Mountain Brook Croquet Club continues tradition of honoring founding member

Mountain Brook Croquet Club
The Mountain Brook Croquet Club is more than just a club. (Michael Seale / Bham Now)

*This story was written by Michael Seale, Hville Blast’s Managing Producer.

On Saturday, August 23, I participated in a yearly tradition that my croquet club has held since 2006, when one of the founding members of the club, Jim Sulzby, passed away.

The Jim Sulzby IV Memorial Tournament has been held every year since Jim’s passing, and even as members of the club – founded in 2001 by Jim and a handful of lawn sports enthusiasts – have gotten older, moved, had life-changing events and the like, this tradition has remained a fabulous event.

I feel somewhat awkward “reporting” on the tournament this year because I actually was the winner of this year’s tournament, along with my partner, Miller Conaway, so writing about the tournament is less about who won and more about why the tournament and the club exists.

Origins of the Mountain Brook Croquet Club

Mountain Brook Croquet Club
Let’s start at the beginning. (Michael Seale / Bham Now)

The club was started as the Crestline Park Lawn Sports Society, where roughly a dozen folks would convene at Crestline Park and play croquet with a cheap croquet set and a vague understanding of the rules.

The club grew as word got out about it, and it reached more than 20 members at one point. The club caught the attention of Mountain Brook resident and croquet enthusiast Arthur Bagby, who has a beautiful regulation-size croquet lawn on his property on Shook Hill Road.

Arthur invited us to play on his court, and eventually, the club stopped playing at Crestline Park and resumed play at the Bagby house. The CPLSS was eventually renamed the Mountain Brook Croquet Club.

Mountain Brook Croquet Club
From croquet club to camaraderie. (Michael Seale / Bham Now)

When Jim passed away in 2006, the club held its first tournament of any kind at Lake Wehapa, with friends and family of Jim’s in attendance. 

Over the years, we have improved our skills enough to hold multiple tournaments during the year, and some members have even gone on to compete in United States Croquet Association tournaments throughout the country.

But this particular tournament holds special meaning because the club likely would not exist if not for Jim getting all of us involved in the sport.

“Jim introduced all of us to a great hobby that we have continued to engage in for more than 20 years. This tournament is not just a tribute to Jim’s life, but also a tribute to what he brought to our lives, even to those members of the club who didn’t know him.”

Todd Russell, Original Member, Crestline Park Lawn Sports Society

The 2022 tournament

Mountain Brook Croquet Club
An ode to Jim Sulzby. (Michael Seale / Bham Now)

The 2022 Jim Sulzby IV Memorial Tournament was played with a Waterford Doubles format, and the final best-of-three matchup featured Miller and me against Eddie Greenhalgh and Lee Yielding. 

Despite being the lower seed and Lee having not lost all day, Miller and I were able to sweep Lee and Eddie in two games.

The best part of the tournament, however, is the pageantry at the end when Jim’s parents, Jim and Robin Sulzby, present the winner’s cup and the group toasts to Jim and remembers his legacy. 

Always room for more players

Mountain Brook Croquet Club
The Mountain Brook Croquet welcomes you to join. (Michael Seale / Bham Now)

The Mountain Brook Croquet Club welcomes new players of any skill set, and is always looking for more people to share the game with. 

Anyone wishing to learn more about croquet and the Mountain Brook Croquet club can contact Arthur Bagby at arthurbagby@gmail.com.

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