Champions’ Champion

Champion of Champions sounds pretty grand, but that is what the Southern Croquet Federation call their annual two day competition for  winners or nominees  from club handicap tournaments held the previous year. In Blewbury’s case, that means the Icknield for GC and the Prebendal for AC. The host for 2022 was Hamptworth, a welcoming club with five courts within a  golf club south of Salisbury

On a damp Tuesday, Icknield champion David Long was out at 9.30 for the GC event, along with Peter Allan, representing Harwell . David was in the Red block, Peter in the Blue so each faced 6 rivals from other clubs. It wasn’t David’s day: a handicap rise from 6 to 7 will make him very dangerous at Blewbury this summer. Peter won five games, a convincing finalist without needing to play his sixth opponent.

Peter took on Artur de Costa, an AC player who entered Winchester CC’s 2021 GC qualifier on the spur of the moment. With a handicap that reflected his GC inexperience, Artur had a 6 vs 2 handicap advantage, a cushion he put to good use to establish an early lead before Peter fought back. At the finish, he was an honourable second.

Loser in a third place play off isn’t much of a qualification, but 2021 Prebendal champion Andy Robertson and finalist Anthony Hardwicke were otherwise engaged. Likewise Peter Allan, again representing Harwell on AC day at Hamptworth. No doubt with some misgivings, Blewbury invited me to take the vacant spot. So I did.

To decide who would start against who, each of the 12 contenders drew a numbered playing card between ace and six. ‘Please don’t let it be Aston Wade’, I muttered to myself. The third year medical student from Exeter University won the Open CG Championship last August at his first attempt. We  are not on the same planet.

Although I’d seen a single magpie within a mile of my home, I dodged the bullet. Instead I met a scratch player from the Isle of Wight who had an unbelievably bad start to his day. My good fortune, but defeat against a very wily campaigner soon followed. Next up, Teddy from Jesus College, Oxford, and Peter, games I scraped through on time thanks to forests of bisques.

Aston Wade and Minty Clinch

Then the bombshell: the final between Aston Wade, winner of four games, and Minty Clinch, winner of three. Even with this deficit, beating Aston would secure the trophy! Elegant and gracious, he rocketed his balls around the court at speeds I’ve never dreamed of. Occasionally he missed, but not often enough. He was a joy both to watch and to play with. In the end, the competition lived up to it’s lofty billing: the winner is a true champion. 

Our thanks to Brian and Carol Jameson : Brian was referee on GC day and both supported contenders from Blewbury, Caversham and Harwell throughout the weekend. Your turns next year, guys.