When Andrew Hutchinson began to build the bridge between the cue and finger islands of the crokinole landscape, he brought with it an affinity for pink button down shirts, a large and unusual vocabulary of crokinole terms, and a comically high frequency of 5th place finishes. Already the most accomplished cues/fingers hybrid on the crokinole circuit, in Owen Sound Andrew Hutchinson joined the ranks of NCA title holders by earning a stellar victory over Ray Beierling in the final.
The Scenic City Crokinole Classic always brings a large hometown contingent, along with a well structured team of organizers, that reflect the plentiful number of crokinole clubs in the region. Total competitors were up slightly to 55 this year, even despite some last minute cancellations, with 21 players taking part in the competitive singles, and another 17 teams in the recreational doubles event.
In the morning play, Andrew Hutchinson qualified in first place with 59 points and a tournament high 111 20s through 10 games (including the only perfect round of the morning in his match against Nolan Tracey). Ray Beierling was just behind with 58 points and 96 20s, followed by Jeremy Tracey and Robert Bonnett. Grabbing the final spot in Pool A for the afternoon was Jo-Ann Carter with 40 points, just edging out Bob Jones who scored 38 points, and made two spectacular shots in his morning game against Jeremy Tracey.
The Recreational Doubles category featured a round robin with the top scores determining the final results. Kingston's Wayne and Jennifer Scott finished 6th with 65 points. Brayden Kelner and Noah Buckrell earned 5th place with 75 points in their first NCA event. They were just behind Neil and Carol Cook scoring 76 points for 4th, and Dave McCormick and Darren Carr who scored 78 points for 3rd. The battle for top spot was remarkable as Perry and Peter Carter and John Lichty and Ron Langill matched each other stride for stride, and both ended the day with 84 points. The tiebreaker, and the tournament title, went to the first time partnership of John Lichty and Ron Langill, thanks to their mark of 101 20s, superior to the 81 from the Carters.
In the afternoon session, Pool B was led by Eric Miltenburg, who's 55 points easily pushed him into the top spot. Behind him were Howard Martin (47 points), Bob Jones (46) and Ron Reesor (44) to advance to the final four. Dale Henry found himself in the undesired 5th place spot, but with a not-so-desolating gap of 5 points from the playoff cutoff.
The Pool B winner was decided with a final four round robin. Howard Martin, Bob Jones and Ron Reesor all traded victories among themselves, making for a tight grouping. But Eric Miltenburg continued his supremacy, winning each game 6-2 to take the Pool B title. Bob Jones would finish 2nd with 11 points, ahead of Ron Reesor at 10, and Howard Martin at 8.
In Pool A, a group of 3 clearly separated themselves as the best in the bunch, while another group of 3 couldn't manage to find any separation between themselves at all. Ray Beierling earned the top spot with 54 points through 10 games. Andrew Hutchinson and Robert Bonnett filed in behind at 52 points each. Ray Beierling's 99 20s were the best score of the group, just ahead of 98 20s from Hutchinson, but it was Hutchinson who once again scored the only perfect round when he did so against Clare Kuepfer.
It was a gap of 8 points until the 4th and final spot in the playoffs, and it was Reid Tracey, Jeremy Tracey and Nathan Walsh who all tied at 44 points. In their head-to-head games, Jeremy Tracey had earned a 5-3 victory over Walsh, but had been beaten 8-0 by Reid Tracey, and Reid's playoff birth was secured with a 4-4 tie to Walsh. Finishing 8th in his first NCA event was Joe Klages, who put on an impressive debut, highlighted by... well a string of highlight shots in his second round game against Jon Conrad.
Clare Kuepfer and Nolan Tracey also made some highlights as they traded follow-through 20s in their second round match.
So the final 4 round robin was set. Ray Beierling was making his 3rd straight final 4 in Owen Sound, and 5th in 6 attempts at the tournament. Robert Bonnett was making his 2nd final 4 in Owen Sound, and his first final 4 appearance since the 2017 World Championships, while Reid Tracey found himself in his first ever top 4.
And for Andrew Hutchinson, it was his first final 4 in Owen Sound. In 2015 he had made his fingers debut and won Pool B: a terrific start. In 2016 he finished 5th for the first time in his NCA career: clearly he was on a mission to exercise demons.
The Final 4 round robin games began in a deadlocked fashion with Beierling/Tracey and Bonnett/Hutchinson both drawing 4-4. Beierling then edged into first place with a 6-2 win over Bonnett, while Hutchinson and Tracey tied their game, leaving everything to play for in the final game of the round robin.
Hutchinson earned a 3rd straight draw to Beierling to finish with 12 points, sitting behind Beierling's 14, and only able to advance if Bonnett and Tracey tied, or if Bonnett beat Tracey 5-3. Bonnett led his final game against Tracey 5-1, but Tracey managed to pull out the last 2 points, causing both Bonnett and Tracey to finish at 11 points, and setting up a Hutchinson vs Beierling final.
The spread of 14 points in 1st, to 11 points in 4th was incredibly tight, but in fact it wasn't the closest top 4 round robin that crokinole has seen. In 2016, the Owen Sound C Pool was won by Derek McKie with 13 points, while the other 3 players scored 12, 12 and 11 points. Making a tournament final after drawing 3 straight games also isn't unheard of in Owen Sound, as Nathan Walsh accomplished the feat in 2014, before being defeated by Ray Beierling in the final.
Amazingly, coming into the match, Ray Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson had already played each other 5 times in elimination games. Hutchinson won the first meeting, but since Beierling had earned 4 straight victories.
Beierling v Hutchinson H2H
- 2016 Hamilton Semifinal: Hutchinson def Beierling 6-4, 6-2
- 2016 London Final: Beierling def Hutchinson 10-0
- 2016 New York Semifinal: Beierling def Hutchinson 10-4
- 2017 London Semifinal: Beierling def Hutchinson 9-7
- 2018 ODCC Semifinal: Beierling/Beierling def Hutchinson/Reinman
The first to 11 points final began beautifully for Hutchinson, as he made several hangar 20s that were left by Ray Beierling in the first round, to open the match with a steal of 2 points. Hutchinson would similarly get the edge in the second round thanks to a hangar 20 to extend his advantage to 4-0.
Ray Beierling would get on the board in the 3rd round after getting an early open 20 miss from Hutchinson, which he successfully defended. The next 3 rounds would proceed similarly with the first shooting player missing first, and the hammer holding solidly without too much drama, leading to an 8-4 Hutchinson scoreline.
Round 7 would prove to be pivotal, as Ray Beierling, trailing in the 20 count, pressed hard for a follow-through 20 that ultimately came up short. Hutchinson, perhaps showing some nerves, got a roughly-hit hangar 20 to go, but then promptly eliminated all the nerves on his next shot, scoring a terrific follow-through 20 of his own to go up 10-4. Hutchinson would clinch the match in the next round following a couple more hangar 20 conversions, to win the match and the Scenic City Crokinole Classic, 12-4.
So Andrew Hutchinson follows in the paths of Louis Gauthier (2013) and Roy Campbell (2015), who both also won their first NCA titles at the Scenic City Crokinole Classic, while Ray Beierling unfortunately finishes as the runner-up for the 3rd year in a row, following those two spectacular finals he had against Jon Conrad in 2016 and 2017.
While Hutchinson doesn't own the NCA record for 5th place finishes, since he joined the NCA Tour, no one has been 5th more often. But with Hutchinson winning his first NCA title at the site of his first 5th place finish, are the 5th place demons now gone? Time will have to tell.
NCA Tournament 5th Place Finishes
|Player||# 5th Place Finishes||Since Fall 2015|
The next NCA Tour stop is in January of 2019, when the crokinole crowd heads to land where 20s grow on trees: Hamilton, Ontario. For the 2018-2019 Tour, only 3 events remain. Justin Slater leads the pack, but both Ray Beierling and Jason Beierling are one tournament victory away from drawing dead even at the top of pack, while Andrew Hutchinson, Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey all eye their career-best Tour finishes in 2019.
2018-2019 NCA Tour Standings