2023 AC World Championship – Winner: Robert Fulford (ENG)

Robert Fulford wins AC World Championship for the sixth time

The 2023 WCF AC World Championship was held across 7 clubs in London, England between 15th and 23rd July 2023. The event was sponsored by Rockwell Hurlingham Waterfront developments, Howard Sosin and the Hurlingham Club. 18 countries were represented, coincidentally matching the 18th time this event has been held. There were 9 competitors who had played in the first Championship in 1989, also based at Hurlingham, a testament to the evergreen qualities of croquet players.

The 80 players were divided into 8 blocks of 10, and block play started on the Saturday morning. To the delight of the players, the forecast rain never materialised. Players spent the first 3 days at one of the 7 clubs around London, and the WCF would like to thank all the clubs and their members for not only giving up their lawns during the event, but for the huge volunteer effort preparing beforehand and looking after the players during the event. All the lawns were in excellent repair, many prepared to a much higher quality than previously seen.  So, a huge thank you to the Hurlingham Club, Surbiton Croquet Club, Dulwich Croquet Club, Ealing Croquet Club, the Roehampton Club, Woking Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club and a ‘new’ club for the English AC tournament circuit, the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club at Wimbledon. Many players were delighted to be able to play at this historic venue.

The blocks proceeded and resulted in just 4 play-offs needed on the Tuesday, fitting nicely onto Hurlingham’s front lawns. To the Manager's delight these were all completed by late afternoon and the draw for the 32 player KO completed on schedule. After the draw, there was an evening BBQ, which was sponsored by Howard Sosin, during which players were treated to a demonstration of Colour Order AC.

Congratulations should go to three of the qualifiers who made it through to the knock-out, despite being ranked 9th in their respective blocks - well done Mark Ormerod, Rob Wilkinson and Euan Burridge. Euan, a recent convert from GC, did extremely well to get through, especially given he hasn’t yet had a Triple Peel. I’m sure he will rectify this very soon! Also of note was the excellent performance of the USCA team, with 8 of their players making it into the knock-out, a quarter of the field. This included 16 year-old Blake Fields, a wild card entry, who looked very impressive at his first AC World Championship. Over half of the knock-out were English, reflecting the strength in depth that England continues to demonstrate.

The Knock-out
The first surprise result was the departure of Reg Bamford, beaten in the second round by Alain Giraud. The results show the high quality of play with a TP in all five games. The proliferation of TPs in all the results was remarkable, and reflected the high quality of play throughout, aided by excellent lawn conditions.

However, Alain went out in the next round to an on-fire Tom Balding from the USA. Tom made it into the semi-finals where he lost to Robert Fulford, but he came away with a well earnt bronze medal.

The other semi-final was Matthew Essick, runner up in 2020, versus Robert Fletcher, the 2013 Champion. Matthew came through in 3 straight games, with 3 solid triple peels.

For the finals we were greeted to a mild, sunny day with little wind, ensuring that the spectators and players alike had an enjoyable day. The Hurlingham front lawns were kept full all day with the final stages of the various consolation events, as well as the Main Championship final.

The Manager's Invitational
This event was arranged by Mike Town, the Tournament Manager, to provide more games for players and featured those ranked 9th and 10th in their blocks. It was won by Sandy Greig, representing Ireland, who beat Joakim Norback from Sweden +4.

The Plate
Players who did not make it into the knock-out compete for the WCF Plate.

This year’s finalists were both from England, featuring Robin Brown and Nick Parish. Robin had beaten Jenny Clarke from New Zealand in his semi, the third game finishing in the morning, whilst Nick beat Callum Hyland from Australia, also in three games, the evening before. Well done to Robin Brown who beat Nick in two games, the first a close +4, the second +26TP.

The Bowl
This event is for the 16 players who lose in the first round of the knock-out. Debbie Lines, England, who did well in her block to win 8 of her 9 games, continued to play well and reached the final against Kyle Maloof from the USA. Kyle has only been playing AC for about 3 years and the quality of his play is impressive. It was unclear who was favourite on paper, both having had a string of TPs to get to the final, however, on the day Debbie won the opening in both games, Kyle’s shooting was not quite working, and Debbie won with two delayed triple peels, +26TP, +26TP.

The Shield
The second-round losers play for the Shield and were scheduled to play at Wimbledon, much to their delight. Only 5 players competed, resulting in a slightly lopsided draw. Gabrielle Higgins from England, who was this Championship's most successful woman player, making it into the last 16, beat Stephen Morgan, USA, in the quarter-finals +5, +10, but then lost an extremely close semi-final match to James Death, England. Gabrielle won the first with a TP, but in the second finished with clips on Rover and Peg. James hit his ‘last’ shot and proceeded to have a sextuple, then had another in the third game to reach the final.

In the final he met the USA’s Zach Watson who had beaten England’s Harry Fisher +26TP, +10. James failed both his sextuple attempts in the final, but came through to win +21, +17.

The Championship Final

Robert Fulford vs Matthew Essick

Matthew Essick - iin play during the final

Robert won the opening in all 5 games, and went around to 4b, sometimes on the third turn and sometimes on the 4th turn. However, Matthews superb shooting often reclaimed the innings, making this an extremely close and hard fought best of 5 match.

In the first game Matthew hit fourth turn and went round to 4-back. Robert missed the lift and Matthew went round perfectly, completing a sixth turn TP.

In game 2 Matthew missed a 10 yarder third turn and Rob hit and went to 4-back. Matthew again hit the lift but didn’t immediately get going, however, Robert missed a long shot and Matthew went to 4-back. After a few leaves, Matthew had another TP to take a 2–0 lead.

In game 3 Robert again went to 4-back third turn. Matthew hit the long lift shot (again!) and this time made just six hoops before laying for a sextuple. Matthew failed to finish it, ending his turn for penult and peg. Robert didn't try to make a break, but instead had a good defensive leave from which Matthew cornered. Robert finished his triple peel to start his come-back, it’s now 2-1 to Matthew.

Game 4: a supershot opening by Matthew, but his second ball leaves a double which Robert hits and goes to 4-back. Matthew again chooses to take the long lift but misses. Robert completes a solid delayed triple peel to take us into the 5th and deciding game.

Robert Fulford - on his final 3-ball break to win

In the final game Robert opens with another supershot, Matthew goes to 19 yard position on the East boundary which Robert then misses, but Matthew also misses fourth turn. Robert goes to 4-back and Matthew misses the long lift down the east boundary. Those watching now expect Robert to complete another triple peel to win, however, he gets hoop 1 in the way after making it and can’t get close to his pioneer at hoop 2. He misses the 6 yarder he is left with, and Matthew immediately hits a 12 yarder. Matthew decides to go for a delayed TPO, which he completes extremely well, and he leaves a ball in 1st and 4th corners. Robert takes contact from the ball in 4th corner, splitting it to 3 going to the ball in 1st corner. He then tries to approach hoop 2, but despite getting one yard position, just puts Matthew's ball off the lawn. Some in and out play ensues. Eventually, Matthew two balls it around to hoop 6 and tries to cut his ball to Roberts ball which was hidden in corner 2. If successful, a simple corner canon would ensure him an easy break to the peg and a win, but he misses the cut. Robert hits a 9-10 yard roquet and takes his 3-ball break around to win the championship.

Congratulations to Robert Fulford on winning his 6th World Championship.

See the WCF Roll of Honour and the Championship Archives, to see his other wins!

 

Live-streaming
Lawn 4 at Hurlingham was filmed every day and the quality of both the camera work and the commentary teams was excellent. Thousands of people from across the World have tuned in to enjoy watching. The WCF would like to thank Steve Allen and his team who were in charge of the streaming. Hurlingham built them a wooden hut to house the equipment and cameras were mounted on posts around the lawn. All the streaming can be watched on the Croquet England YouTube channel, links to which as usual are also to be found on the WCF YouTube AC World Championship Playlist.

For the full results, go to event results on Croquet Scores

Thank you to all the players for coming, to the many officials who worked hard all week to support the players, and the many volunteers working in the background to ensure the event proceeded smoothly. Especial thanks to Mike Town, Tournament Manager, who worked tirelessly to ensure we kept to schedule, to David Openshaw, Tournament Director and to Hugh Carlisle for chairing the Organising Committee.

The next WCF AC World Championship is scheduled for October 2025 in the USA.

Robert Fulford - 2023 AC World Champion, during his final break to the peg.

Debbie Lines, winner of the Bowl

2023 AC World Championship - flags

Debbie Lines presents James Death, winner of the Shield, with his salver.

Annabel McDiarmid, winner of the Qualifier

Robin Brown, winner of the Plate

Sandy Greig, winner of the Managers Invitational, on the Wimbledon lawns

Robert Fulford lifts the trophy

Matthew Essick, finalist, with his silver medal.

Debbie Lines presents Tom Balding, semi-finalist, with his bronze medal

2020 AC World Championship – Winner: Reg Bamford (ZAF)

The 17th WCF Association Croquet World Championship
Venue: Victorian Croquet Centre, Melbourne, Australia
Dates: 15 – 23 February 2020

Champion: Reg Bamford (South Africa)

Finalist: Matthew Essick (United States of America)

Reg Bamford being presented with the Wimbledon Bowl by WCF President Ian Burridge

Reg Bamford (ZAF) defeated 21-year old Matthew Essick (USA) at the Victorian Croquet Centre in Melbourne to record his fifth Association Croquet world title, a record he shares with Robert Fulford (ENG). The scoreline was 26-12 tp, 14-26, 26-9 tp, 26-0 tp. Tricky court conditions tested both players' ability to play precision croquet and Essick can be very proud of his performance, especially his semi-final victory over World No. 1, Robert Fletcher (AUS). However, Bamford's greater experience and fine shooting proved ultimately decisive and he emerged a convincing winner.

See YouTube footage of this event via the WCF YouTube Channel > AC World Championship Playlists 

Full results are available at https://croquetscores.com/2020/ac/wcf-world-championship

2018 AC World Championship – Winner: Paddy Chapman (NZL)

The 16th WCF Association Croquet World Championship
Venue: Kelburn Municipal Croquet Club, Wellington, New Zealand
Dates: 3 – 11 February 2018

Champion: Paddy Chapman (New Zealand)

Finalist: Reg Bamford (ZAF)

Paddy Chapman (New Zealand) defeated Reg Bamford (South Africa) +7tp, -26tp, -26tp, +15tp, +17tp to become the new Association Croquet World Champion.  The final was held at Kelburn Municipal Croquet Club in Wellington, New Zealand in damp and rather slow conditions which, at times, threatened to delay play.  Fortunately, the rain held off sufficiently to allow the final to be completed before an expected weather front brought heavy rain.

Bamford attempted a sextuple in game 1 which came to grief when an unkind slope caused a gentle roquet to miss.  This cost him the opening game but excellent shooting and routine triple peels gave him the next two games.  He again took an early innings in game 4 and reached 4-back with a Diagonal Spread Leave and the most likely outcome seemed yet another 3-1 win for Reg after dropping the first game, the pattern of both his quarter-final and semi-final victories.

Chapman had missed lift shots from A-baulk in games 2 and 3 but now switched to shooting at the ball by the peg from the end of A-baulk.  He hit and went to 4-back with two POPs and a New Standard Leave which placed Reg's backward ball near hoop 2.  Bamford just missed the 20 yard lift shot with that ball from B-baulk into corner 4.  This gave Chapman a good starting position for a standard triple peel and he completed it confidently to square the match.

Game 5 followed similar lines to game 4 with Bamford reaching 4-back with a Diagional Spread Leave and Chapman again choosing to shoot at the peg ball from the end of A-baulk.  Again he hit and went to 4-back with another New Standard Leave with Reg's hoop 1 ball again near hoop 2.   Bamford did not shirk the challenge and again lifted his backward ball to B-baulk to take the 20 yard shot that, if he hit, would give him an excellent chance for his own triple peel to win the game, match and title - and the achievement of once again holding both the Golf Croquet and Association Croquet world championships simultaneously, the feat he had achieved in April 2013.

Bamford took great care in preparing for the shot but, once again, it missed by a tiny margin on the right and Chapman, a previous finalist in 2013 and semi-finalist in 2016, was presented with the chance to complete his third triple peel of the final and become World Champion.  The break was not without a couple of moments of concern but Paddy coped calmly with the challenges, completed a straight rover peel and pegged out to great acclaim from the watching crowd.

The semi-finalists and bronze medal winners were Jose Riva (Spain) and Stephen Mulliner (England), the defending champion.

The Shield was won by Greg Fletcher (Australia), the Bowl by Jonathan Powe (England) and the Plate by Stephen Morgan (USA)

Full results are available athttps://croquetscores.com/2018/ac/wcf-world-championship

2013 AC World Championship – Winner: Robert Fletcher (AUS)

The 14th WCF Association Croquet World Championship
Venue: Surbiton Croquet Club, England
Dates: 10 - 18 August 2013

Champion: Robert Fletcher (Australia)

Finalist: Paddy Chapman (New Zealand)

Commentary

Surbiton, Hurlingham and Roehampton hosted a fantastic event, the lawns being in excellent condition. Spectators were treated to some excellent play throughout.

Robert Fletcher beat Paddy Chapman 3-0 to take the title.

Full results are available at https://croquetscores.com/2013/ac/the-14th-wcf-world-championship

2012 AC World Championship – Winner: Reg Bamford (ZAF)

The 13th WCF Association Croquet World
ChampionshipVenue: Adelaide, South Australia
Dates: 28 April - 6 May 2012

Champion: Reg Bamford (South Africa)

Finalist: Robert Fletcher (Australia)

Full results are available at https://croquetscores.com/2012/ac/world-championship

 

All the competitors at the 2012 AC World Championship
The New Zealand team parade at the Opening Ceremony led by flag bearing Paul Skinley
Officals at the 2012 AC World Championship
The Scottish team parade: L to R> Martin Stephenson, James Hopgood and Andrew Hope

2009 AC World Championship – Winner: Reg Bamford (ZAF)

The 12th WCF Association Croquet World Championship
Venue: National Croquet Center, West Palm Beach, Florida
Dates: 28 April - 6 May 2009

Champion: Reg Bamford (South Africa)

Finalist: Ben Rothman (USA)

Results

Reg Bamford of South Africa lifted the coveted Wimbledon Cup for the third time in beating Ben Rothman of USA +13tp, +22, +18tp for a 3-0 victory.

Full results can be found on the Croquet Records Website: 2009 AC World Championship

2005 AC World Championship – Winner: Reg Bamford (ZAF)

The 10th WCF Association Croquet World Championship

Sponsor: Mitsubishi Motors
Venue: Cheltenham Croquet Club, England
Dates: 6-14 August 2005

Champion: Reg Bamford (South Africa)

Finalist: Robert Fulford (England)

Full results can be found on the Croquet Records Website: 2005 AC World Championship

2002 AC World Championship – Winner: Robert Fulford (ENG)

The 9th WCF Association Croquet World Championship
Venue: Wellington, New Zealand
Dates: 2-8 December 2002

Champion: Robert Fulford (England)

Finalist: Toby Garrison (New Zealand)

This was Robert Fulford's fifth AC World Championship victory.  The scores in the final were +26tp, +26tp, -17tp, +15tp.

Full results can be found on the Croquet Records Website: 2002 AC World Championship

Main Event Results

Group Stage

8 blocks of 8. Top 4 in each qualify for knockout

Round 1

Reg Bamford (SA) bt Peter Batchelor (NZ) -25, +25sxp, +25 Toby Garrison (NZ) bt Jerry Guest (E) +25tp, +26tp Bob Jackson (NZ) bt Curtis Drake (USA) +25tp, +26 Phil Cordingly (E) bt Mark McInerney (I) -17, +25tp, +17tp Joe Hogan (NZ) bt Bruce Fleming (A) +16stp, +26 Ronan McInerney (I) bt Peter Trimmer (E) +17tp, +21tp Dennis Bulloch (NZ) bt Stephen Forster (A) +23, -23, +10 Andrew Johnston (I) bt David Goacher (E) -26tp, +15, +17 Robert Fulford (E) bt Jocelyn Sutton (A) +17, +26tp David Openshaw (E) bt Jerry Stark (USA) +5, +8tp Chris Clarke (E) bt Trevor Bassett (A) +26tp, +26 Martin Clarke (A) bt Ed Duckworth (E) +18, -26tp, +16 David Maugham (E) bt Paul Skinley (NZ) +26tp, -4, +26 Brian Wislang (NZ) bt Dave Mundy (E) +15, +13 John Prince (NZ) bt Keith Aiton (S) +11, -26tp, +15tp Simon Williams (I) bt Bruce Baker (NZ) +20tp, +6

Round 2

Toby Garrison bt Reg Bamford -26tp, +19tp, +20tp Bob Jackson bt Phil Cordingley +6, +24 Ronan McInerney bt Joe Hogan +17tp, +26tp Andrew Johnston bt Dennis Bulloch +16, +26 Robert Fulford bt David Openshaw +26tp, +17tp Chris Clarke bt Martin Clarke +13, +5tp Brian Wislang bt David Maugham +11, -26tp, +23 Simon Williams bt John Prince +24tp, +1

Quarter Finals

Toby Garrison bt Bob Jackson +6tp, +24 Andrew Johnston bt Ronan McInerney +8tp, -17tp, +24 Robert Fulford bt Chris Clarke -26tp, +26tp, +16tp Brian Wislang bt Simon Williams +26tp, -26tp, +16

Semi Finals

Toby Garrison bt AndrewJohnston +25, +8tp, -5tp, +4tp Robert Fulford bt Brian Wislang +26tp, +26tp, +10tpo

Final

Robert Fulford bt Toby Garrison +26tp, +26tp, -17tp, +15tp

2001 AC World Championship – Winner: Reg Bamford (ZAF)

The 8th WCF Association Croquet World Championship
Venue: The Hurlingham Club, London, England
Dates: 1-8 July 2001

Champion: Reg Bamford (South Africa)

Finalist: Robert Fulford (England)

Full results can be found on the Croquet Records Website: 2001 AC World Championship

Main Event Results

Preliminary Round in Blocks

Round 1

RI Fulford beat MA Suter +26tp, +26 A Sands beat CJ Patmore -23, +20, +5 LG Tibble beat T Bassett -3, +17, +12 DB Maugham beat MJ McInerney +17tp, +3 DJ Bulloch beat AE Cunningham +13, +9 L McBride beat PC Trimmer -12 +18 +19 M Clarke beat SN Mulliner +18 +17 JP Dawson beat TA Garrison +13 +26tp CN Farthing beat RV Jackson -17, +12, +9 JE Fournier beat JW Louw -19, +7tp, +15tp S Williams beat JB Gibbons -13, +13, +13 B Fleming beat JS Dyer -23, +15tp, +17 CD Clarke beat S Meatheringham +22, +10 RJ Brown beat MVM Burrow +16tp +16 RN McInerney beat PMG Hort -4, +10, +26 RL Bamford beat CJ Irwin +26tp +26tp

Round 2

RI Fulford beat A Sands +23tp, +26tp DB Maugham beat LG Tibble +25, +26 DJ Bulloch beat L McBride -4, +14, +26 M Clarke beat JP Dawson +3, +17 JE Fournier beat CN Farthing +26tp, -17, +26tp S Williams beat B Fleming +17tp, +26 RJ Brown beat CD Clarke -25tp, +26, +1 RL Bamford beat RN McInerney +17tp -26tp +26tp

Quarter Finals

RI Fulford beat DB Maugham -26tp, +15tp, +26tp DJ Bulloch beat M Clarke +26, +21tp JE Fournier beat S Williams +6, +26tp RL Bamford beat RJ Brown +7tp, +26tp

Semi Finals

RI Fulford beat DJ Bulloch +8tpo, -14otp, +26tp, -17tp, +25tp RL Bamford beat JE Fournier +16tp, +26tp, +25

Final

RL Bamford beat RI Fulford -16tp, +17sxp, -3, +26sxp, +26qp