Kinross 11+ Tournament 2009

8 June 2009, Kinross

On the morning of the 8th of June, the Kinross club's 11+ Tournament brought 10 players to the two lawns of the Green Hotel, Kinross: four from the Meadows, three from the Kinross club, two from the Edinburgh club, and one from the recently formed Fife club, who was entering her first ever tournament.

It was also my first ever tournament as manager, and I had started the day implausibly early by waking from a dream in which croquet players were paying no attention to the timer that just kept beeping and beeping...  A dream which, it transpired, had reflected pre-tournament management nerves combined with the smoke detector on the landing starting to demand new batteries!  Not good...

To keep things simple, I stuck to last year's format of 18 point games, starting with all clips on hoop 5; but I trimmed the time limit to 90 minutes, and imposed an immediate cessation of play.  I also adopted the same ordering of matches, with each entrant drawing a playing card to determine their position in the draw, a process that itself drew complaints that the cards were then put away without even a single hand of poker being played!

These complaints, though, were forgotten as play got under way at about 9:45.

Fergus describes the Green Hotel's lawns as "challenging": they have noticeable slopes and undulations, and are quite mossy and soft underfoot, and therefore very slow indeed - players struggled to rush or croquet much further than about half the width of the lawn, and just taking off to a ball near the far end of the lawn was a major undertaking.  But in all other respects, the setting was wonderful: the lawns were sheltered from the wind and surrounded by greenery, the sun was shining and the only distraction was the occasional member of hotel staff taking trays of tea or coffee to the players.

One of the two lawns was using very new sets of balls made by "Sunshiny", and I was surprised to see that their pink ball is a much darker and stronger colour than I've ever seen before, and several people commented that it could quite possibly be mistaken for red.   As a result, as soon as the first round games were under way, Fergus got the first of several phone calls from his apprentice, asking how such a situation should be handled - advice which, I'm pleased to say, was not needed.

The majority of the morning's games were pleasingly even, with three being decided by just one hoop.  So at 1 o'clock, a happy manager was shepherding his players on their way to the hotel bar for lunch, and as a result we all avoided the spell of light drizzle, the only flaw in an otherwise impeccably sunny day.

But although the morning had been plain managerial sailing, the first round of the afternoon brought more challenges, including telling Brian Smith and Ishbel Mottram what to do when their game was level when the timer went.  Then, there was a problem with Hamish Duguid's 1-point victory over his wife Janice - their resolution of an earlier confusion over bisques had left Hamish scoring a point while using a half bisque...  "You can't do that!", I thought... but what to do about it now?  "Hello, Fergus..." After some discussion, we agreed that although there had unquestionably been an error in the use of bisques, and so Hamish had at least one point he should not have had, the limit of claim for the error had long passed and so the result had to stand.  And so it was Hamish who went on to play me in the final.

Janice may have missed out on the final because of the bisque mix-up, but she went on to make her mark on the day by becoming became the only person to actually finish and peg out within the time limit.

My final with Hamish was very close.  There were a couple of short breaks, but most of the game was a matter of grabbing a point or two and trying to separate the opponent.  Hamish spread his bisques throughout the first hour or so, and was ahead 9 - 6 at what proved to be the pivotal moment.  I got pink a few yards south-west of 1-back, two feet West of green, with a straight rush to 4-back and a three-hoop break all set up.  I struck pink cleanly and straight, and with just enough power to get green across the lawn - if only pink had actually hit it.  But instead, pink had risen smoothly into the air and flown millimetres above the green.  Breaking the ensuing silence with a sympathetic "I've never seen anything like that before!", Hamish joined up and managed to make a couple more hoops while denying me any to start a break, and so ran out a clear winner by 11-6.

We finished packing up a few minutes before 6PM, when the Kinross club presented the worthy winner with a bottle of wine, and the manager/runner up with a box of chocolates.  Everybody had won at least one game during the day, and although the "challenging" lawns and tight time limit kept scores down, Janice proved it was possible to finish a game.

Robert Inder

Most of the players: Andrew Harvey, Ruth Munro, Brian Cosford, Hamish Duguid, Robert Inder, Janice Duguid, Brian Smith and Ishbel Mottram.
(The other two were Jola Jurasinska (behind the camera) and George Kirk.)