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  Fournier and Arnold Leading Their Blocks After Two Days in USCA International Rules National Championships
by Mike Weimerskirch and Bob Alman
Posted September 20, 1997

Two long blocks played in three days reduce the field to two blocks of four competing in cross-block play on Saturday, producing two finalists for Sunday's best-of-three finals match. Timed at two hours and forty minutes, most of the games have gone to the stake, and a respectable triple-peel rate prevails among the top-ranked players.

While the Giants and Dodgers baseball series dominated Bay Area sports reportage, the local media still managed to give prominent notice to the first croquet national championship to be played in Oakland and San Francisco. The relative youth of Jacques Fournier was the favorite story hook, and the 15-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona, fully justified his press notices in the intial two days.

Fournier had already knocked off Mik Mehas in his block when he came up against Jerry Stark on San Francisco's Stern Grove lawns. Stark never took croquet in the shortest game of the day, which Fournier completed in the sixth turn.

On the bowling greens of Oakland's Lakeside Park, Phil Arnold of Santa Rosa, California, had a much tougher time against Britain's David Openshaw. Arnold dominated early with expert hit-in's, and as time ran down had pegged out one of his balls, while Openshaw raced through four-back to bring his second ball around but then missed an easy approach to penultimate. Arnold hit in from Corner One and put the game away 26-22, to remain undefeated in his block.

Jacques Fournier - 5-0
Jerry Stark - 4-1
Charlie Smith - 3-1
Mik Mehas -3-2
Britt Ruby - 2-3
Jim Audas - 1-4
Mark Najarian - 1-4
John Leonard - 1-3

Phil Arnold - 5-0
David Openshaw - 4-1
Erv Peterson - 4-1
Rory Kelley - 2-2
Sharif Abdelwahab - 2-3
Dan Mahoney - 1-3
Bill Martin - 1-3
Ron Lastinger - 1-5
Maurice Marsac 0-4

Before losing his fifth game to Arnold, former winner of the tournament David Openshaw attempted four triple peels to post his first four wins, to lead the triple-peel statistics. (This long-time British threat will represent England in the World Championships in Bunbury, Australia.)

Top Four in Each Block Qualify for Cross-Block Round

Although the blocks were seeded according to handicap standings, Block "A", with three of the four U.S. entries in November's World Championships, looks like the toughest block on paper. At the moment, all three of these players are in the critical top four qualifying positions (along with Northern California's Charlie Smith). Texan Britt Ruby, who has already upset Mehas, could continue to challenge the leaders for a qualifying spot.

In Block "B", Arnold, Openshaw, and Peterson have a secure hold on three of the top four spots, with Rory Kelley of Phoenix and Sharif Abdelwahab of Massachusetts most likely to vie for the critical fourth position.

Idyllic weather prevails in both San Francisco and Oakland, with temperatures in the 70's and low 80's - but forecasters predict hotter weather on the weekend as the national championship boils down to the final rounds.

[CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE will produce one more report on the tournament from director Mike Weimerskirch and manager Bob Alman.]

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