Britt Ruby, a 40 -year-old dentist from Tyler, Texas, beat Johnny Osborn 21-13 in the final of the 21st USCA National Championship, played on Saturday, October 25, at the Palm Beach Polo Club in Wellington, Florida. It is the third American rules national title for a player from the Southwest, (following Arizona"s Jim Bast in '84 and Ray Bell in '85) and the first national croquet title for a Texan.
Ruby defeated Osborn in a match that went to the full 90-minute time limit, but in just five rotations. Ruby won the toss and on the opening turn chose to play in second position, sending red to the south boundary 25 feet from blue in the #1 corner. When Osborn shot #1 and sent black to join blue, Ruby opted for the Chernobyl, deliberately declining to make #1.
At the end of the first rotation, Osborn lead 2-1.
Beginning the second rotation, blue set a rush for black to #2. Ruby then started shooting at Osborn's corner position, but red's attempted roquet was short. Black then tapped red, then on the croquet cannoned red into blue to push them both to the west boundary. Black then set at #3 for the break. But Ruby then shot through #1 with yellow, and made another attempt at a boundary hit-it, this time succeeding. He hit red on the boundary and proceeded to run the first break. "I've been hitting those shots all week." Ruby commented later of his risky boundary shots. It was the same strategy he had employed to beat Bill Berne in the winner's bracket semifinal, 26-2. Ruby's break against Osborn went to 1-back, where he barely cleared, then missed the 6-foot roquet from the jaws.
After the second rotation, Ruby lead 8-2.
Osborn hit the ball Ruby had left for him with blue, took off to black at 2-back, then rushed back to #2 to clear. He continued scoring hoops by rushing near the pivot ball, until he could established a clean conventional break at 1-back. The break ended when Osborn missed a hampered 10-footer after penultimate. Osborn, however, kept the innings as red shot from the #1 corner at yellow near rover and missed, winding up on the east boundary. Black then set a rush for blue on the south boundary and yellow retired to the #1 corner.
After the third rotation, Osborn lead 12-8.
Playing for the potential double peel, Osborn rushed black between #3 and #6, then did a rout, croqueting black to within 18 inches of yellow on the boundary at corner #1, while blue wound up 10 feet short of #2. Ruby again played defensively and went to the #4 corner with red.
Misfortune struck Osborn when after clearing #2, his pioneer to #4 hit wicket #6 and glanced off, impeding his rush to #3. His only option was to rush yellow deep at #3, which lead to a long hoop shot which he missed. It was all Ruby needed as yellow hit black, split black to #2 and got the rush on blue to 2-back. After clearing 2-back, Ruby joined red. "At that point, I wasn't going to do anything I couldn't do 99 times of of 100. I was thinking of the break for red from the beginning. If I didn't like my rush on blue, I was going back to red, but I've been making good hoop shots all week," Ruby said after the game about his 3-footer at 2-back.
After the fourth rotation, Osborn lead 13-9.
Osborn, with blue dead on partner and black dead twice, shot at red and missed. Ruby ignored blue until after making #4, running the break and the game clock to their conclusion. "I calculated [at the beginning of the break] that there wasn't going to be much time left when I finished. When I ran penultimate I checked my watch and had three minutes left. I figured I could get enough 45 seconds just hitting balls at that point," Ruby commented. The turn ended with black near #3, yellow wired from black near the west boundary, blue near #1 and red staked out. Johnny cleared black and shot at blue, but missed, and the game was over.
Britt Ruby had won by a score of 21-13.
Ruby and Osborn had each advanced from the double elimination face-off cleanly as Ruby had beaten John Phaneuf, and Osborn had defeated Bill Berne, giving Phaneuf and Berne their second losses.
Low-scoring Doubles Final Goes to Time
In the doubles final, Osborn and Mehas won an early deadness battle when Dan Mahoney, playing yellow, hit in on black, the only ball on which he was alive, but then overrolled the split shot at #3 and had to retreat. Mehas then played the rover game with Johnny for #5 until time expired with Mehas and Osborn the victors 16-8. Mahoney did have one final opportunity when on Osborn's last turn with black, he hid blue from yellow, leaving yellow wired, but Mahoney was unable to capitalize on the wiring lift.
Mahoney and Cherry had advanced to the final with a 21-18 victory over Steve Johnston and Alan Wolman. Cherry went around with red and staked out Johnston's black, then mentally reversed the rotation, protecting the theoretical shot on yellow by blue. Confusion ensued when Wolman tried to call timeout, but was told he could not since it was yellow's turn. Cherry and Mahoney ignored the 15 second warning, thinking it was the opponents' turn, but with black out of the game, it was Mahoney's shot clock that eventually expired. Blue then missed the shot on yellow and Mahoney and Cherry went to the final.
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