Robert Fulford began the defence of his World title with a win this weekend in the UK's first championship of the season, the Winchester One-Ball Championship. After effortless wins in the first two rounds, he struggled in the difficult, fast conditions (!) to beat Roger Jenkins in the semi-final, only winning the third game of the best-of-three match by pulling a seven-point break out of the hat.
Lionel Tibble, previous one-ball champion, looked a likely winner of the final. Though losing a prolonged tactical battle in the first, he finished the second game with a superbly controlled 9-point break and took a good lead in the third. However, Robert hit in and finished with his own 9-point finale.
Saturday's handicap event was won by Robert Pennant-Jones (7/9) and six players, with handicaps ranging from -1 to +24, tied for second.
Watch out for a write-up and pictures in this Thursday's 'Country Life' magazine.
The 'Cryptorchid' handicap: 1st Robert Pennant-Jones, 2nd Lionel Tibble, 3rd Kevin Carter.
The 'Monorchid' advanced level: 1st Robert Fulford, 2nd Lionel Tibble,
Consolation Egyptian: Bill Arliss.
As usual, this finale to the winter variation attracted a full entry.
however, we saw some new faces, including reigning world champion,
Robert Fulford, and Rutger Beijderwellen, from the Netherlands.
After a week's dry weather the courts were playing fast and with
Winchester's undulations being accentuated, along with hoops set
firmly in the ground, the conditions proved to be a real test.
Saturday's handicap event was run as a nine-round Swiss and by
lunchtime local player Chris Crowcroft was the only undefeated player,
with Geoff Cuttle being the only one yet to open his account. How a
little hot food and a couple of beers changes things - Chris did not
win another match all day and Geoff won all his!
Robert Pennant-Jones emerged as the final victor, with a fine seven
wins. No fewer than five players tied for second, with a lengthy 'quality of opponents' calculation resulting in second prize going to
Lionel Tibble and third to Kevin Carter, followed by last year's
winner, Gerald Mitchell, Ruth Carter, playing off 24 (12 less than her
true handicap....), and Pam Arliss.
For Sunday's advanced level event the hoop gap was reduced to a
maximum of 1/16th of an inch. Winchester was delighted that Robert
Fulford should support its event, but the paparazzi had to be warned
on more than one occasion that their 'up the nose' shots put them in
danger of a broken ankle.
Robert adapted to the difficult conditions quickly and eased through
the first two rounds of the best-of-three knock-out, while number one
seed, Lionel Tibble, had some anxious moments against Bill Arliss.
Local ace and fourth seed Ken Smith missed out on a semi-final place
to an ever-strengthening Geoff Cuttle. However, Lionel quickly
extinguished his challenge to book an early place into the final.
Meanwhile, Robert got into trouble against third seed Roger Jenkins,
who comfortably won the first game and was ahead nine to three in the
second before the world champion pulled a seven-hoop break out of the
hat, then did exactly the same - almost an identical sequence of
strokes - in the third.
The full, four-ball game is rarely a spectacle, but one-ball played at
the highest level can be a tremendous spectator sport. And so it was
in the Tibble-Fulford final of 2001. A journalist present, who had
never before seen a full game, sat entranced and vowed not only to
return, but also to take up the sport.
The first game was very long and tactical. Both players knew the other
was likely to hit any shot less than 20 yards, so no risks were taken.
Over one hour later Robert emerged the narrow winner. In the second
Lionel hit in after four, rolled up to five and finished the game with
the best exhibition of control yet seen during the entire weekend.
After two solid days of one-ball you can get into a groove. Lionel was
in such a groove, giving nothing away and taking a significant lead in
the third and final game. However, this time Robert hit in and
finished by making a nine-point break in the arduous conditions look
So, Fulford collected the engraved decanter, Tibble again had to
settle for the runner-up spot and a consolation Egyptian was scooped
by Bill Arliss.