24 April 2010
Mission Hills Country Club, Rancho Mirage, California, USA
by Ben Rothman in Croquet World Online
Preview, Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Results, Final Report
|1st||Danny Huneycutt |
|2nd||Ben Rothman |
|3rd||Jeff Soo |
|4th||Brian Cumming |
|5th||Rich Lamm |
|6th||Paul Billings |
|7th||Jim Bast |
|8th||Doug Grimsley |
|Bob Van Tassell |
|10th||Jim Butts |
|Paul Bennett |
|Martyn Selman |
|13th||Steve Scalpone |
|Tony Reaves |
|Steve Summer |
|Johnny Mitchell |
|Steve Johnston |
|Charlie Smith |
|19th||Ron Hendry |
|Ron Lloyd |
The hottest player in the country burned white as he
trounced the young pro at Mission Hills. Danny
Huneycutt, fresh off of his lucrative win at the
International Polo Club and well known as the best test
match player for the United States, proved his merit as
he snatched his second Association Rules Singles
National Championship on Saturday. Danny has shown his
uncanny ability to perform under stress in the 2005
National Championships (his previous victory), 2008
British Opens (all the way to the doubles final), 2009
Solomon (an epic best of five against Mulliner), and
this year's run for the title. The match was a best of
three that went down the stretch with amazing long
distance hit ins and well choreographed triple peels
that left fans wanting more. Danny took game one +26tp
after Rothman failed a fairly easy shot at hoop one.
Rothman took game two +26tp after a high risk 12 foot
shot at hoop one. And Danny took game three after
another failed hoop one attempt by Rothman. Huneycutt's
peels were sweet and his hit ins were smooth as he
weathered the storm and displayed his skill at Mission
Hills this week.
The championship doubles managed to delay the singles
match, forcing a best of three rather than best of five.
Rothman was in both and thus, the match could not begin
any earlier. In the best of three doubles, the scrappy
underdog team of Johnny Mitchell and Bob Van Tassell
worked well together. Game one was back and forth until
Rothman organized a standard triple, finishing +13tp.
Always in agreement and often meeting to manage break
play, Mitchell and Van Tassell held their own and
managed to triple peel in game two (Mitchell's triple)
for a +14tp. With no delay Grimsley began a fifth turn
triple, but got stuck in three while trying to use too
much touch. After a little back and forth, Doug stuck in
five. To complete a unique triple, Doug missed a third
hoop at one back, giving the challengers a welcome
opportunity. After a great run, Mitchell was finishing a
nice leave when he mistakenly switched and played his
partner ball! The fault left Rothman an easy roquet and
eventually a nice leave was laid. Being for one-back and
four-back convinced Mitchell and Van Tassell to put a
ball on the baulk line and leave the game up to chance.
Which is exactly what Doug was waiting for. In what
proved to be the critical turn of the match, Doug built
a break from a rush in corner one, a ball near corer
three, and a ball near three-back, into a six hoop break
(including a 40 foot roll up to two-back) and a solid
diagonal spread leave. Van Tassell took his time,
squared his shot, and delivered a rare miss to give
Rothman a championship winning break. The final score
was +13tp(R), -14tp(M), +17 for Rothman and Grimsley.
This was the team's second consecutive national
championship and a third consecutive for Doug
(previously partnered with Leo McBride).
The plate event became quite boring as Rich Lamm's play
became more interesting. With admittedly little pressure
on himself, Rich managed to roll out the triple of
triples. Lamm laid waste to Selman, Bast and Billings
+26tp, +26tp and +25tp in a four hour span. The well
deserved plate was taken with pride as Rich left before
the other finals had been determined to go house hunting
with his partner Tim. I guess Rich must like the lawns
here in Mission Hills.
First flight saw the determined emergence of Mary
Rodeberg. While not the highest scoring singles player
in the tournament, Mary learned how to manufacture a
win. With almost every one of her games going to time,
Mary took out the top seeds and captured the coveted
championship in a scant two games. Marvin Salles became
the runner-up after defeating Sheri Foroughi to earn the
finals berth. Marvin was exhausted after so many days of
play and countless games. He seemed content to resign
his final match as the sun set on Saturday evening. On
the other hand, Mary never let up. Her relentless
defense and unflinching poise lead her to a seven point
victory in the deciding game. Mary and her partner Jane
Beharriell also took the doubles championship over
Marvin Salles and Phyllis Butts. The consolation plate
went to Steve Mossbrook for his exploits over Donna
Dixon (and consolation is appropriate as Steve is not
the one who truly ï¿½wonï¿½ Donna Dixon this week).
The crowd petered out as the sun went down
and goodbye's were said all around.
A toast was had to Jerry's name
and Danny Huneycutt enjoyed the fame.
The doubles toast was arm in arm
while a few enjoyed Ben's devilish charm.
The tournament ends as we pay the bills,
so that all may return to Mission Hills.
CHAMPION FLIGHT SINGLES
NAME GRADE PLACE
Danny Huneycutt 2574 1st
Ben Rothman 2563 2nd
Jeff Soo 2437 3rd
Brian Cumming 2363 4th
Rich Lamm 2400 5th Plate Winner
Paul Billings 2274 6th
Jim Bast 2335 7th
Doug Grimsley 2523 T-8th
Bob Van Tassell 1990 T-8th
Jim Butts 1918 T-10th
Paul Bennett 2345 T-10th
Martyn Selman 1739 T-10th
Steve Scalpone 1830 T-13th
Tony Reaves 1608 T-13th
Steve Summer 1777 T-13th
Johnny Mitchell 2014 T-13th
Steve Johnston 1669 T-13th
Charlie Smith 1890 T-13th
Ron Hendry 1887 T-19th
Ron Lloyd 1946 T-19th
FIRST FLIGHT SINGLES
NAME GRADE PLACE
Mary Rodeberg 1536 1st
Marvin Salles 1567 2nd
Sheri Foroughi 1544 3rd
Steve Mossbrook 1505 4th Plate Winner
Donna Dixon 1600 T-5th
Jane Beharriell 1508 T-5th
Judy Dahlstrom 1466 7th
Jean Engebretson1318 T-8th
Phyllis Butts 1560 T-8th
Toni Kemp 1300 10th
Ben Rothman + Doug Grimsley 1st
Johnny Mitchell + Bob Van Tassell 2nd
Jeff Soo + Rich Lamm T-3rd
Paul Bennett + Paul Billings T-3rd
Charlie Smith + Steve Johnston T-5th
Jim Butts + Ron Hendry T-5th
Brian Cumming + Jim Bast T-5th
Danny Huneycutt + Steve Summer T-5th
Martyn Selman + Steve Scalpone T-9th
Ron Lloyd + Tony Reaves T-9th
FIRST FLIGHT DOUBLES
Mary Rodeberg + Jane Beharriell 1st
Marvin Salles + Phyllis Butts 2nd
Judy Dahlstrom + Toni Kemp T-3rd
Donna Dixon + Steve Mossbrook T-3rd
With 31 entrants and 9 courts and 8 MacRob team members
the 2010 National Championships is ready for lift off.
The lawns at Mission Hills are "plummering" at 11.5
seconds and only getting faster while the hoops are
Players will be flying in from all over the country and
even the great white north to enjoy the fun and sun in
Palm Springs. The championship flight will have 20
players on 10 doubles teams and feature best-of-three
playoffs with hope for a best-of-five singles final.
First flight is missing some of the young blood it had
last year (literally Young, figuratively Gillmarten,
Essic) but the 11 players will get their fill with
best-of-three singles and doubles finals.
Who knows what might happen? Rothman to repeat? Danny's
doubtless dominance? Cummings to America? Grimsley to
grind it out? A boy named Soo?
Look out for frequent updates this week to see how
things develop. For now, feel free to add your
predictions to the comments.
Players and Teams in order of grade:
Bob Van Tassell
Mitchell Van Tassell
Day one was brilliantly sunny and hot, but in the way a
desert gets warm but not uncomfortably hot. Players
enjoyed spectacular lawns and friendly rivalry.
First flight featured Marvin Salles winning all three
games and dark horse Toni Kemp, the lowest seed,
upsetting the #3 and #4 seed in her flight for a 2-1
record against the best in the block. Championship
block play featured some surprising upsets: Martyn
Selman started off by soundly defeating Jeff Soo 26-9.
Steve Scalpone fought long and hard to knock off Brian
Cumming 26-18. And "Sandy" Bob Van Tassell came back
to beat Doug Grimsley 26-23 late in the day.
Martyn Selman managed to make hoops 3 and 4 in one
shot - an astounding play in golf croquet but one which
"managed to make the break quite difficult" in this
Association Laws game.
Every MacRob team member scored a win, and the top 6
all had triples. Danny Huneycutt and Doug Grimsley
managed to score three triples each (maybe Jeff Soo as
well, he should write his scores down...).
Only three players are undefeated: the aforementioned
Marvin Salles (4-0 including a doubles game), Danny
Huneycutt (who beat Jim Bast), and Paul Bennett (who
upset Ben Rothman). In championship flight only 16 make
it out to the best-of-three knock out. Tomorrow will
illuminate those playoff bound players and those
destined for glory in the plate event.
First Flight block play continues tomorrow and
Wednesday while Championship flight begins the doubles
knock-out tomorrow and the singles knock-out Wednesday.
And then there was one...
Only one player made it through day two with a perfect
singles record. Marvin Salles, a Palm Springs resident,
remains alone at 6-0 in singles. Other block leaders are
Donna Dixon and Mary Rodeberg at 4-2.
Championship flight block play ended abruptly for a few
unlucky players. Four players will stake out their turf
in the plate event beginning tomorrow afternoon. The
plate event holds high prestige and features its very
own authentic award that travelled a long ways to be here.
Out of the 60 block games in championship flight there
were 23 triple peels (and more than a few futp's) and
one sextuple peel. While there are no undefeated
players, there is a very strong group at 5-1. Six
players have found excellent form on the lawns with
three triple peels in six games. The last round saw two
favorites upset. Undefeated Paul Bennett got three peels
but failed to make rover. Jim Bast took the opportunity
to triple past the streaking Bennett. Bennett started
the day knocking off top seed Danny Huneycutt with a 5th
turn triple. Danny had a tough day as he fell to a 7th
turn sextuple in the next round. Rothman had some luck
on the rough and tumble peeling turn; it was his first
Championship singles playoff pairings are below. The
first doubles knock out matches are pegged down and it's
time for this tournament director to bed down. Stay Tuned...
Danny Huneycutt vs
Paul Billings vs
Jeff Soo vs
Jim Butts vs
Ben Rothman vs
Bob Van Tassell vs
Doug Grimsley vs
Johnny Mitchell vs
It was a busy day in the desert. A few players, fighting
tooth and nail, managed to spend upwards of 10 hours on
court today. With best-of-three playoffs in full tilt,
the championship flight became an endurance test.
On the doubles side Johnny Mitchell and "Sandy Bob"
managed to defeat Cumming and Bast in a tight match.
Jim's 6th turn triple set the pace and Johnny responded
in game two with a triple of his own. Johnny had some
speed bumps including a 10 foot straight rover peel that
got stuck and the subsequent drag jump to complete the
scrappy turn. In game three "everybody failed something"
according to Brian Cumming. Hoops, roquets, breaks and
triples were all tried and failed but Johnny and Bob
rose from the dust and survived to meet Soo and Lamm.
The formidable team of Jeff Soo and Rich Lamm had a
scare of their own. In game one, Jim Butts completed a
triple and was starting the triple turn in game two when
he failed hoop one. Ron Hendry, his partner, had done
his part and both were silent about the lost
opportunity. And the Lamm gave it back! With his own
failed hoop shot, Rich gave Jim the chance he thought he
had lost. It was to no avail as Jim put the break down
after 5 hoops and one peel. Jeff Soo began his return to
form with a double peel out of Ron's ball and a patient
2v1 game against Jim Butts. In game three Jeff held
nothing back and got the triple to move on.
Rothman and Grimsley moved on with ease, giving up only
3 points while getting 6 peels. Rothman failed to peg
out his triple (rush into the jaws of rover) but
Grimsley got his in game two. The defending champs will
face Paul and Paul. The Pauls managed to take out Danny
Huneycutt and Steve Summer on time. With last turns fast
approachin, Danny was forced to attempt a sextuple peel.
2 minutes left and enough of a deficit to necessitate 4
peels of his partner (for one-back). Danny managed two
peels quite easily but ran aground at 3-back allowing
the team of Bennett and Billings, our MacRob alternates,
to move on to the semis.
First flight finished a laborious block of ten players
with Marvin Salles missing the mark by one point. At 8-1
Marvin easily grabbed the top seed for the double
elimination playoff. Mary Rodeberg continued her clutch
play with her fourth one-point victory over the block
winner. Mary came in second with a 7-2 record setting up
what could be an epic final...
In Championship singles Rothman and Huneycutt moved on
with two triples. Rothman gave up 11 points to Steve
Scalpone in game one but managed a shutout in game two.
Danny elevated his game after two late losses in the
block with two +26tp's over Martyn Selman. Danny will
face Jim Bast who snuck by Paul Billings with two close
games. Jeff Soo survived a last turn scare from Charlie
Smith (Charlie missed a 2 foot game winning hoop-shot)
and will play his partner Rich Lamm in the quarter
finals. Doug Grimsley allowed only two points to Ron
Hendry and he will match up with Brian Cumming. Bennett
and Van Tassell are in a heated battle that could not be
contained in Wednesday's schedule. Bob took game one on
time (3 hours) 24-23 with a critical peel on last turns.
Game two is tied 9-9, but Paul just missed a lift shot
that allows Bob a finishing turn. The winner will face a
tired tournament director in the quarter finals tomorrow.
The shot of the day, however, was not a peel or a
crucial hit-in. In the plate, North Carolina native Tony
"the Plumber" Reaves was facing Steve Johnston. Tony was
running a break precisely until his two back pioneer
went wayward. He rolled to the hoop from 3-back and
faced a nearly impossible 15 fot shot from a 45 degree
angle. I say nearly impossible beacause despite that
being Steve's hoop (hoop one) and having Steve's ball
close by, Tony ripped through the hoop and finished
within a yard of corner one! Just another day in the
life of the sharp-shooter known for his amazing hoops.
Tomorrow will feature many more best of threes and heavy
plate play while the first flighters get into the
With three of the four quarter finals beginning, one
match lagged. MacRob team member Paul Bennett couldn't
rid himself of a pesky gnat. Every nice leave he set
was hit. Every game winning turn fell apart. And every
game went to time. The gnat was Bob. Newly
monikered “Bad Bob” by Jim Bast, Bob Van Tassell hung
around like a bad cold.
In game one (a 3 hour and 30 minute nail-biter)
Bob managed to build a break for 8 hoops, make a peel
at penultimate after the striker went through itself
and peg out to go ahead by one point in last turns.
Paul faced a few tough options, Bob had put two of the
balls on the boundary and Paul's shortest shot was an
8 yard peg out to tie the game. In Wednesday's fading
twilight the shot was... undecided. Maybe it hit and
maybe it didn't, but Paul called it a non-hit giving
the game to the dark horse, “Sandy” Bob.
The second game began in earnest this morning and
again, the patient measured [yawn] play took up the
allotted time (2 hours, bringing the match to 5.5).
Bob again had a break going into last turns. With one
ball for 4-back and the other running, Bob decided to
peg out against Paul's well behind balls for 4-back
and hoop 2. Bob forgot, however, to groom the court.
At all. Paul made an easy 15 foot hit and built a
break with all three remaining balls. Paul ran from two
to the peg and left his partner in position. In the
second rotation of last turns, Bob missed a 50 foot
shot to win, giving Paul the one point victory.
With only an hour and twenty minutes for game three,
it was a one-break game. Paul took nine hoops,
followed by Bob taking nine and time was nearly out.
Bob had a chance for a finishing break, but failed to
rush to hoop one! With time expiring, Bob set a poor
leave and watched anxiously as Paul's hit in sailed
and missed. Bob nowhad another chance, but he missed a
six yard shot at partner! Paul now had the game, until
he over-rolled position at hoop one! In the 3rd
rotation of overtime, Paul took a very threatening
position at hoop one, perfectly wired from Bob's
nearby ball. Bob decided to play his ball for hoop one
and try a 60 foot roquet for all the marbles, and he
hit! Bob took game three by one point and scored the
biggest upset of this year's national championships.
Bob followed up by tripling against Ben Rothman (his
4th triple in the tournament) in the quarter finals.
Ben mustered some inner rage and managed a fifth turn
triple in game two. After Bob failed third turn break
in game three, Ben hit and managed to triple (his 7th)
his way past the giant killer and into the semi-finals.
Brian Cumming, who couldn't buy a triple, managed to
dispatch of Doug Grimsley on his way to the semis.
Brian is now down one game to Ben in an ongoing semi-
final match. Partners Jeff Soo and Rich Lamm met in the
quarter finals and had an incredibly clean match. Three
games in which the winner tripled while the loser
failed to make a single hoop. Jeff came back after Rich
dominated game one and managed to use the best of three
to his benefit. Wind played a major role yesterday and
today as Rich's continuous swing was thrown around by
25 mph gusts. Having switched his swing for just this
reason, Jeff managed to avoid the crosswind on his way
to the semis.
Danny Huneycutt and Jim Bast met up in an epic battle
fit for the colosseum. Both hit nearly every leave and
tripled with impunity. In the end, Huneycutt proved to
be the sweeter shot, hitting in to get a standard
triple in game three. Danny is now up one game (6th
turn 26-0 tp) over Jeff Soo in the ongoing semi-final
14 remaining championship players will begin a single
elimination plate ladder tomorrow. The well travelled
prize awaits the resilient victor.
In first flight, Sheri Foroughi and Mary Rodeberg
turned in impressive performances today. Sheri managed
to knock the formidable Marvin Salles into the loser's
bracket while Mary held back the stampeding
Beharriell. Six players remain in contention for the
first flight national title, but there can only be one.
The day began with snow topped mountains and a forecast
for a beautiful 80 degree spring day. Danny Huneycutt
was ahead one to nil in his best of three with Jeff Soo.
Jeff tried to triple peel Danny's ball (tpo or otp) but
failed, allowing Danny an easy finish into the final.
Danny won the Association Rules National Championship in
2005 when the tournament was in Seattle. On the adjacent
court, defending champ Ben Rothman stared up one nil as
well. Both players had a break when Brian set a new
standard leave. Ben looked and found that his backswing,
while hampered, could just fit between the hoop
stanchions and hit Brian's ball nine yards away. After a
gut check, Ben managed to hit and complete a standard
triple on his way to the final.
Ben had not time to celebrate as he and partner Doug
Grimsley went right into their semi-final against Paul
Bennett and Paul Billings. The carnivorous MacRob team
match was slow going (at least during the Pauls'
discussions) but ended with two Grimsley triple
attempts. The first ran into some trouble, but the
second was right on. Rothman and Grimsley will defend
their title tomorrow, but they had to wait for the other
semi-final to find their opposition. Fellow MacRob
members Jeff Soo and Rich Lamm had the match well in
hand against Johnny Mitchell and Bob Van Tassell.
Game one saw some tentative shooting and poor execution
by the inexperienced duo, allowing Soo and Lamm an easy
victory. Game two had a failed triple by Bob turn into a
double peel out by Soo. With Lamm for four-back and Bob
for hoop five, the 2 on 1 was Rich's to lose. After a
lot of jockeying for position and incredibly
conservative play (yawn), Jeff finally pegged out with
Rich for rover and Bob in position at one-back. Bob
controlled the court until three-back when Rich hit a 14
yard shot and sent Bob packing to the north boundary.
Rich was so adamant that he sent Bob out of bounds, and
thus losing his continuation shot. Rich soon made rover
and tried to hide near the peg. With a 55 foot shot that
meant the game, spectators began making justifications
for the 2-0 victory. “The 2 on 1 is taylor made for Jeff
and Rich's game.”
But then, the croquet goddess smiled, once again, on Bob
and he hit dead center. Bob continued with an immaculate
turn; 40 foot take off to 3-back, 12 yard roquet after
4-back, 9 foot rover hoop. And just like that the
momentum swung towards Mitchell Van Tassell.
Soo and Lamm are test match veterans. They work like a
well oiled machine, but Bob was the wrench in the gears.
After an interactive first act, Jeff and Bob each got
around to 4-back and Johnny took his best shot at a
standard triple. Everything went according to plan,
until the peg out. A tester of a shot left Johnny no
option but to isolate Bob again. Johnny pegged out and
left Bob all alone, this time by choice. Rich tried the
precise 2 on 1, but Bob did not wait. With two balls
near hoop one and Bob in corner two, “Bad Bob” went full
throttle and took the risky 65 footer. The beautiful
afternoon sunshine over the San Jacinto Mountain smirked
with a flashbulb effect as a cloud parted and lit up the
exact spot on the court where Bob made the game winning
roquet. With roars from the crowd full of recent
converts to the “Sandy Bob” fan club, Soo and Lamm
exited the National Championship. Sometimes you play the
game, but sometimes the game plays you.
First flight play was an endurance test, with an ill
conceived best of three semi-final that resulted in
Phyllis Butts and Marvin Salles gearing up to play Mary
Rodeberg and Jane Beharriell in a single game final
(back by popular demand). Mary also showed her moxie in
singles, knocking Sheri foroughi into the loser's
bracket with unfailing hoop shots and a the tenacity
that can only come from a career in the legal system.
Marvin and Sheri will battle for a spot in the best of
three final tomorrow.
Play ended a bit early, even with Ben and Danny getting
one of the best of five games out of the way (a shooting
display resulting in a +26tp for Huneycutt). Thanks to
generous efforts of Marilyn O'Neil and a few crucial
sponsors, participants were treated to court side drinks
and munchies while enjoying “wild” golf croquet on the
court fringe. Play culminated in a jump shot gallery.
Shots included a 3 foot jump shot over a ball in a hoop
using a generous ramp (one point), a four foot jump shot
(three points), and a ten foot jump shot (ten points).
Play was neck and neck as the three teams were tied at
three until the “pay for the pro” rounds came. Local pro
Ben Rothman out shot US teammates by making two of three
of the ten point jump shots to win the competition
23-3-3 for “team Zebra”. All proceeds will go to the Lee
Olsen fund to support our US team play in the years to
come. The evening ended with some raucous jokes and
hollering as spectators celebrated the national
championship of cocktail parties.