Golf croquet: Young star aims for world crown

Duncan Dixon's remarkable run as the national golf croquet champion continues after he won his fifth title - four in consecutive years - in Auckland this month.

As an added bonus for the Dixon family, he teamed up with brother Andrew to take out the doubles title.

The 23-year-old took up the sport at school which, he said, "was a bit of a cop-out really" as he chose what he thought was an easy option compared to rugby, but he found he liked it - and since then Dixon has been almost unstoppable.

His record at the nationals beats the previous best of three successive wins and the Mount Maunganui/Papamoa Croquet Club player was crowned the world's top under-21 golf croquet player in Egypt three years ago.

He was also part of the New Zealand team that came so close to toppling the world's best team, Egypt, at the inaugural 2012 Golf Croquet World Team Championships held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"It was a really, really good performance for us to come so close to beating Egypt," Dixon said.

"It was a well fought final and it could have gone either way. We were up four rubbers to three after the first day and then we got knocked off on the last day. It is absolutely fantastic how golf croquet in New Zealand has peaked so high in the last two years."

Golf croquet is a quicker form of the game, with much simpler rules, and each match generally lasts about 45 minutes, although they can extend longer, compared with the more traditional association croquet where matches can last up to three hours.

Croquet New Zealand has 20 associations throughout the country representing 121 clubs and more than 4000 members. Dixon is at the forefront of a generation of younger players getting into golf croquet, which he says is a positive sign for the sport's future.

"The prime age for players is around the early 20s like all sports, and with croquet your major concentration is up around that age but up to 35 is probably when you are at your best.

"We have youth squad training for under-23 players every year and that has had a big impact. It teaches everyone how to cope with pressure and what to do in certain situations to maximise the result. I have picked up on a lot of that stuff and have added my own thoughts to the game as well and that has kind of carried me through. So the players are only going to get better."

Dixon has plenty of goals for the national and international stages but, like all minority sports, a lack of funding and publicity is his greatest issue.

"I owe a big debt to my mum (Sue Roberts) as it has been really hard to get funding. I would like to win the singles title at the World Golf Croquet Championships within the next five years but I will try and win it in Cairo in April this year. We will just have to see what happens."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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