Solomon Cup Challenge

9 Oct - 13 Oct 2002

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

Preview -- Bob Alman

The British have come again to beat the American team
in the approximately annual Solomon Trophy
international test matches between the Brits and the
Americans - for the twelfth straight time. They all
seem suitably impressed by the National Croquet Center,
which just got its liquor license five days ago and
opened its Café Croquet for daily lunch last Tuesday.

The first to arrive on Monday was the new European
champion, Matthew Burrow, 22, with his mother Sarah.
Matthew won some lessons on his native island of Jersey
about ten years ago, and eventually the whole family
got involved in playing croquet on this tiny outpost of
British language and culture just twelve miles from the
Normandy coast. (Jersey is the offshore home of
countless U.S. corporations seeking tax shelter in a
file drawer somewhere on the 45-mile-square island.)

A little later in the day on Monday, three other
members of the British team arrived: Colin Irwin, Jeff
Dawson, and Phil Cordingly. Arriving late Monday were
David Openshaw, Mark Avery, and team coach Keith
Aiton. By midday on Tuesday, all of them were getting
in some practice play on the near-perfect and “easy”

Jerry Stark, the American captain and one of the
strongest Yank players arrived early enough on Monday
to lunch in Café Croquet with teammates Curtis Drake
(Kentucky) and Bob Cherry (Georgia). Set to arrive
by Tuesday afternoon are Jeff Soo from North
Carolina, Pennsylvania’s Kenster Rosenberry, and
Ervand Peterson from Northern California.

The Solomon Trophy matches have been held alternately
in Britain and the United States since the beginning of
the competition in 1988. The Americans have never
come close to winning – even when Britain sends in
their “second string.”

If the Americans can’t yet beat the British in the
game, however, they have already beaten them in the
venue. The world, in fact, is beating a path to the
doors of the National Croquet Center, not just for
major competitions but for leisure travel as well.
(The British are sending over a group in February for
eight days of croquet and sightseeing.)

But couldn’t lightning strike? you ask, and somehow
favor the American team. Yes, it could. It could
strike repeatedly in favor of the Americans, but that
wouldn’t be enough, because these matches are designed
to leave nothing to chance. They are engineered to
ensure that the best players win and that the best
team – meaning the most skilled - will thus win
overall. That is how the long-
established “international test match” format is
designed, with best-of-three matches in the singles
games, and best-of-three matches in the doubles. (Best-
of-five singles matches are often played and were
discussed for this event, but finally rejected.) This
means that single-game wins don’t count; winning one or
two games in a five-match contest doesn’t get you
anything in the critical match score.

Here’s how it works: Each six-person team is ranked
from one to six, and the top two play players from each
team play a match against each of the opposing team’s
top two; third and fourth play against each other, and
fifth and sixth, to ensure the proper weighting for
each contest. Thus, there are twelve singles matches.

In doubles, the three teams on each side play all the
opposing opponents, for a total of nine doubles
matches. Combining singles and doubles, that makes 21
matches, which typically takes four days to play out,
assuming reasonably good weather. The first side to
reach 11 matches wins the Trophy. The U.S. has never
done better than seven matches. In both 1991 and 1994,
that high mark was achieved when the games were here in
Palm Beach County, played largely on the five courts at
PGA National.

The U.S. has been shut out with no match wins twice –
in Britain in 1995 and again in 2001.

However, there are some encouraging factors for the
Americans in this year’s contest: The US team always
performs better in the U.S., and there’s no reason to
suppose that shouldn’t hold true this year. And this
year, the British aren’t sending their highest ranked

Two more rays of hope shine through these variable
skies at the height of hurricane season in South
Florida: The American team boasts the most experienced
American player of all, Jerry Stark from California –
as the team captain and anchor. Stark has placed as
high as third in the world championship and is a steady
performer. He’s has frequently captained the American
team and has a reputation as an effective motivator and
cheerleader. Some of his 2002 team are fast-rising
stars who could break through to new heights via the
inspiration of playing against tough opponents –
especially Kenster Rosenberry of Pennsylvania and
Curtis Drake of Kentucky. These players might be a lot
better than their official world rankings now

Nevertheless, there is no cause for rejoicing on
balance, because even though the Brits did not send
their top four players – Fulford, Maugham, Clarke, and
Dyer - this team are still a formidable force against
the much lower ranked American six.

Let’s spell it out: the average world ranking of the
British team is 29; the average world ranking of the
American team is 102. In this format, it means that
the situation – on paper - is hopeless. An American
victory in this situation would be a sporting miracle
of the highest order, and you shouldn’t take seriously
anyone’s suggestion that it is even possible.

What is just barely possible is beating the previous
record, and even that would be a stretch: The
Americans would have to pile up an unprecedented eight
matches out of 21. All those statistics are
inferred from the following record of the Solomon


Year/Country G.B Matches Won US Matches Won
1988 20 1

1989 15 5

1990 19 2

1991 14 7
U.S. (Palm Beach)

1992 19 2

1993 (not held because of the Mac Robertson)

1994 14 7
U.S. (Palm Beach)

1995 18 0

1996 (not held because of the Mac Robertson)

1997 16 4
U.S. (California)

1998 14 7

1999 15 6

2000 (not held because of the Mac Robertson)

2001 (Britain) 20 0

If not all the top Brits are showing up for the Solomon
neither are all the best Americans. America’s top-
ranked player (#10 in the world rankings) is 19-year-
old Jacques Fournier, now a student at the University
of Virginia, who must choose his croquet competitions
carefully. Instead of 33rd-ranked Wynand Louw of the
Carolinas and 49th ranked Mik Mehas of California, we
have 131st ranked Jeff Soo of North Carolina and Ervand
Peterson of California, ranked at 214.

So why have the competition? Because it’s not all
about winning, it’s about playing the game, it’s about
improving, and the best drill the American team can
have is going against the Brits. Why? Because the
Americans’ truest rivals are the Australians, beaten by
the American for the first time ever in the 2000
edition of the Mac Robertson Shield international test
matches, without question the ultimate test of team
strength. By beating the Australians, the American’s
moved narrowly into third position among the world’s
croquet powers (behind Great Britain and New Zealand).
The Australians are training hard to regain their third-
place position at the cost of the U.S. in November of
2003 when the Mac Robertson Shield matches are to be
held in America for the first time, at the National
Croquet Center, over a period of 21 days.

The final day of the British-American competition is
devoted to American Rules doubles - the President's
Cup. It's an entirely separate competition, not taken
terribly seriously. But in my experience as an
American player, it is by far the most entertaining.
The British usually win by doing the "wrong" things
according to the American play-book: going dead with no
considerations, then clearing by shooting from the line
or being peeled by partner ball. If my schedule is too
packed to watch the "Association" play, I'll make sure
to witness the spectacle of the American Rules doubles
on Sunday.


From a press release dated October 7, 2002

The public is invited to watch the matches between the
Brits and the Americans, and there is no entry fee..
In fact, October is the perfect month for everyone to
see the new Center, inspect it’s elegant spaces, and
even to have lunch in the newly opened Café Croquet,
accessible to non-members for one month only to
celebrate its debut. The Café will be open every day
from 11:30 to 1:30 for inside or veranda dining.

The best days to view the competition are Saturday and
Sunday: You can begin your Saturday with a free
PM, then have lunch in the Café Croquet that debuted
its daily luncheon service on October 1st, then have a
brief tour of the National Croquet Museum and Gallery
at 1:00 PM, followed by a play-by-play explanation of
one of the key matches in progress. (No reservations
are needed; for information call 561-478-2300) Whites
clothes are not required; the dress code of the Center
is “resort wear.”

The National Croquet Center is home to the United
States Croquet Association, the Croquet Foundation of
America, the National Croquet Museum and Gallery, and
the National Croquet Club. Its purpose is to promote
the growth of the sport, and there are a number of free
or inexpensive courses organized year-round to
introduce new players to the game. Annual memberships
are available in several categories. An “Associate
Membership” for residents of Palm Beach County costs
only $250, and allows complete access to the lawns and
the Café Croquet, as well as two built-in play periods
a week. The Full Membership permits unlimited lawn
play for no extra fees.


Morning of Day One -- Bob Alman
The British and the Americans arrived on Monday and 
Tuesday for practice play and began the four-day, 21-
match series this morning (Wednesday). As play begins
Wednesday morning, here are the quotes of the team

“We’re here to win handsomely at the Mecca of croquet.”
- David Openshaw, British team captain

“We’ll give it our best show.”
- Jerry Star, American team captain

October is “Showcase Month” at the National Croquet
Center in West Palm Beach, and the Solomon Trophy
matches occur in the same month the Café Croquet opened
for daily lunch service and the liquor license came
through (just a week ago.) For the first time,
everything at the new Center is up and operating

Well, not QUITE continuously. We can’t afford to have
the bar open all the time, and the presence of the
Brits has occasioned a discussion as to what might be
appropriate and affordable in the way of bar service.
I have been told it is the custom in Britain for the
winner to buy the loser a round at the bar.
Presumably the winner buys and consumes the alcohol
himself as well. I have some questions about this
that I will get answered today, like: (1) Is the brew
consumed after every game or after every match? If
after every game, the Brits are likely to achieve
unconsciousness by mid-afternoon. (2) Is it after the
end of play, in which case we should make sure to have
the bar open for every cocktail hour? (In any case, it
is my understanding that the bartender has gotten in a
respectable quantity of Pins. The National Croquet
Center is determined to be good hosts to all the

Phil Cordingly has provided excellent coverage of the
World’s for Croquet World Online Magazine in the past,
and he has promised to produce some reports for us. I
shall persuade others on both teams to report
throughout the contest – as well as for the vastly
amusing Presidents Cup matches (American rules doubles
play) on Sunday. I have a great negotiating tool
here: They can use my computer to catch their emails
if they promise to produce a report-of-the-day on the

Director of Croquet Archie Peck has gone out of his way
to “rest” the six central lawns in play for the Trophy
competition, and he was here past sundown and again at
dawn creating the best possible wicket settings and
court settings, as well as setting up courts for
various groups arriving for packaged experience
combining the play of Golf Croquet, lunch, and watching
top players

The weather is warm, with a possibility of showers –
all the veranda ceiling fans are turned on, and there’s
already (in the morning) a slight breeze from the ocean
shore. Café Croquet is preparing for luncheon
service both inside and on the veranda. At 9:00 AM,
Jerry Stark (captain of the American team) and teammate
Bob Cherry are totally engrossed in a backgammon game
in the bar. What kind of training regimen is this,
anyway? (I just proposed to the “old man” of the
British team – David Openshaw – that we have an
interteam Backgammon tournament in the evenings to
salve American pride in case of an unfortunately
outcome. He said, “I wouldn’t bet on it. We’re
pretty good at backgammon, too.”)

These are all great guys – there couldn’t be a more
convivial group of competitors, from both sides of the
Atlantic. They’re here to play their best.

David Openshaw Jerry Stark
(captain) (captain)
Matthew Burrow Jeff Soo
Colin Irwin Kenster Rosenberry
Mark Avery Curtis Drake
Jeff Dawson Bob Cherry
Phil Cordingly Erv Peterson

In the next posting on, the one-
through-six rankings and match pair-ups of the teams
will be revealed and Day One results reported.

Look for frequent reports on

- Bob Alman
Marketing/Media/Program Development
National Croquet Center
West Palm Beach, Florida

Day One Results -- Jeff Soo
Team USA's early lead did not last long, as Burrow and 
Irwin won the third game of their match with Cherry and
Stark, with a 5th-turn triple by Irwin. Another Avery
triple then gave GB a 2-1 lead after the first doubles

The Americans salvaged the day by going game up in all
three of the "floating" doubles matches (Cherry and
Stark v. Avery and Openshaw, Peterson and Soo v. Burrow
and Irwin, and Drake and Rosenberry v. Cordingley and
Dawson). These matches will continue after the end of
the singles matches Thursday.

So despite trailing 2-1 in matches, Team USA have won
six of the ten games played so far. However GB has
three TPs to USA's one.

Tomorrow's singles matches (USA names first):

Cherry v. Avery
Peterson v. Openshaw
Soo v. Cordingley
Stark v. Burrow
Drake v. Drake
Rosenberry v. Irwin

- Jeff Soo

Day 2, Lineup, Partial Results -- Bob Alman

The Americans have won one doubles match and two
singles matches as of early afternoon Thursday. They
have a chance to end the day Thursday in a dead heat
with the British. More score updates will be reported
tomorrow. At this writing, the British have put away
five matches overall to the Americans three matches.

Following are the team line-ups that were revealed to
dictate the order of play immediately before the games
started on Wednesday morning. At the end of the report
are all the scores I have been able to collect at this

2.Bob Cherry
5. Jeff
6. Ervand

1. Mark Avery
2. Matthew Burrow
3. Colin Irwin
4. Jeff Dawson
5. David Openshaw
6. Phil Cordingley


United States
1. Jeff Soo/ Ervand
2. Kenster Rosenberry/ Curtis Drake
3. Jerry Stark/ Bob Cherry

Great Britain
1. Colin Irwin/ Matthew Burrow
2. Phil Cordingley/ Jeff Dawson
3. DavidOpenshaw/ Mark Avery



Irwin/Burrow +9, -24, +26tp(1)

Soo/Peterson +17, +9

Openshaw/Avery WON, scores later

(begun Wednesday, completed Thursday)
Soo/Peterson WON, scores later

Openshaw/Avery WON, scores later

Cordingley/Dawson ONE ALL, unfinished



Stark WON, scores later

Irwin WON, scores later

Dawson DRAKE LEADING, unfinished

Openshaw WON, scores later













- Bob Alman
National Croquet Center

Day Two Finals & Recaps -- Jeff Soo

At the end of the second day of play, Great Britain
lead the US 6-4.

Avery won the final singles match of the day to put GB
ahead 6-3.

Then in the floating doubles matches, Peterson and Soo
won their match against Burrow and Irwin, after an
Irwin TPO, to make it 6-4 in favor of Great Britain

The Brits won the second games in the other two
matches, which will be finished tomorrow afternoon.

There were three TPOs today (Thursday), all by the
Great Britain team, all won by the US.

Recap (USA names first):

Peterson and Soo beat Cordingley and Dawson
+17, +8tp (S)
Drake and Rosenberry lost to Avery and Openshaw
-2tp (A), -17tp (A)
Cherry and Stark lost to Burrow and Irwin
-9, +24, -26tp (I)

DAY TWO (singles)
Rosenberry lost to Irwin -17tpo, -8tpo
Soo lost to Cordingley -25tp, +26, -26tp
Stark beat Burrow +12otp, -9, +17tp
Peterson lost to Openshaw -26tp, +15, -26tp
Drake beat Dawson -4, +17, +12otp
Cherry lost to Avery -23, +4, -16

Peterson and Soo beat Burrow and Irwin
+9, +14otp (I)
Drake and Rosenberry tied with Cordingley and Dawson
+17, -17
Cherry and Stark tied with Avery and Openshaw
+16, -12tp (O)

- Jeff Soo

Day Three Final -- Bob Alman
[The following report is dictacted by Jeff Soo to Bob 
Alman on Saturday morning before the beginning of play.]

SCORE: 8-5 in favor of the British

Great Britain quickly increased their lead from 6-4 to
8-4 on Friday morning. Openshaw and Avery beat
Peterson/Soo with two Avery triple-peels. Drake and
Rosenberry succumbed to Burrow and Irwin having won the
first game; Irwin completed two triple peels to win the

At this point the Americans were in a must-win
situation. In a marathon match, Cherry and Stark gave
team USCA their much-needed win of the day, culminating
with a Cherry hit-in and triple-peel finish. Score:
5-8 in late afternoon, with two matches held over for

In the first of these, Mark Avery had the first break
of nine hoops. Cherry hit the lift and made nine hoops
of his own. Stark finished with a triple-peel. Score:

Meanwhile, Drake had the first break in the other
doubles match and after a missed lift shot, Rosenberry
had a potentially match-winning break but failed to do
any peels and then botched a cross-peg wiring attempt.

Several turns later, the game was pegged down, with
Cordingley in position to finish the match as Saturday
play begins. Cordingley’s turn is not trivial, and the
Americans are still in hopes of entering the final
singles round down by a single match.

[[[EDITOR’S NOTE: Saturday dawned as radio
meteorologists were announcing “a perfect South Florida
day,” with near record highs (a little too hot for the
Brits, perhaps) and a 20 percent chance of a shower.
The Americans are planning to treat the British to a
popular nearby steakhouse after completion of play
today - a well deserved feasting on the meat of the
kill after a spirited hunt for the trophy.

The British mascot, kidnapped on Wednesday evening, was
finally returned on Saturday morning after an agonizing
series of random demands, threats, and pleas for mercy
were exchanged throughout Friday with the unknown
ruffians who did the deed. The pooch is apparently
unharmed, but has maintained an unnaturally still
posture since his return. The effect of this incident
upon British morale is, of course, incalculable. The
pepetrators may never be known, but I will attempt to
report the full story of this sorry episode in an
upcoming report.

A final report with complete scores will be posted here
on Sunday.

- ba ]]]

Day Four Midday: Brits Win -- Bob Alman
This just in from Jeff Soo of the American team:

"Great Britain won five of the six singles matches on
the final day. The score stands at 13-7, with the
pegged-down doubles match still unfinished."


The team that reaches 11 of the 21 matches wins the
trophy. The Americans have never scored higher than 7
match wins in the 14-year history of the competition.

Tomorrow the American-rules Presidents Cup will be
played against the British team, with an all new group
of six Americans trying to bamboozle the Brits into a
victory. Some of the British team have yet to play an
American rules game. Does it matter? We shall see.

- Bob Alman
National Croquet Center
West Palm Beach


(Almost) Complete Scores -- Bob Alman
Irwin/Burrow def Stark/Cherry
+9, -24, +26tp(I)
Cordingley/Dawson lost to Soo/Peterson
-17, -8tp(S)
Openshaw/Avery def Rosenberry/Drake
+2tp(A), +17tp(A)
Irwin/Burrow def Rosenberry/Drake
+__tp(I), -14, +__
Cordingley/Dawson lost to Stark/Cherry
-5, +25tp(D), -17tp(C)
Openshaw/Avery def Soo/Peterson
+25tp(A), +9tp(A)
Irwin/Burrow lost to Soo/Peterson
-9, -14otp(I)
Cordingley/Dawson lost to Rosenberry/Drake
-17, +17, -11
Openshaw/Avery lost to Stark/Cherry
-16, +12tp(O), -17tp(S)

Avery def Cherry +23, -4, +16
Burrow lost to Stark -12tpo, +9, -17tp
Irwin def Rosenberry +17tp, +8tpo
Dawson lost to Drake -17, +4, -12tpo
Openshaw def Peterson +26tp, -15, +26tp
Cordingley def Soo +25tp, -26, +26tp
Avery lost to Stark -4, -26
Burrow def Cherry +__, +__
Irwin def Drake +23tp, +8tp
Dawson def Rosenberry +__, +__
Openshaw def Soo +25tp, +26
Cordingley def Peterson +17tp, +17

(These scores to be updated/completed shortly)

[This was the final report. No updates after this time. PTB]

last updated 5 July 2004 PTB
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