Decked in all white, Vincent and Antonia Marmo were wrapping up a three-hour practice round Thursday morning on the Grand Haven Croquet Club courts. It was hot, but it wasn’t too hot to keep them from honing their skills.
Practice is important for the Marmos, who are both ranked in the Top 10 in their respective flights of the U.S. Croquet Association’s Grand Prix. But they are out there mostly because they love the sport. It’s a lifestyle.
Vincent and Antonia Marmo moved to Palm Coast in 2004; or, more commonly known as “the year with the four hurricanes,” they said.
Tired of the ice and cold in Long Island, N.Y., the couple decided enough was enough, and they were ready for retirement in a warmer climate.
They visited Palm Coast one day, and when they visited the house that is currently theirs, they signed the contract that same day. Two months later, they were Palm Coast residents.
At that time, they didn’t know much about the game. But in 2006, they became acquainted with wickets and mallets, and by 2007, they were competition-ready.
Through 2010, they were playing in about seven tournaments a year throughout the country. Last year, they both played in 10 tournaments, and, so far this year, the Marmos have played in four.
Vincent Marmo — a 3.50 handicap — finished sixth in the USCA Grand Prix Championship B Flight, with 4,238 points. Antonia Marmo — an 8.00 handicap — finished fourth in the USCA Grand Prix First Flight, with 1,208 points.
Newcomers to the sport who become members of the USCA begin with a handicap of 20. As you practice and play tournaments, you eventually pick up points and lower your handicap by defeating other players within your flight of lower handicaps. Eventually, once a player reaches 10, they can only lower their handicap by defeating players in USCA-sanctioned events.
In 2012, Vincent Marmo took first place in his flight in five tournaments, including a regional championship at the LCC North East Regional, in Lenox, Mass.
Antonia Marmo had an equally impressive year, finishing first in four tournaments and also capturing the regional championship in the same tournament as her husband.
And although the Marmos are competitive among their flights, there’s more to the sport than just winning.
Vincent Marmo said croquet is a combination of three sports: golf, billiards and chess.
“What we found in croquet is that it’s a sport that allows you to enjoy the outdoors, have social interactions and keep your mind working all the time,” he said.
The Marmos practice three or four days a week. And after going to so many tournaments, they have met tons of people, which is something they genuinely enjoy.
The Grand Haven Croquet Club has about 90 members.
“The most important thing for me is that you are out there playing on the green, and it’s just wonderful,” Antonia Marmo said. “To me, it’s like therapy playing croquet. I may have a problem or whatever, and I’ll go out there and I feel totally different when I’m finished. It’s really a wonderful game.”
GRAND PRIX: CHAMPIONSHIPS B TOP 10
Rank Player Handicap Points
6 Vincent Marmo 3.50 4,238
GRAND PRIX: FIRST FLIGHT TOP 10
Rank Player Handicap Points
4 Antonia Marmo 8.00 1,208