Barter Cup GC 17th-18th April
Cheltenham expects and delivers!!!
The Barter Cup is often seen as a nice friendly early season GC event for the players to ease into the season and dust off their mallets. This was especially true this year after the Covid pandemic and the resulting restrictions that affected everyone and their daily lives.....
The entry was a little under capacity, but the standard was exceptionally high with all four blocks only having one player on or above the handicap of 3!!! The manager had made the mistake of putting himself in the 'toughest' block while trying to organise the tournament and subsequently got punished to the extent that he was only seen once on the lawn on the second day! This was also due to the fact that the manager had set the challenging target of 16 going through to the knock out main event with best of three matches. Unfortunately, without time limits this was always going to a big ask to finish at respectable time. However, with two days of glorious sunshine (that had been ordered) which was appreciated by all during the 2min silence for HRH prince Phillip, we achieved a satisfactory finish (just) of 7pm on both days.
Block A seeds went through as expected with David Bell being unbeaten and therefore top dog with a surprised Sarah Hayes (GC convert?) also qualifying. Block B seeds also went safely through with Stephen Wright this time being the unbeaten top dog. However, 4th place was a lot tighter with three players on two wins which had to be separated by net points, resulting in Tony Forbes (squeaking through). Although Block C saw the top seed Lionel Tibble go through undefeated, he was joined by two un-seeded players Neil Humphries and Klim Seabright. Block D was full of surprises, apart from top seed Christopher Roberts winning the block on net points from young Sam Cuthbert (handicap 11) in his first major tournament. Clearly, this handicap was ridiculous and needed addressing, which it was by being butchered down to a well deserved 2. The 4th place qualifier was again decided on net points with five players having 3 wins each and Richard Brand going through by a single point!!
At his point I would once again say thank you to my scorers in each block, Tony Forbes, Klim Seabright and Richard Brand who ran the 'covid safe' blocks for me. The knock out started as expected on the Saturday and saw most of the seeded players going through despite some having a scare. Mark Suter taking a game off top seed Stephen Mulliner, Roger Goldring doing the same off Christopher Roberts and Tony Forbes doing the same against Lionel Tibble who can count himself lucky to win the last game 7-6. The big upsets were the two local boys Klim Seabright and Richard Brand winning their respective matches 2-1 to join local girl Sarah Hayes in the quarter finals.
Klim must have celebrated too much overnight and allowed Stephen Leonard to progress 2-0 Sunday morning into his semi-final against 'lucky' Lionel Tibble who once again lived up to his name winning 2-1 in a tight match. The other half saw a three hour battle which resulted in Sarah Hayes going through over Richard Brand to face Stephen Mulliner who had overcome Christopher Roberts 2-0. Sarah put up a good fight before succumbing to Stephen's experience who once again reached another tournament final winning 2-1. Unfortunately, by the time the final started most players had left and therefore missed the opportunity of witnessing the display of two top class players going head to head. Lionel started slowly losing the first game after perhaps having an unfortunate wait for his opponent to arrive at the final due to finishing his matches earlier in the day. This could always be a factor with the 'best of three' knock out rounds. That said Stephen showed once again why he is the top seed confidently running a 6m angled hoop to win the match 2-0 and take home the Barter Cup.
Congratulations also go to Stephen Leonard (3rd) and Sarah Hayes (4th) but especially to Richard Brand (5th with his new mallet, brought from the CA three weeks ago!) The 'Runner's up' block turned out to be a tight affair with the top five positions having to be decided by net points again, resulting with Neil Huphries winning to earn 8th place. The two consolation blocks from Saturday saw block winners Wendy Wu and Leslie Heard play off in their final which the ever improving Wendy won 7-5.
Finally, my thanks to Cheltenham club for keeping the tournament on and especially Deborah Albertsen (proud mum of Sam) who spent two long days entering the results into Croquet scores for me, (you may now have a job for life?)