Thursday, September 29, 2005

Croquet tourney held on Higgins Beach

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 29, 2005): A group of visitors and local summer people held the first of what they hope will be an annual croquet tournament on Higgins Beach in mid-September.

The event was organized by longtime Higgins Beach summer resident Wally Patch, who was inspired by an old image of people playing croquet on the beach, and hopes to involve more Higgins Beach people in the future.

Last year he was browsing a Higgins Beach Web site when he saw a picture of "two old ladies playing croquet."

Patch, who has been coming to Higgins Beach for 50 years and Crescent Beach before that, has built his own croquet court at his home in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, and decided to give it a shot on Higgins Beach.

He found a spot, right in front of The Breakers Inn, where there is a little bit of rock outcrop on the sea side of a patch of sand, where the tide leaves a smooth area rather than the usual ripples.

The low-tide sand made “a beautiful court except for seashells and small impediments here and there,” according to Emery Branscombe of Toronto, who plays competitively four times a week at home, on professionally maintained courts.

The group waited until low tide, raked seaweed and marked out a regulation court to play nine-wicket croquet under U.S. Croquet Association rules.

The course had a slight incline toward the ocean, which made play more exciting than usual, and on Sept. 14, the middle day of the competition, fog rolled in, obscuring much of the course.

Patch, who is 80, said croquet is a good game for seniors, because it is good exercise and makes players use their brains to plan shots. He took up the sport after arthritis made playing golf too painful.

He said he might talk to the Higgins Beach Association about making a croquet court next to the group's clubhouse.