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The Columbia Star
Columbia, South Carolina
January 22, 2004     The Columbia Star
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January 22, 2004

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JANUARY 22. 2004 " 7 E COl U M B I A People The current issue Metropolitan contains a spe- called To... story, written by Sam included a cap- of my life since along with of former NFL Donnie Shell; Dr. Hayes, a noted archer and professor University of Berkeley; and WIS television Betsy ckenridge. The stories were written, but I must up one misconcep- that has been made for well over a years. The writer "Jim writes a weekly for a local news- and wins national for croquet at his home in I need to part about cro- My involvement the game started in when John Rivers, a businessman croquet enthusiast ETV to consider feature on rising popularity they doing out there?" Croquet had evolved. This new six wicket game called for larger, more pre- cise equipment and com- pletely level courts clipped as close as putting greens. There were now 80+ rules and sub-rules. Adopted by Jack Osborne and a group of croquet fanatics, Six Wicket Croquet had led to their founding of the US Croquet Association in West Palm Beach. The game had become a real sport involving tactics and strategy more like chess and billiards combined. I was a bit edgy and nervous as I sought out John Rivers to find out more about the tourna- ment and pairings. Singles competition had been going on for three days with world champi- ons from seven foreign countries and the top players from the US. The doubles pro-am matches would go on for three additional days and would pair noted amateur play- ers from USCA clubs around the country with national or international champions. I was paired with Damon Bidencope, origi- nally from Sydney, New Over time the sport South Wales, Australia, moved from 14th cen- who had come to the US French peasantry to to develop a croquet pro- royalty and final- gram at the Meadowood the late 1800s, to Resort in Napa Valley, lerica. " "a|ifornia. " In the 1920s croquet, : a Donfrstbegan favorite at gatherings of New high society and lit- elite. In the 40s cro- became a backyard I learned to play the sloping front lawn farm house in and more often my shots ended in the lilac bushes. In 1990 Tom Fowler, director of news public affairs, asked to take the role of par- porter in the Annual Chattooga Croquet Challenge John Rivers' new resort in the Blue Mountains near North Carolina. little trepidation, I I would enter the in the pro-am tournament and be helped around greensward with a champion. Tom ,sey would produce the for weekly Carolina iustrated series. Although I had not a ball through a wick- ..... since 1948, I felt fairly I bought a cro- at Wal-Mart, one those $25 sets with wire wickets and all mallets. I easily hit balls around my front maneuvering the wisteria and roots, and in no time myself ready do battle in Cashiers. What a surprise dlle and I had as we the Chattooga grounds to face a expanse of the green- and flattest lawn I ever seen in my life. were men in white with really big hitting really big across the lawn very tight iron playing croquet in 1978 while a student of archi- tecture and science at Sydney University. He had subsequently won seven US National Titles and in 1989 became the first player to ever win both the USCA National Singles and the International Rules National Singles Titles. Damon helped ease my fears. He showed me how to hold the mallet, how to swng it in a straight line, and assured me he would familiarize me with the rules and strategy as we played. The following morning, Damon and I were pitted against Reid Fleming, Canada's National Champion and Kathleen Rivers, John's wife, social chairman of the weeklong event and accomplished croquet player. She whis- pered to me, "This is a very competitive sport and we get deadly serious. I told John it might not be fair asking you to play, that it might be embar- rassing for you. John said a George Plimpton style approach to the story would be a good angle." I took a deep breath and hit the first ball of the match. My shot went sailing through number one wick- et. And the games began. Damon coached me through every shot and when I got in trouble, he bailed me out and set me up for another good one. Thanks to his skill, patience, instruction on the court, and a lot of beginner's luck on my part, we won all four matches and found our- selves in the winners cir- cle at the Sunday OVER $427 MILLION TO EDUCATION AND COUNTING. Fences that keep folks out often trap others inside. In August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fences, l?oy Maxson--father, husband, and former baseball player in the Negro League wants his sons to have the best, but echoes from Troy's past prevent him from helping hem do what's best. Dynamic, relevant drama fiom one of America's most honored writers. January 30-February 11, 8 pm Box office opens January 26, noon to 5 pm daily 799-65)'" 1 * of.gouth Carolina Bui/z/ig t/e m.'z -tage Dt t/,e /,e'art fff (}o/umbia \\;X'orkshop Theatre of Somh (',arolina " (:(mcr of Bull and (crwiis S*rects My first reaction "What in blazes are Jim with 1990 US Croquet Singles Champion Damon Bidencope Champagne Brunch. Joe Hogan of Auckland, New Zealand, won the Singles Trophy and then John Rivers announced, "Our doubles championship has been won by a first-timer. Jim Welch had never played six wicket croquet in his life and is now un- defeated with his first four games. The doubles championship trophy goes to Damon Bidencope and Jim Welch." Riding down the mountain that Sunday afternoon with the first place silver trophy in my lap, I said to Ceille, "I think I'll take up croquet." "Go for it," she said. The next year we built a croquet lawn and in 1992 chartered our club, Ryegate, with USCA. Since that time I have introduced the sport to scores of players in the Midlands. Johnny Jackson is one of the best. After a few months of instruction and play he started beat- ing me. I haven't won a game since. However, my croquet ego was soothed some- what last year when Ceille and I were visiting the USCA Headquarters in West Palm Beach. We were playing a match in front of the clubhouse when Archie Peck, USCA pro announced the winner of the national award for most outstanding effort for promoting involvement and awareness of the sport on National Croquet Day 2003. "Ryegate Croquet Club of Hopkins, S.C." My next goal in life is to beat Johnny Jackson in a regulationmach,, , Stay .tuned. January 7, 2004, marks the South Carolina Education Lotlery's second anniversary, and slate the Iollery began tens of thousands of sludenls have benefited from Ionery funds. Lottery dollars have provided academic enhancement for children in grades K-5; others hove benefited tom the new and improved school buses that have been added to the state's fleet; while numerous sludents are offending college on Iotlery-funded scholarships. /where the ' Money uoes For more information on the programs Iotlery funds support or for information on how to apply for a Iollery-funded scholarship, pick up one of the brochures to the left from your fovorile lottery retailer, or downlond them from the "How Education Wins" sectinns of our website at "lf l didn't have the Life Scholarship, college would be a financial burden for my family."