Mike has been playing tournament croquet on his family’s home court in Pacific Palisades since the age of five.
“Croquet was a big family sport. It was what we did – we played croquet together,” says Mike. “It was always a scene at our house while we lived in Southern California. A steady stream of professional croquet players and actors, including David Niven, Louie Jordan, Gig Young, George Saunders and Diana Hyland would always be at the house to play whether we were celebrating a holiday or just a regular weekend.”
Mike’s father Tom, who inducted into the U.S Croquet Hall of Fame, was responsible for bringing tournament croquet to the West Coast by starting croquet clubs in Beverly Hills, San Francisco and at Sonoma Cutrer Winery in Santa Rosa.
Tom was also responsible for introducing Meadowood’s Founding partner H. William Harlan to the game of croquet, thereby planting the seed for the McDonnell legacy at Meadowood. At that time, in 1986, Harlan and his partners hired Tom to ensure the courts would satisfy world-ranking croquet players.
They debuted in 1986 and the same year Meadowood hosted the U.S. Croquet Championships, the first time they had been held outside of the state of New York.
Mike played competitively in tournaments started by his father from the late 1970’s into the 1980’s, but in 1988 he left the croquet circuit to play bass on tour with Maynard Ferguson for two years, and after that became musical director for Sir Tom Jones for another five years.
Mike joined Meadowood as Assistant Pro in 1996, and worked under Pro Jerry Stark. Mike began to cover croquet operations and guest events at the property while Jerry was away competing in tournaments, and the flexible schedule allowed time for Mike to perform and play his music.
After the death of Jerry Stark in May 2010, the croquet lawns were dedicated in his memory. Meadowood is now proud to offer its guests the finest full-time teaching facility for croquet in the country under the new leadership of Mike McDonnell. When not on the lawns teaching croquet at Meadowood, Mike continues to play music professionally.