The weekend of 10th/11th July saw eight teams consisting of three players each gather at Sidmouth Croquet Club for the inaugural event of the Sidmouth GC Team Challenge. Players came from a variety of clubs from around the UK, including Southwick, Hamptworth, East Dorset, Ryde (Isle of Wight), Nailsea and Long Eaton, to name but a few, and of course Sidmouth, entered a local team consisting of Philip Harris, Steve Pearson and Paul Bradley.
The event is loosely based upon the GC Inter-counties format with an "all play all" points race, with matches consisting of one doubles (worth 15 points) and one singles (worth 10 points) game against the opposition. On day one, "Strangers on the Shore", a team consisting of Peter Balchin (Glamorgan), Chris Jackson (Long Eaton) and Debra Hayns (Ryde) got off to an early head start winning both their opening doubles and singles games, 7/4, 7/5. The Sidmouth team, however, had a much slower start winning just two games within the first three matches (6 games). However, in round 4, the Sidmouth team had a double win over "The Saints", a team from Northampton CC, with a very clean win for Paul Bradley in the singles match at 7/2, which boosted their points considerably.
Each team had a Joker card chosen at random at the beginning of the day, which gave them the opportunity to gain a further 5 points on a game of their choice within a specific round. Sidmouth had been allocated round 5 to use their Joker and gambled on Steve Pearson in the singles match against Richard Carline, (Southwick) a member of the "Smith & Broomstick" team. This proved to be a good bet, with Steve winning the game 7/5 and gaining his team extra valuable points.
In round 7, each team knew their opposition but not which players were playing in the doubles or singles matches - with this choice left to the team Captains to decide. Sidmouth wisely played their comfortable pairing of Philip Harris and Steve Pearson in the doubles, who won their game against
"Strangers on the Shore" (Peter Balchin & Debra Hayns) 7/3. "Strangers on the Shore" were sitting closely behind the leaders at this moment, by only 5 points. This placed Paul Bradley in the singles against Chris Jackson, but Chris proved a little too strong, winning 7/5.
By the close of day one "The Three Amigos", Aston Wade (Hamptworth), Peter Chadwick (Budleigh) and Glynis Davies (Northampton) had gained a slim lead of just 20pts over "Strangers on the Shore", with five other teams still very much in contention. Only "The Saints" were struggling a little behind as the tournament entered day two.
On day two, the teams played each other again, but in a different combination of players for the doubles and singles games. The opening singles game for the leaders "The Three Amigos" was a high level display of skill, accuracy and tactics, which placed Aston Wade up against Stuart M. Smith from the "Smith and Broomstick" team. A great match, but on this occasion the Open Singles Champion, Aston, was beaten by the forthcoming England team Captain, Stuart. Both of these players lost only one singles match each throughout the whole event. However, they were not alone in that achievement, which was also matched by Paul Bradley from the Sidmouth team.
As day two progressed it became a two horse race between "The Three Amigos" and "Len & Jenks" for the top spot. "Len and Jenks" consisting of Steve and Michelle Leonard from Winterbourne Valley, and Richard Jenkins from Hamptworth, had hovered mid table, but found some form on the Sunday.
Maximum points gained with both singles and doubles wins over the "IoW Strollers" and "Strangers on the Shore" in rounds 3 and 4 proved decisive.
But quietly behind these teams, the Sidmouth team were gathering up the points. Again, the doubles pairing of Philip Harris and Steve Pearson had a win over Ryan Cabble (Nailsea) and Neil Fillery (Taunton) from the "J. Arthurs team", 7/2, with Paul Bradley again winning his singles match against Mike Powell 7/6, gaining maximum match points of 25pts.
Despite the driving rain that set in for large parts of the afternoon, spirits remained high. The "The Three Amigos" played their Joker on the doubles game in round 3, with Aston Wade and Glynis Davies taking on "Strangers on the Shore" (Peter Balchin & Debra Hayns), and winning comfortably 7/2, gaining a valuable extra 5 points.
Consistent performances from "The Three Amigos" saw them take first place at the end of the event with 245 points, with "Len & Jenks" coming in second, just 20 points behind at 220.
The Sidmouth team had been in 7th place at the close of day one, but in true tortoise and the hare style, improved their performances on the Sunday, and pipped "Strangers on the Shore" by 5 points, to take a very well deserved third place.
All competitors enjoyed the event, the combination of players and handicap levels worked very well, giving rise to some exciting results and valuable experience.