00:00 October 5, 2021
The GC All England Handicap Final was played at Sidmouth Croquet Cub, where players from across the UK had qualified for their regional events.
The individual handicaps of the players ranged from -1 to 7, providing a very broad spectrum of participants and extra strokes.
Sidmouth’s court preparations were as meticulous as ever, and the club gave all participants a warm welcome – not only in hospitality, but also in glorious sunshine…!
The format was an “All Play All” arrangement, so the fourteen players had seven games on Saturday and six on Sunday, six games per round were double-banked and one single-banked, but we managed to rotate players and lanes to keep the event on track, as no playing time limits were imposed.
Both Ramsgate players, Charlie Martin (1hcp) and Todd Ballantine (2hcp) got off to a great start, winning their first five games in a row, but were then brought to a halt by losing the remaining two games on day one.
Other players took more wins, though, with Roger Goldring (-1hcp) Phyllis Court; Dom Aavold (0hcp) Bristol; Andy Loakes (1hcp) Camerton & Peasedown; and Sarah Patton (6hcp) Guildford & Godalming all on 5 wins at the end of the game on Saturday. The tournament was therefore open to a large number of potential winners at that time.
Sunday again bought beautiful sunshine, but a change of fortune for Charlie and Todd who won just two of their first four games, meanwhile Roger started the day with four straight wins. Many members of the Sidmouth Club came to watch the tournament unfold, and at lunchtime players and spectators were serenaded by the town’s fanfare that could be heard in the distance!
Rick Lilley (3hcp) Phyllis Court built on his four wins from Saturday, winning five more from six games on Sunday, narrowly missing third place by one hoop, and winning nine in all.
Another player who quietly moved forward was Ashby’s Heather Hardy (6hcp), who took four wins on Saturday and added four more on Sunday, finishing 7th overall and losing in 6th, which went to Todd. Ballantine went because of the difference in the hoop. Day one also finished strong for Sarah Patton, but despite some hard-fought games on Sunday, Sarah came one place below Heather to 8th overall with six race wins.
For players battling for overall victory, a crucial match ensued in Round 12, when Andy Loakes was set to face Roger Goldring. At that point, Andy had to win this game to level with Roger, which would make it very interesting at the top of the table. It was a fierce battle, culminating in the golden hoop, which was indeed won by Andy.
This meant that Roger Goldring, Dom Aarvold and now Andy Loakes were all on nine wins, with Charlie Martin on eight as we went into the final lap.
To make things more interesting, Charlie played against Roger, where a win could have put Charlie up to nine wins, and Dom played against Andy, both with nine wins with a 10th to play for.
Two interesting games followed, but Roger in form proved too strong for Charlie as he prevented 5/2 and went on to win the game 7/4. Meanwhile, Andy and Dom had a similar game with Andy taking the win, again trailing 7/4. Dom Aarvold took 3rd place, with Charlie Martin on eight wins in 5th position on hoop difference over Todd Ballantine.
Andy’s late rise in the last two games meant a very close end result with Roger, both players had 10 wins, but a better hoop difference gave Roger first place.
As the lowest handicap in the tournament, Roger had to work very hard at times with up to 8 free kicks against him, thus a well-deserved and deserved 2021 All England Handicap Winner title.