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World championship golf croquet
debuts in South Florida

text and pictures by Bob Alman
layout by Reuben Edwards
Posted February 12, 2002

This championship will be known as a watershed event: the first time all the top players in both Golf Croquet and "Association Croquet" competed together for the individual championship in the fastest growing form of the sport. The participation of these players confers upon Golf Croquet a higher level of acceptance in the world croquet community. Whether they win or lose against the past masters of Golf Croquet, their blessing will help to ensure a healthy future for the game and perhaps a new beginning for the sport, with broader public appeal. After two days of play, it's too soon to predict the outcome. All the top players - in both Golf Croquet and "Association Croquet" have won all their games and matches. They have yet to face each other. The acid test will come in the elimination match round.
Eleven of the 22 member countries of the World Croquet Federation are competing.

The officials: Len Canavan and Archie Peck install the player cards and the scoring system on 10 of the Center's 12 lawns.
The National Croquet Center was supposed to be complete by now - that's why the championship and the International Croquet Festival were scheduled in February. Now we know that the most earnest pronouncements of architects and project managers must not be believed. If you need to know exactly when the clubhouse will be finished, you should ask a gypsy.

But it hardly matters. The lawns are great, the place is beautiful. The Festival Tent and the large Utility Building provide more support for large events than most other croquet venues. And after a year, the staff has learned to manage them well.

The Egyptians - theirs and ours: Khaled Younis (left) has the best record in the game and represents Egypt; US-born Mohammad Kamal lives in Los Angeles, plays for the United States, and appears to be in top form.

What matters is that the first world championship held at the National Croquet Center will long be remembered for many "firsts." The six-inch wooden barriers - more than 3,000 feet - are the most vivid reminder of the specialness of this event. They protect the players, spectators, and officials from balls that are hit as hard as 40 mph.

The barriers: More than 3,000 feet of pine wood protect players and spectators from harm.

The players seeking shelter: Left to right, they are Norman Eatough (Switzerland), Ihab Abdelwahab (U.S), and Reg Bamford (South Africa).
An unanticipated "first" was the 7- to 9-inch rain that fell on the first day of play, also overwhelming the 500-foot-long "dry retention basin" used both as an overflow playing lawn and for the occasional downpour.

More volunteers and officials are needed for a Golf Croquet event than for other forms of the game. The referees are expected to be actively involved in the game, not simply on call; scorekeepers are needed; and, ideally, ball-persons. Although the volunteer pool in Florida is large, it is also shallow. Golf Croquet has not been played seriously here. The referees had little training for the many difficult calls they are expected to make. Chief referee Gary Weltner and all the officials knew that refereeing would be the biggest weakness of this event. After only two days of play, there is much talk of how the refereeing can be beefed up for the final and critical elimination round.

The referees: They are being briefed by Chief Referee Gary Weltner.
To make up for a scarcity of trained volunteers, players and their guests are pitching in with help on many fronts. My estimation is that the tournament officials and WCF president Tony Hall will be able to ensure an elimination round with refereeing sufficient to ensure a just result in the championship.

As the world championship winds towards a public draw on Wednesday evening to determine the places for the top sixteen in the final elimination round from Thursday through Sunday, we can't predict how it will turn out - we can show you what it looked like during practice and on the opening day of play.

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