MIDWAY, Wash. — The recently concluded “Surf & Sand” Croquet Invitational tournament has been a summer tradition for nearly two decades for the Andersen family and friends in the Midway neighborhood north of Long Beach.

Hosted by Ron Anderson, hilly coastal terrain makes this event into a rugged Pacific Northwest version of a game once played by European royalty on manicured palace lawns.

Croquet is a game in which mallets are used to drive wooden balls through a series of metal wickets – kind of like small gateways. The English, Irish, French and Scottish all claim to be originators of the game, but on-line sources cite records of the game as far back as 1611 in England. Croquet even was part of the Olympics back in the early 1900s.

Long-time friends Jeff Andersen (Ron’s oldest son), Jan Rolstad, Gary Jankowski and Tim Michel are the core group who have been reuniting annually since August 1995 for the croquet showdown. They call themselves the Long Beach Association of Crested Buttes. They play their game throughout the week, with the winner getting an engraved nameplate added to their personal trophy. He also receives custody of the “Belt of Honor.”

The contestants bring diverse backgrounds to this game of kings:

Jeff Andersen of Tacoma was a music major at Western Washington University. He is now a professional pianist and music director, teaching a kids choir in Tacoma. He started playing piano at the age of 4.

Rolstad, also of Tacoma, is a retired commercial fisherman. Rolstad made croquet mallets for the event out of eastern rock maple with Honduran mahogany inlay. Players needed customized mallets due to their vigorous playing style and rugged field.

Jankowski lives in Berlin, Germany. Like Andersen, he is a music major grad from WWU. He now is a professional opera singer, performing worldwide. A bass, Jankowski has garnered many accolades, for example this in the Seattle Times: “Gary Jankowski’s burnished, beautiful bass makes you lean forward in anticipation of Sarastro’s arias.”

Michel, of San Diego, Calif., graduated from WWU along with Gary and Jeff in 1985 and is a retired California Highway Patrol officer.

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