Ramsgate GC Championship - 4 and 5th June 2011
The field of 16 players for the 11th holding of this event included locals and visitors and young (and disturbingly good) and not-so-young (who varied). Saturday brought cloudless skies and hot sun tempered by a persistent and brisk nor-easterly. This had a significant effect of the passage of the balls over Ramsgate's distinctly speedy lawns (12+ Plummers). A gentle touch to send a ball from 2 to 3 could easily gain an extra 3 yards if a gust occurred during its travel.
Evelyn Martin's schedule required five two-game matches for everyone on Saturday. This was achieved comfortably by 1800 hours despite the need to double-bank and the challenging conditions. Block A was headed by Stephen Mulliner and Andrew Hobbs who both dropped only one game, in each case to Tony Mockett, a Ramsgate member allegedly playing off 3 who has recently recovered from having new knees fitted. They didn't seem to have done his shooting and hooping much harm!
Block B, which had a somewhat lower average age, was led by James Goodbun and Ryan Cabble followed by David Dray. Mention should also be made of 21-year old Toby Savage, a Ramsgate member and a ball boy at the inaugural Ramsgate event in 2001, who took Ryan to the 13th hoop in both their games and chalked up a near 60% record in his first open tournament.
Sunday dawned under grey skies, lower temperatures but some moderation in the breeze. Stephen Mulliner overcame Richard Thompson and Andrew Hobbs shared the honours with Tom Weston before doing the same with Stephen in the final block round, thereby leaving Stephen just clear as block winner. In Block B, the manager faced the possibility of a perfect tie between James Goodbun and Ryan Cabble (games, points and points against the same opponent) but, in the event, Ryan triumphed 7-4, 7-4 against James in the final round to resolve matters.
With the weather showing signs of deterioration, ideas of a Plate were abandoned and crowd settled down to enjoy the knock-out best-of-3s. Ryan was drawn to play Andrew and hit top form to reach the final with another brisk 7-4, 7-4 victory. Stephen and James had a more protracted encounter in which Stephen maintained a relatively consistent level of clearing and hooping while James varied between some sublime periods and patches when he became more human. His best periods were simply excellent. He can hit the ball a purely as it is possible to do it, an English version of Ahmed El Mahdi at his best. In this mood, long-range clearances are routinely hit centre ball and hoops are run cleanly from several yards. All his opponent can do is to hang in and hope. The first two games were justly shared 7-5. Stephen reached 3-0 in the third game but it went to the 13th and Stephen played a good enough first ball to 13 to clinch it.
The final had a similar overall theme but Ryan Cabble gave it a rather different character. Ryan's trademark is ridiculously good long-range jumping and his Egyptian parallel has to be Mohamed Nasr. He is not quite so pure a striker as James at the moment but his game exudes raw excitement and the opponent has to accept that blocking tactics are no defence to the third dimension. The first game was nip and tuck all the way, including a 10 yard jump from Ryan to score hoop 4, but Stephen led 6-5 and then played a good ball to 2 yards north of 13 after Ryan made it 6-6. Ryan missed with B, Stephen played what seemed a complete killer with R to 12 inches in front of 13 and then Ryan hit Y with K from 20 yards, K coming to rest slightly obscuring B from R. Stephen now played Y to cover R completely - so Ryan simply jumped everything from the boundary to take the game!
Stephen was able to make a good start in game 2 and maintained his efficiency to take the game 7-2 and square the match. The decider was very close. Ryan got away to 2-0 but was pegged back to 2-2. There was a potentially pivotal battle around 5 which Ryan won with two excellent long-range clearances but he ran 5 more gently than usual and found himself "pegged" from hoop 6. This led to 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5 and then the real match turning-point. Ryan had run 10 deliberately gently with B to shorten the forthcoming clearance but, unexpectedly, missed the 8 yarder at R which allowed Stephen to dispatch K to the far distance. K missed Y from 23 yards and Y scored 11, running into R and promoting it to just north of the peg. Blue lagged to north of 12 but Stephen went for the long hoop with R and got it to take the match.
Zoe Hawkins, vice-chairman of RCC, officiated and asked Mary Currie to present the prizes. Both Ryan and Stephen thanked the club, the caterers and Evelyn for her efficient management. The evening meal provided for the players and officials at the club on Saturday was a good idea and a most pleasant social occasion.