World croquet champs hit the Bay

The perfectly manicured greens are identical but hoops and mallets replace irons and wedges as the 11th World Golf Croquet Singles Championship swings into Mount Maunganui this weekend.

From today, 80 of the world’s top players from 11 countries will line up to play their way to global supremacy in the week-long tournament staged across the Bay of Plenty.

It’s the second time in recent years a world contest has been hosted in the Bay, with the region hosting the women’s world event in 2011.

Event director Sue Roberts says it’s exciting for the region with the host nation boasting a team of more than 18 competitors ranging from 16 to 82 years old.

“We’ve got a beautiful spot, and this can only be good for the region.

“It’s a great way for us to showcase our sport to the public.”

Headlining the large field is current world champion, Reg Bamfield of South Africa, 2011 women’s champion Rachel Rowe from England, along with a sizeable 17 entries from Egypt – one of the world’s strongest golf croquet countries.

New Zealand’s leading contenders include the Bay’s Duncan Dixon, now living in Christchurch, a seven-time NZ national champion and winner of the inaugural World Under-21 title in Egypt at the age of 20.

Other top hopes are Katikati’s Steve Piercy, Chris Clarke from Christchurch, and veteran and Croquet Hall of Famer Bob Jackson from Auckland.

Sue says this is the biggest world championship field to date, a jump from 64 to 80, with the expansion seeing Croquet Mount Maunganui the headquarters for the World Tournament, for both block and knockout play, including the finals.

The Mount, Katikati, Whakatane and Rotorua clubs will host five days of block play, and plate rounds from Saturday to Wednesday, February 11, to find the last 32 for the play-offs.

Unsuccessful players go through to a plate event.

Block play and the first two rounds of the knockout are best-of-three matches, with the following rounds being the best of five matches. The finals are at Croquet Mount Maunganui on Sunday, February 15.

Golf croquet has made a major impact on the sport with its shorter timeframe attracting new players to the game, crucially in younger age groups.

The sport sees players taking a stroke in turn, each trying to hit a ball through the same hoop. The sequence of play is blue, red, black, and yellow. Blue and black balls play against red and yellow.

The winner of the game is the player who wins the most hoops.

The World Golf Croquet Singles Championship begins with an opening ceremony, with a parade of flags, at Croquet Mount Maunganui, at 5pm Friday, February 6.

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