Thursday, 2 July 2009

Croquet: The European Golf Championship

[Budleigh Salterton enjoys the distinction of having one of the oldest if not the oldest croquet club in the world, with records of committee meetings back to 1869! So it was fitting that a major international championship should be held here. Golf Croquet is one of three different forms of the game, the others being Association Croquet and Garden Croquet.]

Four days of intense but friendly competition last week were played out last week on the lawns of Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club, writes Charles Townshend. Twelve countries were represented among the 33 people taking part. The largest group were from England, including Tony Bower, one of our club members from Budleigh, who achieved a creditable twelfth place. A six-strong squad from Sweden , nearly all young men, provided high quality opposition for the home country. Welsh, Scottish and Irish players added to the mix and were joined by others from Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Germany and Italy!

This championship was last held in 2007 (also at Budleigh) and it was soon obvious that the standard of play and tactical subtlety had improved enormously over the two years.

The final match on Wednesday afternoon was between Stephen Mulliner, winner in 2007 and a top player in both the Golf and Association forms of the game, and Jonatan Andersson of Sweden who has come into the sport only a few years ago and is still in his twenties. The level of skill was such that the three games took nearly three hours and players and club members were enthralled by the drama being played out on lawn six. Mulliner was successful in the first game 7 -6 and it was 6-6 in the second with Andersson achieving the vital thirteenth point. In the decider scoring was again even for most of the game until Mulliner who was ahead 6-5 managed to get through the 12th (Rover) hoop and so retain his title. He will certainly need to be on top form if he is to repeat his triumph in two years time.

At the prize-giving Stephen thanked all the players for coming and making it such a successful event. He was warm in his thanks to the club and all the members who had worked hard to stage the championships, particularly to the groundsman and hoop setters who had to ensure tight and firm hoops were in new settings following the Veterans' week and again on the two finals lawns on the Wednesday. The bars, coffees, lunches and teas had all been excellent and had been much enjoyed by the players. Most of the competitors were heading straight on to take part in other events and we look forward to seeing them here again for the next Championship in 2011.

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