Solomon Cup Challenge

20 Jun - 26 Jun 1999

The following reports are extracted from Croquet World Online Magazine and the Nottingham Board.

Teams for Solomon & Presidents -- Bob Alman

- Jerry Stark, captain
- Jacques Fournier
- Mik Mehas
- Rory Kelley
- Jeff Soo
- Charlie Smith
- Erv Peterson, coach


- Wayne Rodoni
- Erv Peterson
- Mike Orgill
- Phil Arnold
- John Leonard
- Ed Merrill

(and the British President's Team)

- Steve Comish
- Mark Avery
- Colin Irwin
- David Openshaw
- Terry Burge
- Phil Cordingly
- Coach: Keith Aiton

Venue: Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Windsor, California

President's Trophy to be played June 20,
American Rules. The first game is at 8 a.m. Six
singles games are played and three doubles.

The 21 best-of-three Solomon Trophy matches are played
June 21 through June 26, all in International Rules.
There are 12 singles matches and 9 doubles matches.

Practice play, San Francisco -- Bob Alman


Team captain David Openshaw flew into San Francisco
International Airport Friday night with teammates Steve
Comish and Mark Avery and shuttled to an overnight at a
hotel near the Stern Grove lawns. I picked them up early
for a breakfast at the nearby Tennessee Grill (the
SFCC's unofficial clubhouse], where Openshaw, Avery and
I ordered a conventional breakfast, but Comish insisted
on a roast beef sandwich and potato salad. This was
before 9:00 AM. I put it down to jet lag, but Steve's
teammates said that for him, it was a normal breakfast.

We proceeded to Stern Grove, where Reuben Edwards had
already put up one of the courts and club president
Karen Collingwood was waiting for some action. The rest
of the British team (Cordingley, Burge, Irwin) wouldn't
arrive until mid-afternoon. We quickly devised a
SFCC-British test event (one game only) in American
Rules croquet. We would have won it, too, if only I
could play breaks.

Comish put Karen away, but Reuben (reigning "Rookie of
the year" in San Francisco) got a good break and kept
control of his game to beat Mark Avery 20-17.

If only I had not succumbed to a spasm of compassion for
five-ball dead Openshaw, I could have given us the
victory. I gave him an opportunity in the opening
rotations to go dead-dead-dead in unpromising (for him)
situations, and he seized the opportunity. Managing
this deadness expertly, I sneaked around the first six
hoops - slowly, one hoop at a time - and was running the
game 12 to 2 with an hour elapsed.

Then came the impasse. Openshaw would not shoot for
the second hoop with either ball. He would not set up.
I declined to attack. This went on for some time.
Finally, Openshaw made a desperate shot for the one ball
of mine upon which he was alive, and missed, giving me
an opportunity for a three-ball break beginning at

Foolishly, I took the invitation. Why? Because
Openshaw is a nice man. He is without doubt the nicest
of the Brits. At 52 years of age, he's the "old man" of
the team (though in good shape), and the most
experienced team player of the lot. I had entertained
the thought, for a few rotations, that it was, perhaps,
unsporting of me to victimize a nice man like this, a
distinguished guest, playing an unfamiliar game.
Foolishly, I decided to play the break.

Of course I broke down quickly (Reuben had set the hoops
tight for our guests - I hate that!) and Openshaw
twenty-sixed me as gameclock ran out. .

I will try to remember this lesson. I could have
maintained the impasse, I could have waited for him to
give me a FOUR-ball (which perhaps I could have managed
better), I could have done a lot of things. But NO, I
had to be NICE and live to regret it. I had to accept
his invitation to play a three-ball break.

I should have known this would happen. When Openshaw
was here a couple of years ago playing in the USCA
International Rules Nationals in Oakland, I took my tape
recorder and arranged for a spare hour to do an
interview with Openshaw as part of my series of
"Courtside interviews" with top players. After the
tournament, I took the tape out and played it and
started transcribing it, and I soon realized that it
wouldn't work. It had no edge, no texture, no dramatic
highs and lows. It was all very informative and polite
and matter of fact, and even interesting at times, when
obscure bits of British croquet history came up.

But overall, it didn't work. I couldn't get him to say
anything that wasn't....nice. He doesn't have anything
bad to say about anything or anybody. He's hardly ever
even mildly critical. And it's not a put-on, it's
authentic. He is genuinely nice.

So I should have been prepared. I let down my guard
and let him win. Let this be a warning to the American
team. Watch out for Openshaw! Have no pity for him,
nice as he is! Get him dead, and KEEP him dead! That
is the winning ticket. (They're also foggy about "last
deadness" and American wiring lifts. The Americans
must take full advantage of this inexperience if they
hope to win.)

The President's Cup play kicks off the week of games at
Sonoma-Cutrer on Sunday, June 20th. lt's American Rules
only, single games in doubles and singles.

Two years ago at Sherwood in southern California, the
Brits won every game of the President's Cup, despite
their ignorance of the nuances of American rules
tactics. When they got dead, they just peeled
themselves clean. This could happen again at
Sonoma-Cutrer, but it is unlikely. The Brits will most
probably win the President's but not by a wipeout.
(You heard it here first.)

A British win in America in the President's Cup and an
American win in Britain is becoming a tradition of this
(mostly) annual test series. Why? Because it is
customary in the host country to give other local
players a chance to compete, while the visitor's field
their strong Solomon team in the President's Cup. The
visitors get another advantage - of "warming up" in
competition. The host country's Solomon team starts out
"cold" on the first morning of six days of International
Rules play.

Nevertheless, this could be a breakthough year for
America in the Solomon Trophy. The best they've done in
the past is to win 7 games of the 21. They have a
strong team this year, and the British have also sent a
strong team, but their "big four" are not here -
Fulford, Clarke, Maugham, and Mulliner.

Watch for frequent postings here in the next seven

- Bob Alman

Day One, Story & Results -- Bob Alman

Following the Yanks' debacle in Sunday's American Rules
play of the President's Trophy, the first day of Solomon
Trophy matches saw the American team take an
unaccustomed lead, winning three out of four of the
day's best-of-three singles matches.

Mik Mehas and Steve Comish took 6 hours and 45 to
complete their three games. . Mik had a lot of trouble
with hoop 2 as he kept rolling too far on his
approaches. In the third and deciding game, Mik missed
hoop 2 for the 5th and 6th time. On the 7th attempt
Mik made hoop 2 and won a round of applause from the
crowd. He went on to win the 3rd game and with it, the

David Openshaw got the Brits on the score board in the
last two games of the day. His first game with Rory
Kelly took over 3 hours, but he took the second game in
1 hour 22 minutes.


Jacques Fournier beat Mark Avery +26 , +18 TP
Mik Mehas beat Steve Comish +17 TP, +5
Steve Comish beat Mik Mehas +16 TP
Jerry Stark beat Colin Irwin +23 , +6 TP
David Openshaw beat Rory Kelley +15 , +24

The schedule gave Jeff Soo and Charlie Smith from the US
team and Terry Burge and Phil Cordingley from the
British team a day off on MOnday..

The games scores don't really count in the Solomon
Trophy final tally, but just for the record: On the
first day of play, the Americans won six games, and the
British won three.


The excellent start of the Solomon is surely reassuring
to the Americans. They were not "expected" to win the
President's Trophy, but their loss of every game was a
surprise. Perhaps it shouldn't have been, as it was an
exact repeat of the American Rules debacle at Southern
California's Sherwood in 1997, the last time the Solomon
was played in America.

On the other hand, the Americans won every American
Rules game at last year's Solomon/President's matches in
England. So a tradition is becoming established in
which the HOST country fields a relatively weaker team
for the President's Trophy - and is therefore likely to

Given this tradition, it is not possible to pretend that
the President's Trophy games are anything but a
congenial warm-up for the Solomon Trophy matches. At
Sonoma-Cutrer, this was more in evidence on the American
side than on the British. To one observer, it appeared
that the Brits made fewer mistakes with complexities of
American rules than did the British.

One example of a mistake that one might expect a Brit to
make was made, in fact, by Phil Arnold of the American
team. He attempted to clear "last deadness" with a
long hoop shot. [The only way "last deadness" can be
cleared is by first roqueting another ball.]

Look for frequent reports on this board throughout the
Solomon Trophy matches.

- based on reports of John Taylor
and Reuben Edwards

Day Two, Results & Commentary -- Bob Alman

Referee John Taylor reports that there were only four
spectators on Day Two of the 1999 Solomon Trophy test
matches at Sonoma-Cutrer. Lots of croquet fans are
missing a chance to see some top-level croquet. (There
is no fee or admission charge.)

The U.S. lead of 3-1 gained in the first day of singles
began to slip away in the first two doubles matches,
which the Brits won to tie the score at 3-3. Finally,
in a 7 hour 2-game match, Jeff Soo & Charlie Smith
regained the US lead. The spectators were very glad
that a third game wasn't required as shadows
were creeping across the court. All three contests were
two-game matches.

The six-day Solomon Trophy matches alternate in three
days each of singles and doubles. Four singles matches
are played on singles days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday),
and three doubles matches are played on doubles days
(Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday), for a total of 21 matches
in the entire event.

At the end of the second day, the U.S. still leads in
the match score, 4-3, as well as in total games won,


Irwin & Burge beat Fournier & Stark +26, +7

Avery & Openshaw
beat Mehas & Kelley +10 TPO, +17 TP

Soo & Smith beat Comish & Cordingley +14, +13

(Note to American readers: "TPO" indicates that the
winner triple-pelled and pegged an opponent ball out of
the game to leave the other side without a partner

- based on a report of John Taylor

Day Three, Results -- Bob Alman

Halfway through the Solomon Trophy matches, the British
have taken the lead for the first time, at 6-5.

It looked as if the British would will all four matches
on Wednesday, but thanks to Charlie Smith in a long and
rugged three-game match at the end of the day, the
British lead by only a single point.

Eleven matches out of 21 wins the event. Three days and
10 matches remain to be played:
Thursday doubles, three matches
Friday singles, four matches
Saturday doubles, three matches


David Openshaw beat Jerry Stark +17 TP, +26

Colin Irwin beat Rory Kelley +6 , +12

Phil Cordingley beat Jeff Soo -5, +23 TP, +26 TP

Charlie Smith beat Terry Burge +26 TP , -4, +3


Matches 5 6
Games 11 14

- based on a report of John Taylor

Day Four, Results & Commentary -- Bob Alman

Sweeping Thursday's three doubles matches, the British
have taken a 9 to 5 lead over the Americans in Day Four
of the 1999 Solomon Trophy test series at Sonama-Cutrer
Winery in Windsor, California.

The British are now within striking range of the victory
match. All they need is eleven match wins from the
total of 21 to take back to England, once again, the
Solomon Tropny. To stay alive, the American team
must win at least three of the four singles matches
scheduled for Friday. .


Irwin & Burge beat
Mehas & Kelley +4 , +13 tpo

Avery & Openshaw beat
Soo & Smith +8 , -2 , +17 tp

Comish & Cordingley beat
Fournier & Stark +3 tp, -26 tp, +25tp



Matches won 5 9

Games won 13 20

- based on a report by John Taylor

Day Five, Results -- Bob Alman

By the middle of Day Five the essential result of the
six-day 1999 Solomon Trophy test matches was determined.
The British needed only two of the four singles matches
to reach the magic number of 11, and they quickly
achieved this in two two-game matches with a minimum of
drama, Terry Burge beating Jeff Soo and Phil Cordingley
defeating Charlie Smith.

The American team has had only one "good day" - the
first one, when they took three out of four singles
matches and ignited hopes of the first American win of
the Solomon series. After the first day, however, the
Americans ran out of steam and the Brits kept getting

Nevertheless, there is a possibility that the American
team can equal or exceed their best record so far in the
final day of the matches. By winning two of three
doubles matches on Saturday, they can equal the highest
mark the Americans have achieved in the Solomon - 7 out
of 21 wins.


Terry Burge beat Jeff Soo +25 , +4 tp

Phil Cordingley beat Charlie Smith +24 , +15

Steve Comish beat Jacques Fournier +5 tp , +17 tp

Mark Avery beat Mik Mehas -26 tp,+4 tp,+17 tp



Matches Won 5 13

Games Won 14 28

- based on reports of John Taylor

Complete Final Results -- Bob Alman
The final score was 16 to 6 matches in favor of Great 
Britain. The Americans posted half their match
victories on the first day. After that good start the
American team failed to win any matches at all on
Thursday and Friday and scored a single match victory in
doubles on the last day of the test.

The statistics do not reveal any particular standout
performances for the Americans. One win each in
singles went to Charlie Smith, Jerry Stark, Mik Mehas,
and Jacques Fournier, while the two doubles wins were
posted by the Soo/Smith and Mehas/Kelley teams.

However, the day after the Solomon, the new world
rankings revealed that 17-year-old Jacques Fournier of
Arizona has now risen to fourth place - the highest
ranking an American has ever achieved.

It was neither the best nor the worst performance for
the Americans in the history of the series. In 1991,
1994, and 1998 the Yanks scored 7 match wins. The
American low point occurred two years ago at Sherwood in
Southern California, when John Taves posted the only
American match victory (against Robert Fulford) in
either International Rules or American Rules (including
the President's).

It was the eleventh time the Solomon Trophy matches have
been played since they were begun in 1988


Matches won 6 16
Games won 16 33


Jacques Fournier beat Mark Avery +26 , +18 tp
Mik Mehas beat Steve Comish -16tp,+17 tp, +5
Jerry Stark beat Colin Irwin +23 , +6 tp
David Openshaw beat Rory Kelley +15 , +24

Irwin & Burge beat Fournier & Stark +26 , +7
Avery & Openshaw
beat Mehas & Kelley +10 tpo, +17 tp
Soo & Smith beat Comish & Cordingley +14 , +13

David Openshaw beat Jerry Stark +17 tp, +26
Colin Irwin beat Rory Kelley +6 , +12
Phil Cordingley beat Jeff Soo -5,+23 tp,+26 tp
Charlie Smith beat Terry Burge +26 tp ,-4, +3

Irwin & Burge beat Mehas & Kelley +4 , +13 tpo
Avery & Openshaw beat Soo & Smith +8 ,-2, +17 tp
Comish & Cordingley
beat Fournier & Stark +3 tp , -26 tp, +25 tp

Terry Burge beat Jeff Soo +25, +4 tp
Phil Cordingley beat Charlie Smith +24 , +15
Steve Comish beat Jacques Fournier +5 tp , +17 tp
Mark Avery beat Mik Mehas -26tp,+4 tp,+17 tp

Irwin & Burge beat Soo & Smith +24 , +11 tp
Mehas & Kelley
beat Comish & Cordingley -12,+19 , +16
Avery & Openshaw
beat Fournier & Stark +26 tp , +6

- based on reports of John Taylor

Corrections, Finals Results -- Bob Alman

Richard Hilditch and Chris Clarke have kindly pointed
out errors in my final report, which was based on the
daily postings of John Taylor - to which I added
incorrect historical statistics!

Richard was correct when he e-mailed: "Thanks for your
postings on the Solomon trophy. A promising start by
the USA could not be built on. You have put the final
score down as 16-6 on your events posting board. It
should be 15-6."

Chris Clarke wrote, "The score at Sherwood was not
20-1, but (from memory] 15-6. The 20-1 was in the 1996
Macrobertson Shield where Taves beat Maugham, not
Fulford - he beat Fulford at Sherwood."

I was at Sherwood in 1997 for the Solomon Trophy matches
and wrote a long article about it, which I had to
consult to check out Chris Clarke's comments, which are
substantially correct. The final score was actually
16-4 in favor of the Brits, with one doubles match left
uncompleted at 2-2.

With the help of Richard Hilditch, Phil Cordingley, and
others who have promised to send reports, I'll try to do
better on the British Open, beginning July 5th.

- Bob Alman, Editor

last updated 5 July 2004 PTB
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