Stephen Mulliner successfully defended the Southwick Salver by defeating Rutger Beijderwellen 2-0 in the final in sweltering conditions at Southwick over the weekend - and possibly setting some sort of record for the modern era by extending the gap between his first and latest wins in the same event to 25 years. However, it has to be said that this pales into insignificance compared to Humphrey Hick's 36 year gap between winning the Men's Championship in 1930 and 1966.
The first day saw the four top seeds (the above, Jamie Burch and David Harrison-Wood) reach the semis without too much incident. The manager, Chris Constable, was mindful of what had happened last year when the semis (well, one of them) took so long that the final had to be played as a single game. However, having mooted playing the semis as single games with a best-of-three final, discussed it with the players and gallantly agreed to risk best-of-three in both rounds on Sunday.
Sunday dawned with the surprising development that Court 4 was unplayable through water logging. It seemed that a sprinkler had gone nuts overnight and nothing was possible until late afternoon where the finalists wiled away an hour or so before the prize-giving having a warm-up for the Winchester One-Ball Championships next weekend.
Both semi-finals were played on Court 1 and, possibly against managerial expectations, Mulliner and Harrison-Wood had the much brisker encounter in which the Panther hit Mulliner's duffer on turn 3 only to see Mulliner hit on turn 4 and triple out on turn 6. Game 2 started with a supershot from Mulliner and a mid-East boundary reply from H-W which Mulliner missed from the West end of B-baulk. Being quite reasonably suspicious of the East boundary gradient, the Panther hit the supershot from A-baulk and looked well set for 4-back when he slightly under-approached hoop 5 and blobbed. That was too generous and the match finished with a 7th turn TP from Mulliner only slightly after Rutger had edged out Jamie in the first game of the other semi.
This had looked to be heading Jamie's way until, with a ball round and a delayed TP in his sights, his take-off after hoop 3 to the enemy ball in C4 turned out to be just too heavy. Rutger took full advantage but could not complete his triple. However, Jamie missed the extra lift and that was that. Jamie took the second but could not deny Rutger in the third.
Given the identity of the finalists, a prolonged tactical battle was not expected. Game 1 began with a Rutger supershot, a reply to mid-East boundary, Rutger missing the boundary ball from the end of A-baulk and then Stephen missing the double from B-baulk. First blood to Rutger, or at least so it appeared until he tried to finesse 3-back to get his MSL. He just failed to complete the running and Stephen made no mistake with the QPO - made much easier by achieving the first peel on the first stroke of the turn. The pegged-out game was not without interest but Rutger's challenged ended when he missed a quasi-double of Y almost through hoop 6 and R just to the north and west. In fact, he hit the eastern upright of hoop 6 and B rebounded off the hoop, staying helpfully close by. Stephen needed no urging to accept this bonus and complete the 3-ball break. The second was swift - a Mulliner supershot was countered by a mid-East boundary reply but Stephen hit on turn 3 from the West end of B-baulk and completed a manful triple in turn 5 to take the title despite the best efforts of the lawn and variable pull to interfere with his plans.
John Solomon, former CA President, kindly gave away the prizes to the finalists and to David Parkin who won the plate on the basis of greatest improvement in opening index. The club was congratulated on the state of its lawns, the assiduousness of the grounds managers and the excellence of the catering and Chris was thanked for managing with success and aplomb. All in all, a great summer weekend tournament - only about two months early!