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June 11 Sunday, October 22, 2006

Every year the Pacific Northwest plays host to the world's top croquet players when the International Croquet Invitational tournament comes to the Resort at the Mountain in Welches, Ore. Located at the base of Mt. Hood, about an hour east of Portland, the Resort features swimming, tennis, croquet, and lawn bowling, as well as 27 holes of golf. It also offers close access to skiing, fly fishing, and hiking.

The International Croquet Invitational isn't the backyard game you played as a kid any more than a Formula 1 race car is your red rocket wagon. It is played on a laser-flat surface covered with the same grasses as a golf green. The wickets are only 1/8" wider than the balls, and they don't flex.

There weren't a whole lot of spectators there, and most of the "crowd" was comprised of other players between games. There were some non-players, though, and the other players were on hand to explain the game to those less knowledgeable. The final match (a best-two-of-three affair) included live commentary.

In the final, South Africa's Reg Bamford (who is the top ranked player in the world) was flawless in beating Peter Landrebe of Australia, +26sxp, +26sxp. Basically, that means he ran the table twice in a row. In both games, Landrebe only had two shots to put his balls in play, and later one difficult shot that Bamford had allowed him at a strategic point in the game. Below, Bamford lines up one of his shots en route to winning the tournament final, worth $3,500. The Resort Invitational featured a $7,000 purse, the largest in croquet this year.