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Croquet Championship at the Greenbrier

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS (WVVA) -The Greenbrier and the US Croquet Association announce that the 2011 Virginia/West Virginia District Croquet Championships will be held at the resort over Father's Day weekend. 

According to tournament director and Organ Cave resident, Barry Williams, this is only the second time the tournament has been held in West Virginia; the first time was in 2007, also at The Greenbrier.  "The feedback from our players was so overwhelmingly positive that we had to come back," says Williams.  "The courts at The Greenbrier are two of the finest in the country, and the hospitality is first-rate."  

 American six-wicket croquet is the game played in most tournaments in the United States.  The rules vary considerably from the backyard version everyone enjoyed as children.  "This isn't your grandfather's croquet," says Williams.  "It takes a lot of skill like in golf, but also a lot of strategy like in chess."  In fact, croquet has often been called "chess on grass."  

 Croquet courts vary greatly from the typical lawn on which the backyard game is played.  They are built as flat as possible and to putting green quality.  A full size court is 105 feet long by 84 feet wide, although court sizes are sometimes reduced to allow for more courts in tournaments.  The equipment used in tournament croquet is also quite an upgrade from the backyard version.  Mallets weigh about 3 pounds, are about 3 feet in length and are normally made of an exotic hardwood or composite material that can take the punishment. 

 Croquet balls are a little less than 4 inches in diameter and made of high-density plastic.  The wickets are made out of 5/8" round steel and built only slightly wider than the balls.  "The wickets in the pro division will be set with a 1/16" clearance between the wicket and the ball.  You need to be extremely accurate to run those wickets.  In the beginner's flight, we'll set the wickets much wider, to about a 1/8" clearance.  In croquet standards, you can drive a truck through those!"

 Although only one mallet is used, a skilled player can use it for as many different shots as a golfer can with an entire set of golf clubs.  Roquets, rushes, cannons, jump shots, take-offs, stop shots , half-rolls, and pass rolls are just a few of the shots a croquet player can use to precisely position the balls around the court.  Four balls are used in every game whether singles or doubles.  The blue and black balls are always played against the red and yellow balls.  Tournament games are usually 75 minutes long, with the winner being the side that either pegs out both balls or has the most total wickets at the end of game time. 

  Beginners will usually play what the British call the "Aunt Emma" style, making only one wicket at a time.  The pros, however, will run breaks, making as many as 12 wickets in one turn, then "groom the court" for their partner's ball, leaving the opponent a near impossible shot to hit-in and spoil the leave.   Should the opponent miss, another break can be run to the peg and win the game.  "When players begin to run breaks, their game and win total improves dramatically.  Break play is where the real fun begins."          

 But according to Williams, "What is really appealing about croquet is that gender and age don't matter.  Men and women compete against each other on equal terms and in this year's tournament, the ages will range from 12 to 93 years old."

  In 2008, Lewisburg resident and Greenbrier Golf & Tennis Club member Mr. Wayne Herkness won the district amateur title at age 90 and the overall winner that year was 82 years old.  They both beat out several players 30- 50 years their junior.  Two ladies have also been flight winners in previous district tournaments.  "I've lost count of the number of grandmothers that have beaten me over the years," laments Williams.  "You can never underestimate your opponent in this game, no matter who you are playing."

 Tournament play begins bright and early Thursday morning, June 16th, and runs till the finals on Sunday afternoon.  Spectators are welcome.  "The only problem with holding the tournament at The Greenbrier is that we will be somewhere else next year, and that's a bit of a disappointment.  We hope to hold many more events here in the future."

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