Orono man earns state croquet title

A beloved backyard game has a serious side.

George Funk of Orono recently won the Minnesota State Croquet Championship. He earned the title Sept. 6 at the Centennial Lakes croquet court in Edina.

“I’ve been trying to win this for 22 years,” Funk said.

George Funk of Orono earned the title of Minnesota croquet champion last month in Edina. (Submitted photo)
George Funk of Orono earned the title of Minnesota croquet champion last month in Edina. (Submitted photo)

In the past, he’s finished in second or third place, he said. This year, he played opponents in qualifying rounds to earn his place in the one-day tournament with four people playing. Funk beat them all to be crowned champion.

Funk first started playing the backyard version of croquet when his wife’s parents introduced him it.

“We played that for a few years and learned about the more pro game,” Funk said. “We went to the week-long croquet school in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1990 and became serious about croquet.”

The sport is quite different from the backyard game. Those serious about croquet aren’t using equipment from packs that can be bought at a local store. The sport mallets average $500 each, Funk said. Professional courts, he said, cost $20,000 to build and annually take about $3,000 to $5,0000 to maintain. In Minnesota there are four such courts, Funk said. Two are at Centennial Lakes and the other two are at Madden’s on Gull Lake.

The rules for the sport are complex and must be followed, he said.

“Many players carry rule books,” Funk said.

Aside from the state meet, there are also regional meets and a national meet. Minnesota is part of the Midwest region, which includes 13 states. Funk said there are also tournaments all over the country throughout the year.

“I was a serious contender in the ‘90s, taking second in nationals twice and winning the big Arizona open,” he said.

The Centennial Lakes courts in Edina are open to the public, Funk said, but they are now closed for the season. Newcomers are welcome to the croquet club that meets there on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for open play, he said.

For more information about the sport, visit www.croquetamerica.com.

Contact Amanda Schwarze at amanda.schwarze@ecm-inc.com