Competitive Croquet resumes at Ramsgate!

The Len Hawkins GC Competition is usually held as a tournament spanning the duration of a playing season. This year, owing to the shortened season, it was decided to run this as a one-day event.

This was the first competitive event that Ramsgate has hosted this year, and attracted players from all across the handicap scale, despite being level play. The standard of play was generally high, especially considering how little some entrants have played this year (although there were one or two moments where our low handicap players were showing us how not to do it!)

Play kicked off promptly in the morning, with players keen to restart the competitive calendar. The weather was glorious, very hot with barely a cloud in the sky, and no wind, which for Ramsgate is almost unheard of! The lawns were playing incredibly well, and were running very fast. This can sometimes prove challenging, as taking position becomes more difficult the quicker a lawn is running, but ultimately challenging conditions are what is called for at competition level.

The format was 2 blocks of 6, with a semi & final. By about game three, the blocks were very interesting. 2 players in Block A had gone undefeated, and were drawn to play in round 4, and Bob Ellis in Block B played well to remain undefeated through the entire block stage. In Block A, Fynn Ballantine played Tobi Savage for the honour of four straight wins, and took out the England International player in superb fashion. This resulted in Fynn topping his block without dropping a game, after having not picked up a mallet for a couple of years – incredible! Tobi took block A runner-up spot, and with Bob comfortably through block B in top spot, this left the remaining spot to be contested by third and fourth seed Mary Neale and Todd Bannatine. Todd prevailed, setting up a semi-final draw of brothers Bannatine vs Bannatine, and the slightly less tantalising fixture of Ellis vs Savage.

Tobi was able to bring Bob’s winning streak to a grinding halt, after initially being on the back foot courtesy of two glorious hoop strokes from Bob. After scoring hoop 6, Bob took a 4-2 lead, which prompted Tobi to need to wrestle back control of the game. He duly did so, and the game finished at the twelfth hoop. Fynn got the better of Todd, setting up a final of Tobi vs Fynn.

The final was played as a 19-pt game, which Fynn commenced in style, running a terrific hoop 1. Savage squared up the scoreline, but Fynn scored another great hoop at 3 to regain the lead, leaving Savage with flashbacks of his earlier defeat at the hands of Fynn running hoops from seemingly wherever he wanted to. The players traded blows to 3 apiece, but Savage turned the tide of the game by taking 7 with a jump shot, leading for the first time at 4-3. Fynn played an exceptional clearance at 8, and went on to take the hoop to level the score once again, but from there on in the resilience, grit and determination of Tobi shone through, and he took the next 6 hoop points with a combination of good positional play, controlled clearances and an excellent clearance at 12 to get a ball legal at 13. Fynn never gave up the chase though, and forced Tobi into playing a few key make-or-break shots. The scoreline of 10-4 wasn’t entirely representative of performance of the finalists, as there were some closely contested tussles for control throughout the game that could have gone either way.

The day ended with a (socially distanced) presentation of the trophy, and words of thanks expressed to the manager, competitors and grounds staff. Incidentally, Trevor Longman came under all three categories! The lawns were quick and the hoops were well-set thanks to Trevor and his grounds team, and the event was well-managed, so it ran smoothly. To be responsible for all this whilst still competing in an event is hard work indeed, but he had some fabulous patches of play, including a stretch in his fixture against Savage where he hit multiple consecutive stunning cross-court clearances at hoop 8! Well done Trevor, and thanks for all your hard work. Trevor presented the Len Hawkins trophy to Tobi, drawing the event to its conclusion. A good day was had by all!