The imminence of the World Championships attracted Robert Fulford (and 27 others) to this popular season-opener at Southwick. Three-times defending champion Jamie Burch (2009-2011), last year's runner-up, Rutger Beijderwellen and past defending champion, Stephen Mulliner (2006-2008) were the other top seeds and all made it to the semi-finals.
However, mention should also be made of Mark Fawcett, a recent addition to the home club after emigrating from London, who made his mark by taking the middle game off Rutger in their quarter-final. The WCF Management Committee staged its own internal contest when Martin French, Secretary-General, faced Stephen. It has to be reported that a certain lack of respect was displayed when one hit the other's sextuple leave.
Court conditions were a friendly 9-10 Plummers while the weather was breezy and climatically challenging with a wide variety of thermal overwear in evidence. Top prize went to Richard Stevens of Hamptworth who favoured a cross between ski-ing over trousers and a fireman's corset. Only the more masochistically extreme wore shorts. The sun made occasional guest appearances on Saturday and slightly more often on Sunday which brought the illusion of warmth. Fortunately, the Southwick catering and bar were up to it and greatly appreciated.
The semi-finals offered something of a contrast. Robert and Rutger took not much more than 2 1/2 hours to complete three not very different games, namely +26tp (F, 7th turn), -26tp (B, 7th turn), +26tp (F, 5th turn). No mistakes were made and no lifts were hit (memo to Southwick - see if you can flatten the east and north boundaries on Court 1). Stephen and Jamie had a closer contest. Game 1 featured another sextuple leave from Stephen and another hit tea-lady. Jamie reached 4-back but the NSL went wrong and left Stephen a shot. He was able to start the sxp but had to amend to a delayed TPO. Jamie made only one hoop and Stephen won +12tpo. Game 2 featured another sxp attempt but a misapproached hoop 3 let Jamie in before his failure at the same hoop allowed Stephen to take the 2-b ball to 4-b with a cross-wire at 3. The shot was missed but the peelee was hit after rover and a bombard peg-out attempt was missed. +1 to Jamie. Game 3 was a brisk +26tp to Stephen.
The final was fairly swift. Robert required 40 minutes to win the first by 26tp. Stephen improved to 35 minutes for the second, also by 26tp and was quickly to 4-b in the decider. However, Robert now found a way to hit the long lift down the east boundary and TPOd Stephen with a POP though hoop1 and balls in corners 3 and 4. The big roll from C4 fell short and Stephen missed the C3 ball. Robert made a leave near C1, Stephen shot into C4 and, after the leave was improved to leave a rush from the west boundary intoC4, took the 25 yarder and missed by very little on the left. Robert rushed Stephen's ball to C1, chipping partner into the lawn and completed a smooth break to win.
Richard Jackson pipped Lionel Tibble to win the Plate and Chris Constable and the Southwick catering teams were warmly thanked for organising another enjoyable and successful event.