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Io Campionato del Mondo
di Golf Croquet
by Dave McLaughlin

Competitors in the first World Championship in Golf Croquet represented many countries, including Egypt, England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Switzerland, Wales, and the United States. Organized by the World Croquet Federation and hosted by "Le Robinie" Golf Club at Solbiante Olana, near Milan, the event, as characterized by our reporter, featured hard hitting by the Egyptians and serious indulgence in food and wine after the games. The games were single-banked on three full-sized, regulation courts. Results tables at the end of this article show that fully half the players to reach the final rounds were Egyptians. Dave McLauglin, editor the official Web site of the Scottish Croquet Association, has favored us with a personal account of his adventures in Italy.

I began my preparations for this trip well in advance. Did I practise golf croquet? No (well, not much). Instead, I went out and bought the book, the cassettes and the workbook of the BBC's "Buongiorno Italia." Unfortunately, I lost interest after the first two chapters.

I flew Heathrow to Milan Linate. I was slightly apprehensive about being met by an Italian croquet player who might not speak English, so I was quite surprised when I emerged from the customs hall to hear someone calling "Dave! Dave!" It was my old friend from Ireland, Charlie von Schmieder (good Irish name, that). Charlie, Fred Rogerson (Chairman of the World Croquet Federation, also an Irishman) and I piled into Giamberto Chiappella's car and then spent about an hour travelling through Milan and along miles of toll road to get to the club where the competition was to be held. I was glad I hadn't hired a car. In the first place, I would have got horribly lost; in the second place, Italian drivers make French drivers seem positively sedate.

After a drink in the clubhouse, we were joined by all the other players and officials, and the president of the Italian Olympic Committee, Carlo Farioli. We had a superb meal, Carlo Farioli introduced everyone, and Chris Hudson (Secretary General of the World Croquet Federation) led an explanation of the laws under which the competition was to be played. The laws were those published by the English Croquet Association, ratified by the Australian Croquet Association and the New Zealand Croquet Council. All this time, Chris spoke English, Carlo alternated between French and Italian, and Rita Lualdi (Italian Croquet Association staff and linguist extraordinaire) attempted to translate everything.

I lost my first game, to Fabio Truglia (Italy), 7-6, having been 4-2 up. We had a nice tactical finish. His blue took hoop position with yellow nearby and red hard against the wire on the non-playing side. All I could do was block black's path to yellow. Black then blocked yellow's path to blue. I contemplated trying to block the hoop from a rather nasty angle, but decided to try rushing black onto blue. A very slight cut was required: I over-cut it. FInito. Finito.

My second match was against Peter Payne (Switzerland), and I felt under some pressure to win. Much of the talk over dinner the previous night had been about the formidable Egyptians, and my only remaining game in the block was to be against one of them. Although all players would go through to the next round, the block placings would decide the seedings. If I lost all my block games, I would meet the winner of one of the other blocks, and probably go no further. Peter peeled me through one of the early hoops, helping me to a 6-3 lead. He then came back strongly to 6-all, before peeling me through the decider!

This game also saw an incident that I subsequently learned was being repeated elsewhere. Peter was contemplating attempting a very hard cut- rush on a ball an inch from his own. When he asked if I wanted a referee, I said "Yes, if you're hitting it hard." Chris Hudson was called, and told Peter there was no danger of any fault, and no need for a referee! I confirmed that Chris was RoT [official Referee of the Tournament] and that, therefore, his decision was final - not entirely satisfactory, but I had to accept it. Such things are inevitable if golf croquet tournaments are to be refereed by people with only a passing acquaintance with the laws of the game.

"Association Croquet is something of a novelty in Egypt, but Golf Croquet is taken very seriously. There are 27 lighted courts in Cairo!"

My next opponent was Khaled Younis. He's the 1996 Egyptian Champion. I was subsequently to learn that he plays only two games a day, because any more and his wrists hurt. He sure hits the ball hard! The result was never in doubt: 7-2.

That evening we had a very long dinner. By the third course, everyone had already eaten their fill. We were then presented with plates of meat, with side-dishes of vegetables scattered around. When more joints of meat and dishes of chips appeared, it was just too much. Over dinner, Salah Hassan gave us some indication of why the Egyptians are so good at this game. Association croquet is something of a novelty there, but golf croquet is taken very seriously: there are 27 lawns in Cairo alone - all of them floodlit! Salah himself has been playing for 14 years, at his peak practising four hours a day!

The wine was also too much, the grappa was downright stupid, and Fred Rogerson's suggestion that we go on to a pub was idiotic beyond the imagination. Gregg Brodarick (USA), an architect, told us he really needed to check out the new lighting in a pub he'd been working on. My will-power was drowned in ethanol, my legs still worked (after a fashion), and soon I was admiring the discreet under-bar lighting through a pint of Beamish.

Like myself, Don Beck (English player) had a free day, so together we set off to see Milan. Il Duomo is magnificent, La Scala is closed in the mornings, the Last Supper is closed in the afternoons, and the art gallery we visited is nothing to write home about. That evening, we had another splendid dinner, where we were joined by John and Barbara Solomon, after which I retired early.

The "plate" was to be a doubles event, with partners drawn at random. I was paired with Don Beck (Sorry, Don). We didn't do terribly well. Saturday night saw the official dinner in the club-house, with the Egyptian ambassador as guest of honour. Barbara Solomon played piano, we had a good time, and I didn't go on to a night-club afterwards (Fred, how do you do it?).

The final was a one-sided affair. Khaled Younis (Egypt) beat Hisham Abousbaa (Egypt) in three straight games of a best-of-five. Hisham, apparently, was very tired and was never really in the match. Khaled, on the other hand, was in top form, Egyptian style. In the second game, for example, he ran hoop 5 from the boundary and with his next ball attempted hoop 6 from beside 5, bouncing off the wire. It seems to me that, not playing Association rules, the Egyptians are less afraid than the rest of us of attempting long hoops.

After the final, Salah Hassan talked us through the Egyptian laws of the game. These are more complicated than the internationally agreed code, but are less open to (mis)interpretation. Whenever a ball has run a hoop, any balls that are on the wrong side of lines marking the mid-way to the next hoop are replaced at set points on the boundary or by the peg, unless their position was reached by a rush. Jump-shots are allowed, provided the ball does not pass clear over another ball (half- jumping an adversary's ball in the jaws of a hoop can lead to tricky refereeing decisions as to which ball cleared the hoop first!) We were then treated to a demonstration of the Egyptian game.

"It seems to me that, not playing Association rules, the Egyptians are less afraid than the rest of us of attempting long hoops."

All in all, we had a good time. The weather was fine, and many thanks are due to Carlo Farioli and all the Italians for the superb hospitality. The management could have been better: double-banking would have allowed more games, but it was the first event of its kind, and lessons will be learned. At the dinner on Saturday night, Egypt declared their wish to host next year's event, as well as the WCF World Championship in 1998.

X1 Salib Eryan (Egypt) 4 7 6
X2 Ahmed Sayed (Egypt)

7 6 7
X1 Salib Eryan (Egypt) 7 7 -
X3 D. A. Fattah (Egypt)

4 5 -
X1 Salib Eryan (Egypt) 7 7 -
X4 Fred Rogerson (Ireland)

4 4 -
X2 Ahmed Sayed (Egypt) 7 7 -
X3 D. A. Fattah (Egypt)

5 3 -
X2 Ahmed Sayed (Egypt) 7 7 -
X4 Fred Rogerson (Ireland)

5 4 -
X3 D. A. Fattah (Egypt) 3 7 3
X4 Fred Rogerson (Ireland) 7 5 7

3rd Fred Rogerson (Ireland) Won 2 Lost 5

Y1 Salah Hassan (Egypt) 3 5 -
Y2 Khaled Younis (Egypt)

7 7 -
Y1 Salah Hassan (Egypt) 7 3 7
Y3 Charles von Schmieder (Ireland)

4 7 5
Y1 Salah Hassan (Egypt) 7 7 7
Y4 Andrea Pravettoni (Italy)

7 4 2
Y2 Khaled Younis (Egypt) 7 6 5
Y4 Andrea Pravettoni (Italy)

2 7 7
Y3 Charles von Schmieder (Ireland) 1 7 7
Y4 Andrea Pravettoni (Italy) 7 4 3

3rd Charles von Schmieder (Ireland) Won 3 Lost 5

Z1 Hisham Abousbaa (Egypt) 6 7 7
Z2 Giampietro Donati (Italy)

7 6 4
Z1 Hisham Abousbaa (Egypt) 7 7 -
Z3 Arthur Addis (England)

1 3 -
Z1 Hisham Abousbaa (Egypt) 7 6 7
Z4 R. R. Edwards (England)

4 7 5
Z2 Giampietro Donati (Italy) 7 7 -
Z3 Arthur Addis (England)

6 3 -
Z2 Giampietro Donati (Italy) 7 7 -
Z4 R. R. Edwards (England)

3 4 -
Z3 Arthur Addis (England) 4 7 2
Z4 R. R. Edwards (England) 7 4 7

3rd R. R. Edwards (England) Won 3 Lost 5

1Z Hisham Abousbaa (Egypt) 7 7 -
2R R. R. Edwards (England)

4 4 -
1X Ahmed Sayed (Egypt) 6 7 6
1R Charles von Schmieder (Ireland)

7 5 7
2Z Giampietro Donati (Italy) 7 5 4
1Y Khaled Younis (Egypt)

6 7 7
2X Salib Eryan (Egypt) 3 6 -
2Y Salah Hassan (Egypt) 7 7 -

S1 Hisham Abousbaa (Egypt) 7 5 7
S2 Charles von Schmieder (Ireland)

2 7 3
S3 Khaled Younis (Egypt) 7 7-
S4 Salah Hassan (Egypt) 3 4-

3RD PLACE PLAYOFF (best three of five)
Charles von Schmieder (Ireland) 7 4 3 4
Salah Hassan (Egypt) 4 7 7 7

Hisham Abousbaa (Egypt) 5 3 3 - -
Khaled Younis (Egypt) 7 7 7 - -

PLATE FINAL (doubles)
Fabio Truglia (Italy) / Charles-Eric Vilain XIIII (Belgium) 7 2 4
Jonathan Lamb (Belgium) / Mahmoud Abdel Fattah Doreya (Egypt) 6 7 7

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