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