Ben Rothman of Oakland, Calif., made history Aug. 4 when he became the first American player to claim the World Croquet Federation’s golf croquet world championship. Rothman, nephew of the late Larry Stettner of Southwest Harbor, was a regular summer visitor to Mount Desert Island. He played in the Claremont Croquet Classic from 1995-2006. PHOTO COURTESY OF BEN ROTHMAN

Former Claremont Classic standout becomes world croquet champ

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — No matter where he goes, the Claremont Hotel holds a special place in Ben Rothman’s heart.

Between the view of the Somes Sound and the scores of people looking on every August during the Claremont Croquet Classic, there are few venues this world croquet standout loves more. Even now, 13 years after he last played in the renowned tournament, Rothman has nothing but fond memories of his days on the Claremont courts.

“There’s nothing like it,” Rothman said. “They say Maine is the way life should be, and you can feel that when you’re playing at the Claremont. The venue is just magnificent.”

Rothman, who lives in Oakland, Calif., made history earlier this month when he became the first American player to win the World Croquet Federation’s golf croquet world championship in London. He is currently the No. 2 player in the world and has been the top-ranked American player for 10 years.

The late Larry Stettner, shown here playing in the Claremont Classic finals in 2016, was Ben Rothman’s uncle and taught him to play croquet. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Rothman’s love for croquet began from his days vacationing on Mount Desert Island, where he learned the game from his uncle, Larry Stettner. He played his first Claremont Classic at the age of 11 in 1995 and returned to play the tournament every year until 2006.

Since then, Rothman has won countless national and international tournaments, including Northern American Open championships and the 2016 British Open championship. His British Open win marked the first time an American player had won the tournament.

Rothman has also been a consistent leader for the United States National team, which he led to a historic Solomon Trophy win in 2009 to end a streak of 18 straight Great Britain wins in the head-to-head competition. The U.S. Croquet Association website calls his accomplishments “unmatched in the history of American croquet.”

“It’s a great thing to be able to live out your passion as your career,” said Rothman, who was a full-time professional from 2009-15. “Getting to do what I do has been an incredible experience.”

It all started, though, with Rothman’s days at the Claremont. His days on the Claremont courts have now led him around the world and, most recently, to the top of the croquet world.

“I have to give credit to Larry for everything,” Rothman said. “I’ve gone everywhere to play, but Maine is where it all started. My days playing there and experiencing that tournament were a lot of fun.”

Dave Nelson takes a shot during last year’s Claremont Croquet Classic singles final Southwest Harbor. Nelson, the tournament organizer, has played in every Claremont Classic since the event’s inaugural year. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

This year’s Claremont Classic began Sunday and will conclude with the championship rounds Saturday. Aug. 17.

Will Fox (singles) and Mark Hitchcock and Florin Neacsu (doubles) are the defending champions.

Even after his playing days at the Claremont came to an end, Rothman has returned to Southwest Harbor to vacation and watch the tournament. He won’t be making the trip to MDI this year, but he’ll be there in spirit as new names are added to the board of champions that lists his name.

“Sadly, a trip to Maine isn’t in the cards for me this time, but I’ll always remembers those days at the Claremont,” the new world champion said. “That week in August always gave me so many memories.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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