USCA Southeast Regional GC Championship
September 7-10, 2023
Albemarle Croquet Club
The Albemarle Croquet Club is only two years old, but has already hosted two USCA Regional Championships. The club is located in rural Perquimans County, home of many beautifully preserved historic buildings, not to mention the hometown of Jim “Catfish” Hunter and the gravesite of Robert “Wolfman Jack” Smith. The club, with four full-size courts, is the creation of the Lassiter family, recognized as USCA Croquet Family of the Year in both 2021 and 2022. A small army of family volunteers extended a warm welcome and took care of the players throughout the event.
The entry limit was set at 32 players and the tournament quickly filled. Southeast region players came from North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi. The field was filled out with several players from Florida and one from Missouri. There were many requests to “play up”, so the flight divisions were set at 24 for Championship and 8 for First Flight.
First Flight played a conventional block-and-knockout format in both singles and doubles. Shep Slater and MaryCarol Stearns won all their doubles block games by comfortable margins. John Graney and Bob Smothers finished second in the block, and both teams won their semifinals for a rematch in the final. The game, which took well over two hours to finish, was close throughout, Graney and Smothers winning 7-5.
First Flight Singles started with a full block of 8, the top 4 advancing to the knockout. Slater tied with Kim Allen at 6-1. Smothers finished third in the block at 5-2, and Stearns took the final spot in the knockout at 4-3, no need for block tie-breakers. Slater and Allen won their single-game semifinals to advance to the best-of-three final. Allen’s clearing and jump shots made the difference in her 7-5, 7-5 victory.
With 24 players and only 4 days to play singles and doubles, Championship Flight was too large for block-and-knockout formats without compromising on block size or best-of-three knockout rounds. The Swiss format was the solution, giving all players a set of meaningful games and leaving time for best-of-three matches from the singles quarterfinals onward. This format does require active management throughout the day, hard to do well when the TD is playing in the event. Fortunately for this TD, tournament guests Elaine and Rocky Smith jumped in as assistant TDs, recording scores and game times, and assigning courts on the fly to get the games in as efficiently as possible.
The doubles was played as a straight Swiss, all pairs playing in each of the five rounds. At the end of those five rounds there were three pairs tied for first at 4-1: Kim Allen & Billie Ray; Bo Prillaman & Marc Stearns; Danny Huneycutt & Rodney Lassiter. This triggered a playoff, Allen & Ray earning the bye on their strength of schedule rating. Stearns & Prillaman edged out Huneycutt & Lassiter 7-6. Allen & Ray jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the final, winning 7-3.
Championship Singles started with an elimination Swiss: keep playing until you have three wins or three losses. With 24 players this worked out perfectly to ensure exactly 12 qualifiers with three wins, no tie-breakers needed. There was only time for single-game matches in the first knockout round, so getting a bye to the quarterfinals was especially valuable. The three players who qualified with 3-0 records earned top seeding: Danny Huneycutt, Jeff Soo, and Cecil Creasey. The fourth bye was decided by a playoff between Adam Lassiter and Tate Russack, the two 3-1 players with the highest strength of schedule rating. Lassiter won 7-1 to earn the bye.
The Swiss continued as a consolation event for all players who failed to reach the quarterfinals. Rodney Lassiter took advantage of the opportunity and finished 4-2 in the Swiss, good for ninth place overall in the tournament.
All four of the top seeds won their quarterfinals, making the semifinal pairings Danny Huneycutt vs. Adam Lassiter and Cecil Creasey vs. Jeff Soo. Huneycutt and Lassiter finished their three-game match while Creasey and Soo were still in game 2, Huneycutt winning 7-5, 6-7, 7-4. The other match finished soon after, Soo having survived a 3-6 deficit in game 2 to win 7-3, 7-6. (The First Flight doubles final, a single-game match, was at 5-4 at this time.)
Huneycutt had early leads in both games of the final, both games equalizing at 4-all and then 5-all. In game 1 Soo scored hoop 11 with enough distance to take control at hoop 12 for a 7-5 win. In game 2 it was Huneycutt who scored hoop 11, but only by a few feet. After positioning both balls at hoop 12, Soo took advantage of a short position by Huneycutt to clear that ball and advance to hoop 13. Huneycutt’s block attempt came up just short. Soo scored 12, Huneycutt played to straight two-foot position at 13, and Soo ran a three-yard angled hoop for the match. It is Soo’s third regional GC singles title.
Southeast Regional Vice-President Linda Trifone was the Event Lead. Adam Lassiter was the Tournament Manager. Elaine and Rocky Smith were Assistant Tournament Directors.
—Jeff Soo, Tournament Director
TD note: all games were untimed. Average game times were around 62 minutes for singles and 68 minutes for doubles. Actual game times ranged from just over 20 minutes to nearly 3 hours
1. Jeff Soo
2. Danny Huneycutt
3. Cecil Creasey
3. Adam Lassiter
5. Marc Stearns
5. Rick Brown
7. Billie Ray
7. Gil Flowers
9. Rodney Lassiter
10. Tate Russack
10. Ellen Nielsen
12. Bill Simmons
13. Gene Raymond
14. Jack Rush
15. Randy Lassiter
16. Stephen Jackson
17. Scott Winslow
18. Cami Russack
19. Jim Podraza
20. Linda Trifone
21. Josh Lassiter
22. Kory Teoman
23. Susan Creasey
24. Bo Prillaman
First Flight Singles
1. Kim Allen
2. Shep Slater
3. Robert Smothers
4. MaryCarol Stearns
5. Betty Teoman
6. John Graney
7. Janet Mullen
8. Kathy Killmon
1. Kim Allen & Billie Ray
2. Bo Prillaman & Marc Stearns
3. Danny Huneycutt & Rodney Lassiter
4. Gene Raymond & Jack Rush
5. Rick Brown & Josh Lassiter
6. Adam Lassiter & Linda Trifone
6. Randy Lassiter & Scott Winslow
8. Cecil Creasey & Susan Creasey
8. Jim Podraza & Bill Simmons
10. Ellen Nielsen & Jeff Soo
10. Cami Russack & Tate Russack
12. Gil Flowers & Stephen Jackson
First Flight Doubles
1. John Graney & Robert Smothers
2. Shep Slater & MaryCarol Stearns
3. Betty Teoman & Kory Teoman
4. Kathy Killmon & Janet Mullen