also finished quickly in Bowdon’s favour and the remaining two eventually fell to Bowdon giving them an overall 7 – 0 victory.

Chester’s fortunes were reversed on Wednesday, 21 July, when the Chester Centurions level play golf croquet team played away against Pendle and Craven. Another glorious sunny day saw Garry Greenwood, Sally Slater and John Hampson,  who was playing in his first league match for Chester,  cruising to an 18-0 victory.

Three Chester members played in the North West Millennium short lawn tournament held at Chester on Sunday, 25 July,  Sally Slater, the 2017 winner, James Thomas who won in 2019, and Robin Tasker who also managed the event. The other three competitors were from Bury and Bowdon croquet clubs. All six competitors played 4 games throughout the day in more lovely sunshine. The overall winner by a narrow margin of just one point was Brian Storey from Bowdon. James Thomas was the runner up.

Chester Chairman Jayne Taylor presenting a special bottle of Chateau Sloping Lawn to winner Brian Storey of Bowdon …
… and another bottle to runner-up James Thomas of Chester and Llanfairfechan

For another report on the Millennium short lawn tournament, see the North West Federation website.