The 2019 World Crokinole Championship saw a very familiar face take home the top prize. Congratulations to Justin Slater on a record breaking 5th WCC Singles title. The reason for this quick post is to mention this year’s “Here I Am.” This year Darren Carr snuck into the top 16 by one point and then proceeded to finish 2nd in the A Pool. From there, he defeated Connor Rienman and gave Justin Slater a very good battle in the final. Seemingly out of nowhere, perhaps, but upon a little closer look, he followed the path of Nathan Walsh in 2008-09. (Winning the Recreational title and finishing 2nd the following year in Competitive) From what I saw, Darren played a very steady, calculated, and conservative game. All eyes are now on him to see how he does in future events. Well done Darren!
The World Crokinole Championship (WCC) is now entering its 21st year. The annual tournament has drawn players from around the world. This entry will focus on the competitive singles finger division, which is the most prestigious category at the event. Over the 20 year span of the WCC, there have been 11 unique champions. Let’s look closely at 3 specific past champions who seemingly came out of nowhere to claim their first title.
1999 – everything was a surprise in the first year.
2000 – Jon Conrad, perhaps in his first WCC tournament earns a 4th place finish. Jon would go on to victories in 2012 and 2013 and surprises no one to this day.
2001 – Paul Hartman and Robert Steckley finish 2nd and 3rd respectively perhaps also in their first entry at the WCC. Both of these players have been away from the WCC for several years now.
2002 – Dan Taylor earns a 4th place finish in his first WCC event. He would go on to finish as high as 3rd place in 2004, but has not been back for several years. Jason Beierling also finishes 2nd and breaks into the top 4 for the first time. This is a precursor to his 2006 victory.
2003 – No real surprises in the top 4, although Ray Beierling breaks through for his first of 10 top 4 appearances, tied for most appearances overall with Brian Cook.
2004 – Mervin Wice, a previous non qualifying top 16 player opens eyes with a 4th place finish. This is currently Mervin’s highest finish although he did win a 20s championship in 2008.
2005 – Bruce Hartung literally comes from out of nowhere and takes home the top prize.
2006 – Blain Patterson claims 4th place overall and has no known previous or post top 16 finish.
2007 – First year that all of the top 4 finishers had a previous top 4 finish.
2008 – Rob Mader Jr. finishes 3rd. Although Rob is known in the local crokinole community, based on his previous results, this finish was unforeseen.
2009 – Nathan Walsh finishes 2nd to Brian Cook. Looking back, this may not have been as big of a surprise as thought by many. Nathan had won the Intermediate Championship in 2006 and 2007 and was fresh off of the Recreational Championship in 2008. Never the less, he made a huge statement that he was a major player in his first Competitive WCC event.
2010 – Eric Miltenberg coming off of a 9th place finish the previous year, ends up with a 4th overall in what I believe was only his 2nd or 3rd WCC Competitive entry.
2011 - Paul Brubacher and Tom Johnston end the day 3rd and 4th respectively. Not new to the WCC or crokinole regulars, they both achieve career best WCC finishes and beat out other favourites such as Jason Beierling, Justin Slater, Jon Conrad and Nathan Walsh.
2012 – No new surprises in the top 4 this year. The interesting note this year is that Jon Conrad beat out 3 previous champions including, Justin Slater, Brian Cook and Ray Beierling to win his first of 2 consecutive championships.
2013 – Ray Haymes rolls to a stop in 2nd place. Although Ray had great success in Doubles action with his father over the years, his solid play had not resulted in high finishes in singles. He elevated his game to a career high at the WCC this year.
2014 – Matt Brown enters the top 4 at the WCC for the first time. Not a huge surprise to those who had been following Matt’s play the previous few years, but he did beat out previous champions Ray Beierling (5th) and Jon Conrad (6th) who was fresh off of his 2 consecutive Championships.
2015 – Roy Campbell earns a 3rd overall placing. In perhaps his 4th year at the WCC (and playing competitive crokinole) and a previous best finish of 15th, Roy shocked the crokinole world with his career best WCC singles performance. Robert Bonnett also cracked the top 4 for the first time. He had previously won the Recreational title in 2006 and 2012 and came off two consecutive top 16 finishes of 13th (2013) and 12th (2014). He also went on to win the Championship in 2017.
2016 – No huge eye openers this year, although Ray Kappes makes a return to the top 4 after a 10 year drought.
2017 - Connor Reinman and Nathan Jongsma finish 3rd and 4th. Connor, I believe, becomes the first non-Canadian to finish in the top 4 at the WCC in Competitive Singles. This after a very short competitive crokinole fingers experience. After several years competing at the WCC with up and down results, Nathan, with his laid back style, surprised even himself and made the top 4 and loved every second of it.
2018 – No “here I am,” in the top 4 this year as, for the first time, all 4 qualifiers were returning champions. A slight shock to some maybe that it was Jason Beierling’s first top 4 finish since his Championship in 2006. Also, it is the first time both partners of a doubles team made both the top 4 in doubles and singles in the same year (Ray and Jason Beierling), and it is the first set of brothers (or any family relation) to make the top 4 together.
2019 – This is to be determined. Will any non favourites make a surprise visit to the top 4 or possibly take home the top spot? The good news is we will not have to wait long to find out as the 21st Annual World Crokinole Championship is coming up on Saturday June 1st, 2019, in Tavistock, Ontario, Canada.
In 2011, Julian Chalmers, a then 13 (I believe) year old stone cold 20 shooter earns 5th place overall. Hailing from British Columbia and honing his skill in China, only participants who attended the Oliver BC Crokinole Championships would have predicted this.
Ezra Yantzi announces his presence at the WCC in 2012 with a solid 8th place finish. He would go on to finish as high as 7th a few years later and has currently switched over to cues play.
Recently I was asked which Crokinole Club is the best? I replied by saying they are all great. Anytime you have people playing crokinole, it is going to be a good time. The discussion moved along to other things from there, but the question was bouncing around in my head like a misplayed take out. My thought holder has got the best of me again, and I need to try to answer this slippery question properly and hopefully with some statistical evidence for validation.
There are great clubs everywhere and some have been around for several decades. Preston and St. Jacobs come to mind if you are talking longevity. I heard the rumour more than once in the 90’s that if you wanted to join the St. Jacobs club, you had to put your name on the waiting list, fill in as a spare whenever called upon, and wait for someone to fall ill and/or pass on. They had a club with an extremely large group of faithful and loyal members. The Preston club has been playing officially since 1933 and seems to be still going strong. While both these clubs have had some of the best individual players over the years, there was no way to determine which club was the best. That was until in 1993 when the Joseph Schneider Haus (JSH) Museum in Kitchener Ontario hosted the first annual Crokinole Team event. The event placed 4 team or club members up against several other clubs in a round robin singles format. Since inception, 3 teams, including St. Jacobs, Cameron Heights Teachers and Varna, have dominated the event. Naturally, this is the first place to look to determine which club is the best of all time. The event was won by Cameron Heights or St. Jacobs for the first 14 out of 15 years. In that span Cameron Heights won 8 times and St. Jacobs won 6. No other team had anywhere near the depth that those two groups had. Varna, Preston, Mannheim and any other club that entered, were all fighting for 3rd place. So the group has been narrowed down to two clubs and the problem deciding between the two is that outside the JSH Event, up until 1999, there was only one other regular tournament happening that I am aware of. The annual St. Jacobs Tournament was being dominated by Joe Fulop, the Cameron Heights Teachers rarely attended, and since I do not have much detailed documentation on it, it is of little value determining which club is the best.
Before I go any further, there are two side notes to be aware of. Both St. Jacobs’s and Cameron Heights Teachers played doubles in their clubs pretty much all the time, and Cameron Heights played with a couple of different rules. More specifically, they had a differing free or open shot rule and had to hit the opposing disc directly with their shooter, among other slight variations. In my opinion, these rules put Cameron Heights at a disadvantage when it came to playing at events they were not hosting.
Fortunately in 1999, the World Crokinole Championship (WCC) begins. The event attracted attention from around the world, but obviously, highlighted local talent. Most of the best players show up and the results from the JSH and the WCC together will help determine possibly the best crokinole club ever.
From 2000-2005 the Cameron Heights Teachers won the JSH Event 5 of 6 years. At the WCC, from 2000-2006 in Doubles play, they amassed a total of 9 top 4 finishes by 6 different players including 4 consecutive wins from 2002-2005, by 3 separate pairings. This time frame also saw 3 top 4 finishes in the WCC Singles event, and 12 top 16 finishes by 7 unique players. To top it off, they even added a 20s title in 2004, when Jarmo Puiras dumped in a record 108 20’s which would stand for 7 years before being eclipsed in 2012.
Therefore, by examining any 5-6 year window since 1999, I subjectively conclude, by the JSH and WCC results, the fact that they played by different rules and still dominated (especially in doubles play), and had the club depth that they did, that the Cameron Heights Teachers of 2000-2006 is one of, if not the best Crokinole Club ever.
In case you are wondering, some of the names in this club included, Paul Hartman, Barry Kiggins, Julie Neeb, Mark Seupersaud, Jarmo Puiras, Elvis Husic, Tony Snyder, and some guy named Jon Conrad. I know there were more, but this was the main group.
WCC Doubles Titles (2000-2006) by Cameron Heights Teams
2002 - Julie Neeb & Barry Kiggins
2003 - Jon Conrad & Paul Hartman
2004 - Tony Snyder & Jarmo Purias
2005 - Jon Conrad & Paul Hartman
JSH Winning Teams (2000-2006)
2000 Cameron Heights
2001 Cameron Heights
2002 St. Jacobs
2003 Cameron Heights
2004 Cameron Heights
2005 Cameron Heights
2006 St. Jacobs
I would enjoy entertaining any feedback, differing opinions, thoughts or challenges.
The First Win
After participating in the Scenic City Crokinole Tournament on Saturday November 24th 2018 in Owen Sound, a few questions were bouncing around in my thought holder. The questions with the most bounce were how many unique or first time winners exist on the National Crokinole Association (NCA) Tour and how long does it generally takes before one’s first victory occurs? Also, who will be the next first time winner? These questions were triggered based on Andrew Hutchinson’s much deserved first victory on the Tour. Since then I have looked back on some tournament stats that I have compiled over the years, and came up with some answers.
1.There have been 29 unique winners in 125 events since the Tour started in 2008. That stated, every year the tour has seen at least one first time winner.
2.First wins have come anywhere from 1 to 29 events, according to the stats. There seems to be a good balance of players who have achieved their first victory in the 1–10, 11-20 and 20-29 events played range.
To analyze the player that triggered the bouncing, Andrew Hutchinson claimed his first victory competing in his 22nd event on Tour. When he joined the tour in 2015 he had just converted from a strictly cues player to a fingers player. He had great success in cues, and had grown fond of the game, but realized that the World Crokniole Championship was pretty much the only cues event around. For Andrew to play more crokinole, he had to switch to fingers. By playing cues at the highest level, Andrew had a step up on most newcomers to the game. He had a great understanding of shot selection and strategy. In his first competitive fingers tournament (fittingly enough in Owen Sound) he placed 9th and followed that up with a 2nd place finish in Hamilton. He became an instant threat and top contender. Now on everyone’s radar, Andrew placed 2nd in London proving that he was not a random take out, bounce off two posts, twenty, kind of player. He is the real deal. He rounded out the season with a 7th in St. Jacobs. In the 2016-17 Season, Andrew played in 6 tournaments with an average finish of 4.2. An incredible achievement for a 2nd year player. This season included three 5th place finishes, which led to a little inside joke in which several players would ask who made the top 4 and who was 6th? During the 2017-18 season Andrews finishing average slipped a little, but not deterred, he has found his form in 2018. He has only missed the top 4 once, (yes, a 5th place finish at Tavistock) and has found victory circle in Owen Sound.
Can Andrew win again? Yes. The real questions are when and how many times? With the 4th best average finishing position in Tour history (minimum 10 events) of 5.3, a passion for the game and now this huge confidence boost, “The Hutch” is a threat to win every event he enters.
Who else took around 20 events to claim their first victory on the NCA Tour? Andrew Hutchinson is in elite company with names like, Ab Leitch (19), Jon Conrad (19), Robert Bonnett (20), Jason Beierling (23), and Roy Campbell (27).
3. Based on the numbers and looking at players who are hunting for the elusive first win, Jeremy Tracey has the best overall average finish at 6.7 and so far this season has a 5.2 finishing average. Right behind him would be his son Reid. Reid has shown steady improvement and earned his first top 4 in Owen Sound. There are plenty of other notables and anyone can win at any given event, I have just been looking at the numbers.
With these questions answered, I feel both a little relief and more intrigue.