Tauranga and Mount Maunganui Croquet Clubs members are “buzzing” as they prepare to co-host the U21 singles World Golf Croquet Championships this week.
Thirty-two of the world’s top young players from England, Spain, Egypt, Australia, the US and New Zealand will compete for the world title in the tournament which runs from Wednesday this week until Sunday, with the knockout rounds and the plate on Friday, and the semi-finals and final held on Sunday.
The opening ceremony, which is being held at the Mount Maunganui Croquet Club on Kawaka St, begins tomorrow at 5pm.
There will be a host of players hitting the greens to get some practice in before the competition starts at both clubs from 8.30am on Wednesday. Tauranga Croquet Club greens are at Tauranga Domain.
Lining up to compete are five Australians, three Egyptians, two players each from England and Spain, three from the US and 17 from New Zealand, aged between 14 and 20 years.
Mount Manganui Croquet Club vice president Dallas Cooke said this was the first time her club had co-hosted this championships with the Tauranga club and she and her fellow members were “very excited” especially as the bi-annual tournament had to be cancelled in 2021 due to Covid-19.
“Preparations for this tournament actually began three years ago and knowing we’re just days from the opening ceremony, we’re all buzzing with excitement and can’t wait.”
Cooke, who is also vice president of the Bay of Plenty Croquet Association and a Croquet New Zealand board member, said being able to jointly host this tournament was a great vehicle to further boost interest in the sport by more young people.
While there were no Bay of Plenty players in the line-up this time round, members of the executive from both clubs were overseeing and helping manage the tournament, and local members were also referees and scorers of games, she said.
Cooke said this championship tournament had been only held five times before, and a New Zealand player had won the title four times, she said.
That included Mount Maunganui club member Duncan Dixon winning in 2009, Josh Freeth (Auckland) in 2015, Taranaki’s Felix Webby in 2017, and Edmond Fordyce from South Canterbury took the title in 2019.
Egyptian player Moustafa Nezar won the tournament in 2011 when it was held in the UK, she said.
Cooke said player selection for the tournament was chosen firstly from their world ranking standings, plus each country was able to put forward two other World Croquet Federation members, and New Zealand as the host nation with two clubs hosting was able to select four extra members.
Among the 17 Kiwi players were Josh Winter and Levi Franks, both from Canterbury, and Wellington siblings Jessica and Nathan Bullen, who will go head-to-head to win the title.
Winter was the winner of the New Zealand Golf Croquet Nationals in 2022 and he and Levi Franks also won the Croquet New Zealand Golf Croquet doubles event last year. Franks recently won the New Zealand U21 singles and doubles national title, Cooke said.
The 32 players would be split into four blocks of eight players who played each other and the top four players from each block progressed to the knockout rounds, and from there on to the quarter-finals, plate competition, semi-finals and final.
“Golf croquet is quite an easy exciting game to learn, but it still requires a range of diverse skills, and it’s both a great physical and mental game.
“These young players are very skilled and it’s mind-blowing when you see how talented and confident they are, especially under pressure,” she said.
“I really encourage lots of people to come along to have a look and help cheer on our Kiwi players.”
Tauranga Croquet Club president Gretchen Benvie said she and her fellow members were delighted to be adding co-hosting the U21 World Golf Croquet Champs to the list of national and world tournaments they had previously hosted.
“This exciting world cup tournament will see some very strong competition with the younger generation of players sometimes having a very different approach to the game of golf croquet.”
Both Benvie and Cooke said people could get in touch with club officials if they wanted an introductory session to see if croquet was for them. New members of any age were also welcomed.
Entry to the tournament is free.