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Remembering a croquet legend

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Repeat visitor Edmund Prentis has been remembered as a well-loved and respected giant in the croquet world.

Known to friends as “Ted” or “Teddy”, the 68-year-old, who was on the island to take part in a croquet tournament, died in an accident last Thursday.

“It was a shocking loss for all that knew him,” Johnny Mitchell, former president of the United States Croquet Association, told The Royal Gazette.

“He was well known, loved, and respected not only in the USA but internationally by the entire croquet community.

“As a person, he was friends to everyone he met and anyone crossing his path were always touched by his huge personality.”

Mr Mitchell explained that his connection to Mr Prentis, and Mr Prentis's connection to Bermuda, was through croquet and that he was on his way to play in the tournament when the accident happened.

“He was very close friends with John and Nelga Young of Bermuda who have since passed and now succeeded by their grandson John Young III, who was hosting the croquet tournament.

“John, Helga, and Teddy were all members of the Croquet Hall of Fame which is housed at the National Croquet Centre in Florida. The Youngs were part of the early days of the founding of the Usca and responsible for bringing the sport to Bermuda.”

Mr Mitchell added that Mr Prentis was also an intricate part of the founding of the Usca and one of the most famous personalities, being considered the ultimate historian of the sport in the US.

“He won many national championships in his career and was one of the most notable instructors of the game having helped create the Usca school system with Bob Kroeger and producing a series of instructional videos as well as being a primary instructor at croquet schools across the country. Every aspect of the game and the organisation was touched by Teddy and was made better through his contributions.”

Mr Young recalled how he met the croquet legend through his grandparents and how Mr Prentis paved the way for more young people to get involved in the sport.

“Croquet, in those early days, comprised of mostly older, wealthy men,” Mr Young said. “There weren't too many ‘young' faces in the crowd and Teddy paved the way for many of us youngsters to get involved competitively. I remember Teddy telling me of the early years of the Bermuda Invitational — he would show up wearing white slacks, white dress shirt and a tie, trying his hardest to get an invite.

“My grandfather would always tell him, ‘Sorry Teddy, not this year. Perhaps next year.' And Teddy would show up again ... only to be told next year, again.”

Having finally been given the green light to play, Mr Prentis went on to win the tournament for the fist time in 1980 and again in 1993, 1994 and 1995. And Mr Young added: “Teddy also won a number of Doubles titles in Bermuda, none so unforgettable as when he won it with my grandmother.”

Describing Mr Prentis as a croquet historian, “simply because he lived all those historic moments”, he added: “Teddy was special to me. He was a mentor of the sport, and I was a good listener. I loved to hear all the stories.”

Mr Young noted two things that stood out “above a multitude of others”; after he beat Mr Prentis in the semifinals of the Westhampton Mallet Club Invitational in 2009, the same club where Mr Prentis hit his first ball as a teenager, Mr Prentis approached him and told him “how proud my grandparents would have been to see me play with such beauty on the lawn”.

This meant the world to Mr Young, who also recalled when Mr Prentis came to visit his grandmother after growing concerned over her health.

“Within a few months he was on- island and in my grandmother's living room, laughing and telling stories of the old days.

“She died two years later. That was Teddy — always thinking about others before himself. I loved the man and I miss him very much.”

Tributes to Mr Prentis also flooded in on Facebook, with Usca president Sara Lows describing him as “a giant in the croquet world”.

Noting that he was inducted in the US Croquet Hall of Fame in 1989, she added: “Throughout his life, he held eight Usca national titles and served as director of the Usca's National School in addition to winning or running an uncountable number of club tournaments and teaching positions.

“We all loved him for his athletic ability in the sport, his knowledge of and position within its history, his commitment to teaching us to improve our play and his great sense of humour.”

Mr Prentis was born in New York City in 1948 and he attended Columbia University in New York. He grew up in various parts of the US and attended boarding school at a young age, but home was in Westhampton Beach in New York.

Familiar sight: Edmund Prentis at the 2011 National Club Teams tournament at the National Croquet Centre in West Palm Beach, Florida (Photograph by Johnny Mitchell)
Well loved and respected: Teddy Prentis, who earned a global croquet reputation (Photograph supplied by John Young)
Picture of concentration: this photo was taken at the Cox Estate in Westhampton Beach LI, home of the Westhampton Mallet Club, in the mid-60s. Mr Prentis is in the distance on the right in the striped shirt - he would have been 17 or 18 at the time. The man in glasses looking downward, second from the left, is Usca founder Jack Osborn. The man in the foreground on the right is Al Heath (Photograph supplied by John Young)

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Published May 17, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 17, 2017 at 8:19 am)

Remembering a croquet legend

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