Billy Bob Breeden is driving up from Missouri this weekend to play some croquet.

The United States Croquet Association district president is bringing his croquet-playing buddies with him.

And yes, they have their own mallets. (Billy Bob's is a $500 graphite model, imported from Australia.)

"There's four of us coming up," said the 49-year-old. "I play every chance I get."

Saturday is the first Lawn Warrior Classic, a benefit for the William G. Lauer Foundation for ALS and Charities.

Lauer, a former Lincoln Journal Star photographer, was diagnosed in 2009 with the progressive and fatal neurological disorder, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

His year-old organization hosted a golf tournament in August, holds monthly pitch games and raised a bundle of money at an ice cream sampling fundraiser last winter.

The idea for croquet?

"One of the primary goals of our foundation is to increase awareness of ALS," Lauer, 50, said. "If you have a golf tournament, you only reach golfers ... everybody plays croquet.

"It's low-maintenance. Everybody knows the rules. It's not competitive."

And now comes a sticky wicket: the ringers.

Breeden, an operations manager for Windstream, took up the sport about 20 years ago.

"A friend asked me, 'Hey, want to go to a croquet tournament?' and I said, 'No, I don't want to do that.'"

After which the friend said there would be a band and adult beverages.

"I went and I had fun," Breeden said. At his second tournament, he took second place in a field of 400.

Then he was hooked.

He is president of the Missouri-Nebraska district of the United States Croquet Association.

He belongs to the Kactus Creek Croquet Club, a 15-minute drive from his Cameron, Mo., home.

And he'll make the three-hour drive to Lincoln on Saturday to play a few games here, too.

Breeden understands it won't be nearly as competitive as those USCA-sanctioned tournaments.

But there will be adult beverages, Lauer said. And the entry fee includes lunch for those who register by Wednesday. And Scheels is providing plenty of croquet sets for play that begins at 1 p.m. on the Lincoln Rugby Club's field in west Lincoln.

Should be fun, Lauer said.

Plus, you can watch the guy who placed third at nationals three years ago wield his graphite mallet.

"The money is well-spent," Breeden said. "I can't believe there's not more people falling all over themselves to do it."

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Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.



Cindy Lange-Kubick joined the Lincoln Journal Star in 1994 and has loved covering life in her hometown ever since. Will write for chocolate. Or coffee.

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