2011 US OPEN, December 6-10th
Mission Hills Country Club
Rancho Mirage, California

    This year the American Croquet Association hosts the 24th US Open croquet tournament with Rory Kelley taking over the reigns from Stan Patmor as tournament director.

USOPEN 2011 winners
24th US Open -- Trophy Photo
Nick Gray (2nd B), Danny Huneycutt (1st Open), Eric Sawyer (1st A), Cameron Evans (1st B), Brian Cuming (Plate), Mary Rodeberg (2nd A), Ben Rothman (2nd Open) and tournament director Rory Kelley.

2011 United States Open
(6-Dec -- 10-Dec)
Final Report -- by Eric Sawyer

The 24th annual U.S. Open was played last week at the Mission Hills Croquet Club in Rancho Mirage, CA. The event was organized and run by Rory Kelly, the current USCA American Rules doubles champion. Rory did an incredible job with this event.

The Championship flight contained several international level players, including many members of the recent U.S. Solomon Trophy and MacRobertson Shield teams, such as Ben Rothman, Danny Huneycutt, Jeff Soo, Rich Lamm and Paul Bennett (alternate). Other notables included Brian Cumming, the best player from Canada.

Jeff Soo defeated Rich Lamm to take third place. I'm not sure Jeff viewed this tournament as a total success, but I think he played well, and finishing third in light of the serious competition is nothing to take lightly. And Jeff even got to take a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park on a day when the weather finally cooperated. Rich was still basking in the glory of his singles and doubles Golf Croquet National Championships, and he didn't seem bothered in the least finishing fourth. Rich had a nice 10-day run of croquet.

In the finals, Ben faced Danny. In the earlier bracket play, Ben had successfully completed a sextuple. For those around the court, Ben proudly announced as he was leaving the area, "now you can say you have seen a sextuple." I hadn't before. All I can say is, "wow." Ben also routinely ran triple peels in many of his other matches and was the hot player going into the play-offs.

Since Ben won his bracket and Danny won his, the two faced in the first round of the play-offs, in what is known as a Patmor Draw. Ben quickly dispatched Danny in two games, giving him the automatic berth in the Final. Since Ben won those matches early in the morning, he had the rest of the day to don his San Francisco Giants jersey (boooo) and serve as the club bon vivante. Later that evening, just before dark, he was spotted playing a pick-up game of golf croquet with a friend, mallet in one hand and beer in the other. Cheers. I've seen Ben make a one-handed jump shot, so I guess I now know why he is proficient at it.

Since Danny lost to Ben in the bracket winners' face- off, he had to beat most of the remaining top players to reach the Finals, which he did. That feat was kind of like the 1000 stranded Athenian soldiers in ancient lore having to hack their way through the entire Greek population of Sicily to get home alive. Danny is a magician with his mallet. The guy can jump completely OVER a wicket from 21 feet away (really, I've seen it with my own eyes!)

The Final match was played Saturday morning and afternoon. Ben won the first game handily. Danny the same in game two. The rubber match was played while the other tournament participants were eating lunch court side. For unexplained reasons, both players broke down more than once on potentially game-ending breaks. In fact, it was quite surreal to be sitting next to Ben eating lunch during one of those breaks that Danny was running, chatting with Ben over topics unrelated to croquet, only to see Ben dart up from his seat when Danny missed a moderate return roquet. It was a rough third game. In the end, Danny finally ran a finishing break, in which he was able to peg out both balls and win. Cheers to Danny.

Martyn Selman ran the plate event. His goal was to make it fun and interesting. It appeared as if he succeeded, judging from the number of Championship flight players who hung around to participate. The great Brian Cumming was the eventual winner. Cheers to Brian.

In the first flight, the top half of the finishers made the "A" flight play-offs. The bottom half made the "B" flight play-offs.

In the A flight, the top two seeds dominated play, i.e., myself and Mary Rodeberg. In all likelihood Mary should have played in the Championship flight this year. We met in the Final, which everyone predicted would happen. Mary got the first break to four-back, and I missed a double-target hit-in after her pretty good DSL. I'm still slapping my forehead over how I could miss it. As Ben told me while I stumbled off the court, "hey, everyone misses a double-target now and then." I got a bit lucky when Mary later missed a hampered roquet attempt after making hoop six. So I was able to run my lead ball to four-back. We jockeyed back and forth, Mary leading by two. In the last turn, I was able to go up by two and scatter my balls to a far corner and wire Mary's balls from each other. She missed her long roquet attempt and I won, barely. I was arm-and-arm with my wife while Mary was taking her final shot, eyes closed not wanting to see what was happening.

In the "B" flight play-offs, newcomer Cameron Evans beat Nick Gray to take the crown. Cameron is on quite a roll. He won the Second flight American Rules Nationals, and the First Flight Doubles Golf Croquet National Championship. If he wins his flight of the upcoming Association Rules Nationals in February, he will have completed the "Cameron Slam."

Rory promises something big for next year's 25th annual U.S. Open. He indicates that it may sell out quickly. I'm sure Rory will deliver. This is a great tournament. Anyone who really likes Association Croquet should try to play it. It may become a habit! So sign up early for 2012. Hope to see you there!

 - Eric Sawyer

Danny peels penult and
                    rover straight
Danny Huneycutt peels penult and rover straight to end the best of 3 match as winner of the 2011 US Open.

Brian Cuming
Brian Cuming keenly observing croquet at the US  Open. 
Brian won the US Open Plate, which was run as a swiss event.

2011 Order of Finish
Open Flight
A Flight
B Flight
Open Plate
1. Danny Huneycutt
2. Ben Rothman
3. Jeff Soo
1. Eric Sawyer
2. Mary Rodeberg
1. Cameron Evans
2. Nick Gray
1. Brian Cuming
2. Robert Hurst

For more details regarding the US Open tournament,
Contact Rory Kelley, tournament director 480 990-1126
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