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20.09.2006 Alter: 11 Jahre Tales from the Vienna Hoops (en)

VON: KLAUS GOLLHOFER

The third 'Wine Cup', held this year between 1st & 3rd September, is
Austria's Open Championship. However, its participants discovered that
their trip to Vienna was more than just a tournament; it was a most
enjoyable croquet-based holiday.

Heinz Hackl, his wife, Sabine, and several members of the Wolkersdorf
club work tirelessly to ensure that the tournament is a success - not
only for the players but also for croquet in Austria, which is now an
up-and-coming croquet nation with many improving players.

The drama began before the first ball was struck, when William Ormerod
arrived from the airport having picked up the wrong suitcase. While many
of us would have liked to see him play in pink tights and frilly top he
instead went off to the sports shop to replace his missing whites.

Heinz warns all that "This is not Hurlingham" but the club is inching
towards his ideal and many clubs in England would be pleased with the
playing surface and facilities. The two courts were easy-paced after
recent rain but ROT Charles Jones ensured the hoops were set very firmly
to provide enough of a challenge.

The first block saw Kevin Carter go through unbeaten to the semi-finals,
with Charles scrapping it out for second place. The second block
included the hot favourite to win, Tony le Moignan. However, Tony
dropped a game to the top Austrian player, Klaus Gollhofer, who picked
up a three ball break and completed after Tony had pegged out his first
ball. However, Tony still headed the block. John Cosier, who always
plays well in Wolkersdorf (2nd in 2004, winner in 2005), filled second
spot.

In the semis John fell to Kevin 2-0 and Charles to Tony with the same
match score. The highlight of the third of the three days was to be the
best-of-three final and Heinz had to balance the schedule to provide the
players enough time against the wishes of the club to provide a
spectacle for the knowledgeable crowd, the press and the mayor, who came
for the prizegiving.

When Tony clinically took the first game 26TP it looked as though there
would be an early finish. Even more so when he began the second in the
same vein, but blobbing six let in his opponent, who went round and
pegged-out Tony's forward ball. There was then a 2 balls vs 1
cat-and-mouse game which lasted until Tony hit a quarter of a ball, not
quite behind a hoop, from 25 yards. And so he completed his thoroughly
well-deserved victory to take the handsome trophy.

Third-place play-off went to Charles and Leopold Waldorf won the
consolation event, run as an Egyptian Handicap. This brings us to the
question of handicaps. The local players gave us a great time, and all
we visitors repaid them was to suggest that their handicaps be slashed
across the board, by about 20% each, to bring them into line with the
English system!

Our Viennese holiday was about more than just croquet. Heinz and his
friends laid on a complete programme of events, meals and sightseeing.
For instance, on the Monday following the tournament we visited the
Hapsburg palace at Schönbrunn, enjoyed a city tour and then had tickets
for a Mozart concert at the famous Musikverein. Earlier in the weekend
there was a Gala Dinner at an incredibly kitsch restaurant, which is
said to have been the favourite haunt of Emperor Franz Josef.

This was a memorable visit to Vienna, not only because the Wine Cup goes
from strength to strength, but also because we saw evidence of Austrian
croquet going in the same direction, largely because of it (for instance
one national newspaper printed a large colour photo with an explanation
of this "Very British Game"). Austria now has a score of players and we
can clearly identify at least three who have the potential to soon reach