2023 USCA Northeast Regional AC Championship

Preston Stuart (3rd place), Stuart Lawrence (Winner), and Chris Barley (Runner-up).

The USCA held its first Northeast Regional Championship since 2019 over the Memorial Day long weekend, returning to the last pre-Covid regional venue, the Lenox Croquet Club in the hills of western Massachusetts. As in 2019, the tournament was a singles-only Association Croquet event in one flight, with the size of the field limited to assure everyone lots of play.

While the tournament did not attract any of the country’s very best AC players, the seven entrants enjoyed wonderful sunny weather throughout and two lawns that were in excellent condition for this early in the Lenox season. Along with the delightful weather, the players and a few guests enjoyed breakfasts and lunches organized by Preston and Carol Stuart, a pizza night in the Lenox Club’s clubhouse up the hill, and toast and tally evenings in the croquet pavilion.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, top seed and tournament director Stuart Lawrence emerged victorious. Lawrence, who serves as the greenskeeper at the Lenox Croquet Club, clinched his second consecutive Northeast Regional with a 26tp-0 final win over Chris Barley of Orlando, Florida and Linville, North Carolina.

In block play, Northeast Regional VP Preston Stuart was the big surprise. With no previous sanctioned Association play under his belt he managed a 5-1 record, earning a bye in the quarter-final round. He bested more experienced players by a single hoop in several of the games, timed at 2 1/2 hours, pegging out in two.

The other newcomer to AC, Michael Jeary of the Rumson Country Club in New Jersey, was a fortuitous addition to the event. Having never played AC before the tournament, and with only a few years of tournament play behind him, he showed great sportsmanship and some terrific shot-making while absorbing a lot of assistance from more experienced players. He left with hopes for an AC-focused member event at his home club.

LCC president David Ekstrom, just returned from his winter home in Florida, showed off his usual smooth shotmaking. In the quarterfinal, he fell short by one point against Green Gables’ Tom Cooper. Cooper went on to meet Lawrence in the semifinal, losing an interactive 26-12 game that featured both good and not-so-good turns by both players.

In the other semifinal, Chris Barley beat Preston Stuart on time, 20-19. Preston was on a break from 2-back with his forward ball when time expired, forcing him to execute a peel on his partner ball and peg out the striker ball in order to tie the score. All that impressive maneuvering was for nought, though, as Chris replied by hitting the peg from 8 yards in his last turn to go up by one.

In the final, planned as a best-of-three match but played as a single game due to time constraints, Lawrence went around to 4-back and set a diagonal spread. Barley hit his lift shot from B-baulk, but failed hoop 1. Stuart hit in and proceeded to score the only triple peel in the tournament to take the title.

Championship Singles

1. Stuart Lawrence
2. Chris Barley
3. Tom Cooper
3. Preston Stuart
5. David Ekstrom
5. Webster Bull
7. Michael Jeary

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