In the words of Ted Prentis
long-time champion and pro:
John and Nelga Young, married in 1938, created the first Bermuda cottage colony resort in the 1950's and named it Lantana Colony. It grew to include 68 detached cottages, each with a pool or access to the beach, two restaurants and many other amenities. It was here that John installed his first croquet lawn, and he later encouraged courts to be set up at Coral Beach, and Duncan and Hilda McMartin's patio- shaped Elephant Walk. The first Bermuda Invitational tournaments were held there starting in 1969.
At the time – almost ten years before Jack Osborn formed the USCA - six-wicket American Rules croquet tournaments were played only in New York City's Central Park, at Palm Beach's Colony Hotel (and later The Breakers) and in Bermuda. John and Nelga attended all of them, from the very first, although initially Nelga was not allowed to play until she beat John in Central Park during the NYCC's fall tournament, much to his surprise and the delight of all of the other players. That was the beginning of their long odyssey as croquet’s most famous and ubiquitous playing couple.
Throughout the 1970's, 80's, and 90's John and Nelga played in a record number of tournaments nationwide. They were quite simply omnipresent. Although their Lantana Colony was hugely successful, even during the summer peak season; John and Nelga were able to get away to play in the all the biggest tournaments in the Northeast. During the rest of the year they traveled extensively across the United States for competitions. Somewhere along the way, John built the first full-sized court to be built in Bermuda at Lantana, replete with a gigantic elephant-sculpted hedge courtside and a hospitality tent offering a spectacular view of the lawn and the Great Sound. Many a Bermuda Invitational final awards luncheon took place at that venue, adding a notable crescendo to what was indisputably the most elegant and fun tournament of the year.
John's avid promotion of croquet sparked the creation of the McMartin's incredible mountain-top court at 'Elephant Walk' in Tuckerstown, Dick and Jeannie Pearman's two courts at their beautiful home 'Calithea' in Paget, and Bayfield Clarke's magnificent croquet lawn in Somerset.
Throughout his life John remained at the helm of the Bermuda Croquet Club, one of the five founding clubs of the United States Croquet Association. He embodied the very best of 'old school' croquet. Before the formation of the USCA, players did not wear whites. Ladies dressed most elegantly in top of the line designer slacks and blouses and the gentlemen were clad in everything from Acapulco shirts and slacks to Polo shorts and shirts with the occasional dress shirt and tie thrown in for good measure. John dressed splendidly in matching lime green, peach, or tropical colored shirt and slacks and always wore his trademark ascot smartly fastened at the neck by a gold clasp - a tradition he maintained after we all had converted to 'whites'.
Even his tournaments had a special color scheme. When double banking was first introduced, the Bermuda Club used 'second color' balls (green, pink, brown, and white) as is traditional in England. It is generally acknowledged that the only second-color deadness boards to exist can be found in Bermuda.
John and Nelga's unflagging support and devotion to the game and the formation of the USCA and Croquet Foundation of America led to their induction to the U.S. Croquet Hall of Fame in the early 1980's.
As a player, no one was more eager and active in competition than John Young. In the years before the Solomon and Carter International Test Matches, John represented both the United States and Bermuda in the USCA Challenge Cup Matches against various international teams throughout the 1980's. Although John narrowly missed winning the USCA National Doubles title with his good friend and fellow Bermudian Dick Pearman, his list of club, regional and invitational titles is most impressive.
But it wasn't his excellent competition record that made John so notable and memorable to all of us, it was John himself. He was one of the most affable and gentlemanly players to ever pick up a mallet. His favorite and almost exclusive expletive was 'frig'! His thick Bermuda accent and genuinely broad smile accented every joke or story he told - and he loved to tell them. What became clearly evident from the first time you met John Young was that he loved life, and one of his great joys in life was playing croquet.
Although no actual records are kept on this, it is widely believed that John never sat down while playing a croquet match, not ever. He was always ready to play his next turn. It was joked that whenever John had gotten into a four-ball break, it would quickly dissolve into a two-ball break simply because a two-ball break required fewer shots to get around the course. John was a fantastic single-ball shot and loved the long full role, which he called a 'trundle'.
John was both magnanimous and humble in victory on the court, and quick with a heartfelt handshake and a smile for those who managed to best him. But win or lose, John took only the briefest moment to reflect before looking for his next game. He was never a slow player, and when some mishap brought his break to a halt,, with a gleam in his eye and an impish grin he would reach down to put up his clip, then stand up, sweep his arm while snapping his fingers and say - 'SUGAR' (pronounced 'Shugarr'), and then walk off the court and stand ready to play his next turn.
John Young lived a rich and happy life. He adored his wife Nelga and his family. He loved his friends, his art collection, his life-long passion ‘Lantana’ and sports - particularly croquet. Those of us who were so fortunate to know him will always remember him and smile and be assured that at least once in our lives we knew someone who had gotten it right. From start to finish, John Young really did get it right.