Photo caption: Ellen Rothwell, Wayne Herkness, Whickey Knight, Barry Williams, Alice Larrimer, Gavin Larrimer and Ward Lefler.
Even croquet players benefit from home cookin'. '. The recent Virginia – West Virginia District Croquet tournament held at The Greenbrier had several local players on the podium at Sunday's trophy presentations. A total of 18 trophies were handed out at the ceremony; 12 of them went to West Virginians. This was easily the best showing by West Virginia in the 20 years that the tournament has been held.
Most states have their own individual state croquet championships. But since there are normally so few players participating from West Virginia, the two Virginias combined their memberships several years ago to form the Virginia-West Virginia Croquet District. The annual tournaments have been thoroughly dominated by Virginians. Only a handful of trophies have been won by West Virginians, and they have never had an overall champion, winner of the Championship Flight, at least, not until this year.
In tournaments, players are divided into "flights" depending on skill level. Second Flight is where the beginners play and intermediate players play in First Flight. The "pros" play in Championship Flight. Second Flight was well represented by local players this year. Gavin and Alice Larrimer from the Greenbrier Croquet Club were runners up in doubles to newcomers Ward Lefler of Gap Mills and Jim Strawn of Charleston. In singles, Lefler made it to the final as well but was defeated by Lewisburg resident and business owner, Ellen Rothwell. Rothwell had a solid tournament dropping only one singles game the entire week. She played doubles with her sister, Beth Evans, also of Lewisburg.
The First Flight doubles final may have set a record for the largest age differential between combatants in croquet history. Last year's First Flight doubles champion, Whickey Knight, teamed with former First Flight singles champion, 93-year old Wayne Herkness, both of Lewisburg. In the final, they faced Becky Essick and her grandson, 12-year old Matthew Essick, both from the Riverview Croquet Club in Suffolk, Virginia. Herkness ran an impressive break for several wickets early in the match and Knight played steadily throughout, but sixth-grader Matthew stole the show and amazed the crowd with precision shooting. He proved his doubles win was no fluke by handily beating John Lee of Gloucester, Virginia in the singles final.
West Virginia was guaranteed at least a doubles champion as two West Virginians were pitted against each other in the Championship Flight doubles final. Two-time district singles champ Garnett Turner of Fulks Run, Virginia teamed with Organ Cave resident, Barry Williams, to face Bob Whitmore of Suffolk, Virginia and Randy Synan of Princeton. Turner and Williams withstood a late rally by Whitmore and Synan to win by three wickets. This was the first overall doubles title shared by a West Virginian. The real prize though was in singles and the West Virginia contingent still had a chance. Williams faced Tommy Harrington from the Riverview Club in Suffolk in the singles final. An early attack gave Williams a break which he ran for eleven wickets to the peg. A mental error on the leave, however, gave Harrington a chance to get back into the match. A multi-wicket break on his last turn left Harrington with a chance to win, but an error on his part sealed his doom. Finally, after 20 years, West Virginia had a singles champion!
The tournament was a huge success due in no small part to the facilities and hospitality of The Greenbrier. The courts were near perfect and The Greenbrier's staff was extremely accommodating. Next year's tournament will be held in the New Market area of Virginia, but it will return to The Greenbrier in the near future.
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