USCA North Carolina Club Teams
August 3-6, 2023
Linville, North Carolina
USCA NC Club Teams was strictly Golf Croquet in 2023, the twenty-fifth time this event has been played. (The tournament started in 1996 but has been skipped a few times, most recently due to Covid.) This is the first year this USCA North Carolina District event was run under the auspices of the USCA, as reflected in its updated title. Twelve NC croquet clubs sent a total of 34 doubles pairs.
The weather forecast for day 1 looked poor, and the reality was worse. At the start of the day only two of six courts were playable, and the forecast called for continuous rain through the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. With just two games completed the rest of the day's play was canceled. The tournament committee scrambled to cobble together a shortened format, and Thursday evening’s tournament dinner turned into an opening party.
Fine weather returned by Friday morning and play resumed, with smaller blocks than originally planned. By the end of the day all blocks had been completed, and defending champions Linville Ridge led the Penwell Trophy standings with 13 points (one point for each match win). Grandfather, another of the host clubs, was just behind with 10 points. Both clubs had six pairs entered, the largest two teams in the tournament. The Penwell Trophy scoring system gives an advantage to the larger teams, and this is by design, to encourage participation.
All pairs in all three flights advanced to the knockout phase: single-elimination in First and Second Flights, Draw & Process (a double-elimination format) in Championship. Those pairs eliminated after one or two knockout rounds entered Plate and Bowl consolation knockouts.
Chris and Gail Barley (Grandfather) finished fourth in their Championship block, but caught fire in the knockout, winning all three of their Saturday games against higher-ranked opponents. Their next opponents had to withdraw (a medical scare for one of the players, which fortunately turned out to be minor), leaving the Barleys in a strong position going into the final day of the Draw & Process knockout. They would have three chances to win two games to win the flight, while either of their remaining opponents would need to win two out of two.
Linville Ridge retained its lead in the Penwell Trophy standings by the end of the day, with 24 points. But Grandfather drew closer, finishing the day on 22 points. Linville Golf and Highlands Falls were tied for third place on 13 points each. Neither of the latter clubs could earn more than 10 points in the remaining matches, so it was now a two-way race for first place.
All Sunday play was single-banked on two courts at Linville Golf Club, starting with the First and Second flight finals. All four clubs leading the Penwell Trophy standings were represented in these two games. Ray Ogden and Marty Ormsby won Second Flight to add four points to Grandfather’s tally (one point for the match win and three bonus points for winning the flight). Gene Lockard and Diane Walker did likewise for Highlands Falls by winning the First Flight final. Both opponent pairs earned two bonus points for finishing second. Standings after this round: Grandfather and Linville Ridge tied on 26 points; Highlands Falls leading Linville Golf, 17 to 15. Linville Golf had no more matches to play, leaving Highlands Falls assured of third place.
The Championship Draw final and the First Flight Bowl final followed. Darin Guffey and Billie Ray (Highlands Falls) were on their last life after losing to the Barleys in the Process. They took an early lead in this game and never relinquished it, getting to 6-3 on an excellent angled hoop from Guffey and closing it out 7-3. Bill Hartmann and Gene Raymond (Linville Ridge) had the same score winning the First Flight Bowl final against Kim and Mike Allen (Wildcat Cliffs), earning another point in the Penwell Trophy standings to put Linville Ridge on top, 27 to 26. The race was over though, because the Barleys could finish no lower than third place and were thus guaranteed to earn at least one bonus point. The tiebreaker is highest finishing position in Championship Flight, so Grandfather was assured of claiming the trophy.
Both Barleys hit nearly everything as they raced out to a 4-0 lead in the Process final against Josh Freeth and Jim Teel (Cedar Creek). Freeth and Teel had control at hoop 5 and attempted to jaws, but the ball trickled through and gave the Barleys the advantage at hoop 6, which they won for 5-1. Freeth and Teel won a protracted battle at hoop 7 for 2-5. Chris Barley then drifted a long shot into the jaws of hoop 8, en route to winning the game 7-2. Once again the matches on both courts ended with the same score, Bob Hamilton and Robb Turner (Lake Toxaway) winning the Championship Plate final 7-2 over Kendall and Laura Hendrick (Highlands Falls).
The stage was set for the grand final: Guffey and Ray vs. the Barleys. The two sides mainly traded hoops throughout the game, leading to a tie at 5-all. The weather had looked increasingly threatening, and now the rain came bucketing down. Puddles began appearing on the court and the TD informed the players that they were not required to play through the rain, but both sides chose to carry on. The final shot of the tournament was Guffey’s three-yard shot through standing water to score hoop 12 for the 7-5 win. So the tournament ended as it began, with flooded courts
1. Grandfather Golf & Country Club
2. Linville Ridge Croquet Club
3. Highlands Falls Croquet Association
4. Linville Golf Club
5. Trillium Links & Lake Club
6. Bald Head Island Croquet Club
7. Wildcat Cliffs Country Club
8. Ceder Creek Croquet Club
9. Lake Toxaway Mallet Club
10. Country Club of Sapphire Valley
11. Albemarle Croquet Club
12. Arbor Acres Croquet
1. Darin Guffey & Billie Ray (Highlands Falls)
2. Chris Barley & Gail Barley (Grandfather)
3. Josh Freeth & Jim Teel (Ceder Creek)
4. (WD) David Maloof & John Taylor (Linville Ridge)
4. Tom Balding & Tracy Hallett (Linville Golf)
4. Eileen Kupstas Soo & Jeff Soo (Bald Head Island)
7. Bob Hamilton & Robb Turner (Lake Toxaway)
8. Kendall Hendrick & Laura Hendrick (Highlands Falls)
9. Gary Gamble & Kathie Gamble (Sapphire Valley)
10. Judy Carlin & Peter Carlin (Ceder Creek)
First Flight Doubles
1. Gene Lockard & Diane Walker (Highlands Falls)
2. John Dobson Sr. & Gregg Wechsler (Linville Golf)
3. Steve Hawes & Dick Rendleman (Grandfather)
3. Anne Killilea & Kevin Killilea (Trillium)
5. Bill Hartmann & Gene Raymond (Linville Ridge)
6. Kim Allen & Mike Allen (Wildcat Cliffs)
7. Jan Spoerl & Scott Spoerl (Trillium)
7. Craig Sellner & Judy Sellner Trillium)
9. Lynda Bjorklund & Ellym McColgan (Sapphire Valley)
10. Mary Anne Hamilton & Sybil Turner (Lake Toxaway)
11. Nancy Hart & Marie Jones (Linville Ridge)
12. Charles Duckett & Angela Pittman (Arbor Acres)
Second Flight Doubles
1. Ray Ogden & Marty Ormsby (Grandfather)
2. Rick Loftin & Sandy Stasiek (Linville Ridge)
3. Debbi Patten & Keith Patten (Wildcat Cliffs)
3. Brad Blair & Wade Mallard (Linville Ridge)
5. Jim Pierce & John Walker (Highlands Falls)
6. John Dobson Jr. & Becky Elderkin (Linville Golf)
7. Mark Jordan & Tony Watts (Grandfather)
7. Paul Kroening & David Moser (Grandfather)
9. Jeanmarie Dellosso & Betty Robinson (Bald Head Island)
10. Burke Pinnell & Lezah Pinnell (Grandfather)
11. Fred Buchsbaum & Marianne Blair (Linville Ridge)
12. Janet Mullen & Tom Mullen (Albemarle)