Thursday, February 7, 2013
Like Life, Croquet Requires Hope
I had done nothing to improve my handicap (10) in last weekend’s tournament. Whatever points I gained by rolling up five straight victories in block play I had forfeited by losing twice in the playoff. So, because I don’t have a non-competitive bone in my body, and because I would like to lower my handicap in order to play better players in future tournaments, I had been looking forward to structured play as a way of picking up some points on my way to a handicap of 9. (Briefly, it takes 28 points to move one handicap level, say, from 10 to 9.)
And now again, I was losing.
But my losses in the tournament playoffs had taught me something, a lesson reinforced by a talk with Alan Cottle, winner of the championship flight in the tournament, handicap 0 (zero). After watching the dapper Brit run a winning four-ball break in his final match, I thanked him for the demonstration. One thing led to another and he finally said to me, and I have not yet forgotten it, “The final turn is the most important.” (Briefly, a croquet match lasts a set period, often 75 minutes, and when time expires each ball gets one final turn. Then the winner is the side with the most wickets.)
In each of my two matches yesterday afternoon, I saw my opponent go ahead, never by an insurmountable margin but enough to get me thinking I’ve lost. But the thought of the last turn stayed with me.
Anyone who has ever made big mistakes in their lives, anyone who has ever battled an addiction and loads himself with guilt over it, even anyone who has ever been in a shipwreck, knows what it feels like. Maybe it’s too late. I can never overcome the mistakes of my past. I have lost too much. I can never be forgiven for this . . .
Listen to Alan Cottle. Remember the last turn, always remember it.
In each of my two matches yesterday, I did enough on my last turn to win, by one wicket in the first match, by two wickets in the second. And I gained 14 points toward the 28 I need to lower my handicap to 9.
There’s always the chance that next Wednesday I will give up the gains I got yesterday.
Then again, there’s always hope.