Oldest croquet tournament returns to Budleigh

PUBLISHED: 10:55 18 September 2017

Generic croquet. Ref shsp 8970-23-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Generic croquet. Ref shsp 8970-23-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

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The Challenge and Gilbey – one of the highlights of the national croquet season - returned to Budleigh this year after a three-year absence, writes Elaine Marsh.

The event was founded in 1900 and is the oldest tournament in the croquet association calendar.

It always draws a large number of visitors and this year players from Hurlingham, Roehampton, Surbiton, Bristol, Watford, Harwell, Nailsea, Sussex County, Nottingham, Bristol and Newport joined local competitors from Sidmouth, Exeter and the home club. Handicaps ranged from the 20 of newcomer Wendy Spencer-Smith to the almost superhuman minus one-point-five of Mark Ormerod and Joel Taylor.

The Gilbey Goblet is a Handicap Singles event which was played as a knockout.

Mid-handicappers Frances Colman and Andre Machell won through to a final which has yet to be played because of the atrocious weather that greeted the players on the last day. It will take place later this week at a club convenient to both players. In the consolation event Nigel Polhill, Steve Fisher and Brian Shorney tied, all having won three out of their four games.

The Challenge event breaks the entry down into four handicap classes, all of which feature level play with the top three groups playing under advanced rules.

In the D Class, the holder Quiller Barrett succeeded in defending the Stevenson Cup, having won all five of his matches. Budleigh member Judith Moore was the runner-up with four wins.

The C Class saw a close-fought final between Sidmouth players Jane Babbage and Colin Walls. While men and women normally play croquet on equal terms, the heavy rain on Sunday morning was making the lawns play very slowly. This favoured Walls who ran out the eventual winner by seven hoops with the game going to time rather than having a peg-out finish.

In the B Class there were four players on an equal number of wins, making something of a headache for the experienced manager, Julie Horsley. After assessing quality of wins and who beat whom, it was Nottingham’s Dave Gunn who emerged as the winner to take the Council Cup.

A similar situation developed in the A Class with a three-way tie between Simon Hathrell, Dave Mundy and Tim Russell all on the same number of wins. Budleigh’s Dave Mundy had the best quality of wins and won the Roehampton Cup.

The trophies were presented by the Croquet Association President, Quiller Barrett. In thanking the club and its members for all the hard work that goes on to make tournaments possible, he drew attention to the superb condition of Budleigh’s croquet lawns. He felt they were the best he had played on all season - so good in fact that a fellow member of Watford Croquet Club now plans to retire to Budleigh!

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