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Egyptian Golf Croquet Open Championships
Cairo, 1st - 6th October
inaugural Egyptian Golf Croquet Open was held in Cairo earlier
thismonth. The city has the most inhabitants (19 million) and the fewest
road laws (none) in the world, and the Gazira Club venue, a private
sports club on the banks of the Nile, made the setting of a croquet
tournament quite perfect. Given the incredible efforts of Amir Ramsis
Naguib, the President of the Egyptian Croquet Federation, over the
past 5 years to forge closer ties between Egypt and the rest of the Golf
Croquet world, a concerted effort was made to secure a strong
International team to challenge the supremacy of the Egyptians. The
field was made up of the top 8 ranked Egyptians (including the usual
suspects like Khalid, Salah, Yassir, Hazeem, Ahmed - the World Champ
- and his brother Mohammed), plus 8 Internationals (Reg Bamford, Rob
Fulford, Mark McInerney, Sherif Abdelwahab, Len Canavan, Tom Weston,
Evan Newell and Dick Strover). Chris Patmore was our first reserve,
though in his defence, he did enter the tournament, receive
confirmation of his entry from the WCF, only to pitch up in Cairo to find he
wasn't in the field.
The "Draw" (a term I use somewhat loosely - Amir simply selected
which block each player went into, as well as the positions within the
knockout) had 4 blocks containing 2 Egyptians and 2 Internationals,
with the top two places in each block going through to the Quarter Finals.
The bottom two finishers in each block went into the Plate. Each
match in the block, the KnockOut and the Plate was a Best of Three Games,
Best of Thirteen Hoops. Despite a loss apiece, Reg and Rob progressed into
the KnockOut, with Mark unlucky to miss out (on a count back). As a
consolation, and to thunderous applause from the watching
Internationals, Mark won the Plate final with a convincing win over
Yassir. In the KnockOut quarterfinals, Rob defeated Salah in three,
and Reg got his World Champs revenge on Ahmed Nasr (who beat him 7-6, 7-6
in last year's Worlds) by thumping him 7-4, 7-2. Rob in turn got his own
revenge on Reg in the Semis with a close fought 2-1 win (5-7, 7-6,
7-4 including winning the last 6 hoops of the match). In the other half
of the knockout, Mohammed Nasr beat Khalid in three. The Best of Five
final was competitive, but Rob couldn't quite match his semi final form and
went down in 4 (the last game going to the 13th).
Reg defeated Salib in his first block game by winning the first 10
hoops. Tradition in Egypt has it that your oppo should never be
humiliated and if you're winning 6 nil, you should not compete for
hoop 7. In return, oppo will not compete for hoop 8 and gift you the game.
Reg's South African tradition won through and the Old Lion, as he is known,
to endure some hearty barracking from the locals.
Len did not have a good week, but in his last match he put up a great
fight against Tom in the playoff for 15 & 16. Game all, and playing
the 13th, there was a long exchange of rather nervy shots before Len ran
the hoop from a foot - but not before going down on his knees and
thanking the croquet Gods for his good fortune.
The Internationals enjoyed some wonderful camaraderie, and were
determined to a) have fun, b) play fairly, c) be gracious guests, and
d) play well. We managed all four. In particular, the spirit in which
the entire tournament was played was excellent, with players often
calling their own faults and warning oppo before they play the wrong ball.
That said, there are still some differences in interpretation of the new
WCF laws. One player got faulted for stopping a ball (that was rocketing
off the boundary) a couple of inches short of the boundary with his foot.
Another player was told he couldn't play the ball of his choice after
oppo had played the wrong ball. And in one memorable incident, my
ball was in a critical position in hoop 4 (but still easily runnable) only
for the oppo to ask for the hoop to be reset. I then found that the
hoop was no longer runnable.
That said, this was a very enjoyable event indeed, and it will become
a very popular tournament in the future. Amir's generosity, the
wonderful hospitality of the Egyptian hosts, and the enjoyment of playing the
top GC players in the world, hosted in such a famous tourist city, made
this a great competition.