Meet Croquet Devotees

The lawn sport is serious business at the annual Wicket World of Croquet.
First things first: Croquet gets pretty fierce. Especially for an event that involves people spending a summer afternoon at a historic presidential home, attired in crisp white and playing a game largely associated with monocled aristocrats saying, “Good show!” (at least, that’s how we imagine it). That’s especially the case at the Wicket World of Croquet, a yearly fundraiser at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. The June 3 event, which raises some $15,000 a year, is split into two: the Leisure Tournament, for people at the summer-backyard level, and the Competitive Tournament, for those who talk smack and install croquet courts in their yards. That second group includes Travis DiNicola, former director of Indy Reads, who played in 17 of these and remembers with startling accuracy a shot he nailed in 2011. “I took a big risk, took a really long shot cross-court, and it was one of those moments where the crowd went, ‘Oooohhhhh,’” he laughs. “You don’t forget a shot like that.”
Indeed, croquet is more serious and strategic than you might think. “It’s chess on a lawn,” says Jeff Robinson, Wicket World committee chairperson, perennial competitor, guy whose parties almost always end in beer-fueled, golf-style croquet games, and man who ended his introductory note in the program with “May the odds be ever in your favor.” “The first time we came out, my expectation was that’s what we’d be doing,” he says of the game’s chess-like aspects. “But once I got in tune with the rules, the competitiveness got intense. This is a lot different than what we play in the backyard. And it’s definitely unique in the city. It gets my juices flowing.”
It’s friendly competition. Mostly. “I admire when Travis hits a great shot,” says Robinson. “And he’s in awe of most of mine.”