The Pro Croquet Tour is Off to a Great Start!

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Matthew Essick joins the Pro Croquet Golden Jacket club by winning the 2020 PCA AC event at Chesapeake Bay. Zack Watson on the left came in second with tournament director Macey White in the middle

The first-ever Pro Croquet Tour event was held as an Association Croquet tournament at the Chesapeake Bay Croquet Club on October 22-25.
 
25 players from all over the US came to try to be the first-ever PCA Association Croquet Pro Tour Champion.  When the dust settled, it was no surprise that National Champion Matthew Essick went home with the winning check and the gold jacket.
 
This event was a replacement for the USCA’s Selection Eights tournament which was canceled.  Immediately following the USCA’s canceling of the 2020 Selection Eights, the best players in the country asked the Chesapeake Bay Croquet Club to host the event.  Club president, John Priest, and the CBCC board of directors agreed to hold a replacement sanctioned by the Professional Croquet Association (PCA). 
 
Since this was a replacement for the Eight’s, the PCA modified it slightly from the standard PCA format to give the players what they wanted.  First, this event was open to everyone and not just the tour qualified players, as is the Eights tournament.  A few brave novices entered, like Pat Richmond from New Jersey who played in this event as her first-ever Association Croquet tournament.  Pat did well and each game was an education with new skills, tactics and rules learned.  Pat improved so much that she ended her tournament play by almost upsetting Rick Darnell in a close 11-14 finish.  Adam Lassiter also played tournament AC for the first time but Adam is by no means a novice and was positioned in the second Eight and advanced to the second round of the knockout.
 
The second modification from the standard PCA format is that players played eights style games while not in the knockout for the money prizes.  Eights style means that the top eight players (based on World Federation grades) play each other and the second eight play each other and the third eight... 
 
All players started the tournament in a round of 32 bracket-style knockout.  This means that everyone in the tournament had a chance to play for the big money.  Not just the best players.  In addition, players in the lower eights had a chance to show they were better than their grades.  Not surprisingly, some players did well and proved that they were better than their WCF grades.  In the first-round, Rick Darnell, a 3rd Eight player beat his 2nd Eight opponent to advance to the second round.  In the second-round upsets continued with 2nd Eight Macey White defeating 1st Eight Jim Bast,  2nd Eight Shane Hettler defeated 1st Eight Dan Pailas and 2nd Eight Chris Barley defeated 1st Eight Tom Balding.  Macey lost the 3rd round to tournament winner Matthew Essick and Shane lost to Zack Watson.  Chris won his third-round match against 1st Flight powerhouse, Stephen Morgan only to lose to the 2nd place finisher, Zack Watson in the semis.  The finals were Zack Watson from Virginia vs Matthew Essick from North Carolina. The final game was moved to Saturday to avoid a rainstorm that came in Saturday evening and lingered through Sunday.  The final was a high-level, low mistake croquet battle between Zack and Matthew.  Matthew prevailed in two straight and was presented with the Golden Jacket (every PCA Tour Event winner is presented with a gold jacket on their first tour win) and Matthew received the winners share of the prize money, a check for $1500.  Zack won $750 and each succeeding place won half as much as the place before.  Everyone in the tournament received a check for their portion of the prize money ($3000).
 
Matches in the knockout were best two of three with an eight-hour time limit. Matches in the eights portion of the tournament were single 3-hour games.  Games played against fellow eights players in the knockout were also counted in the eights.   This made blending the money knockout with the eights a little easier.
 
Leading women's player, Sandra Knuth, won the 3rd Eight followed closely by Calvert Chaney and Rodney Lassiter.  The 2nd Eight was a tie between Mike Taylor and Chris Barley.  The 1st Eight was won by Matthew Essick and Sherif Abdelwahab came in second.
 
Even though this was a no-frills tournament, the event had three dinners.  On Wednesday, opening night festivities included a players meeting and a dinner on the grill with an open bar (actually there was an open bat all week).  Saturday night was a tidewater country feast with steamed crabs, southern fried chicken and pulled pork,  Friday night was a Dutch treat dinner from a local restaurant that fed everyone during our PCA business meeting.  The PCA is an open structured organization and all players are invited to attend the PCA meetings.  The goals, plans and operating guidelines are on the PCA website for everyone to see.  It was decided that the PCA will schedule at least 4 events for next year, 2021 and the entry fee will be raised slightly to increase the payout to players.  The new model for entry fees is $250 with $150 of that going to the purse, $75 going to the host club and the remaining $25 paying expenses incurred by the PCA.  A schedule for 2021 PCA events will come out soon and here is what we are planning at this point:

  • A late winter event in Florida (venue to be determined),
  • An American 6-Wicket (Advanced Rules) tournament at Chesapeake Bay on April 30 - May 2 (date and venue are confirmed)
  • An AC event at Pinehurst - tentatively scheduled for June 5 - 7.
  • A GC event in July (venue TBD)
Mixed in with these PCA tour events wlll be several tour qualifying tournaments.  The 2021 PCA events are planned to be 3-day tournaments with a modified Swiss format.

 
2020 PCA PRO Tour AC Event - Money Round Finishing Order

1    Matthew Essick
2    Zack Watson
3    Sherif Abdelwahab
3    Chris Barley
5     Macey White
5     Shane Hettler
5     Danny Huneycutt
5     Stephen Morgan
9     Tom Balding
9     Jim Bast
9     Rick Darnell
9     Lee Jorde
9     Adam Lassiter
9     Rodney Lassiter
9     Dan Pailas
9     Mike Taylor
17   Rob Byrd
17   Calvert Chaney
17   Jay Hughes
17   Thomas Hughes
17   Karin Karel
17   Sandra Knuth
17   Bo Prillaman
17   Pat Richmond
17  Steve Thurston

1st Eight Finishing Order                                      
1    Matthew Essick                                                                           
2    Sherif Abdelwahab                                                                    
3    Dan Pailas                                                                                 
4    Zack Watson                                                                           
4    Stephen Morgan                                                                         
6    Tom Balding                                                                                    
7    Danny Huneycutt                                                                     
7    Jim Bast     

2nd Eight Finishing Order     
1   Chris Barley
1    Mike Taylor
3    Shane Hettler
4    Adam Lassiter
4    Jay Hughes
6    Lee Jorde
7    Tom Hughes

3rd Eight Finishing Order 
1    Sandy Knuth
2    Rodney Lassiter
2    Calvert Chaney
4    Rick Darnell
4    Rob Byrd
6    Steve Thurston
7    Bo Prillaman
8    Karin Karel                
9    Pat Richmond

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