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Croquet stirs the competitive juices at retirement community
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Croquet stirs the competitive juices at retirement community

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Dan Pearson watches Russ Cockman take a shot in the men’s doubles division of the Arbor Acres’ annual croquet tournament.

The golfers, all polished and sporty, like to chide the croquet players.

“We’ll play croquet,” they say, “when we aren’t physically able to play golf.”

Chan Chandler has heard it for years. On behalf of his fellow croquet players at Arbor Acres, Chandler has a retort ready.

“We tell them, ‘We’ll take up golf when we’re mentally unable to play croquet,’” Chandler said with a chuckle. “We love to goose them.”

Croquet is serious business at Arbor Acres, a retirement community between Reynolda Road and University Parkway.

It’s fun, too, of course, which is why so many folks pack their walker and oxygen tanks and head to the neighborhood’s pristine court for mental, social and, yes, physical stimulation.

About 60 residents, including some in their 90s, regularly play each week, making it, along with pool, one of the community’s most popular past times.

Chandler, 78, said the sport taps into the competitive spirit that stays with people, regardless of their age.

“We still have that competitive urge,” Chandler said. “It’s honestly addictive. People hear ‘croquet’ and roll their eyes. And in a manner of weeks, they’re addicted to it. That pattern repeats itself over and over.”

The community recently finished its annual fall tournament. Each winner gets a tiny, handmade trophy because “nobody has any space (in their homes),” said Chandler’s wife, Winborne, 76.

The community has a professional grade court that is populated with players throughout the year. During COVID-19, it was a safe activity for older folks who couldn’t see their families.

“It was a reason for people to get up and get out,” Winborne Chandler said.

Henry Jordan, 86, is a former soccer player at Duke University.

He started playing because “they kept on pursuing me.”

The sport involves knocking a ball through a hoop with a wooden mallet. Players can knock each other’s balls out of the way to make it more difficult for them.

“It’s the same as with soccer; you have to watch the ball,” Jordan said.

Charles Duckett, 89, served as the director of the fall tournament. He started playing croquet after tweaking his back playing golf, leading to back surgery.

“I decided there was no way I was going to hit another golf ball,” Duckett said. “So I took up croquet.”

Duckett plays once or twice a week.

“We have fun,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”

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