Charity One Ball 2023
Adrienne Sakin wonders what she has to do to beat Keith Eatonby Kevin Carter at Nottingham & Surbiton
9th May 2023 (AC)
While no financial or player records were broken this year, because of a damp April, we saw quite exceptional enthusiasm for the two Regional Finals, at Nottingham and Surbiton.
Some feared that Saturday's Nottingham clash with the Coronation would result in lower numbers willing to travel for this final aimed at players in the Midlands and North. This proved unfounded, as eighteen turned out for the all day swiss.
Last year's competition was dominated by Mark Innes (Nottingham, handicap 12) and Cathie Dance (York, 14). While they figured strongly again, they did not have it so easy, with challenges from Lucy Closs (Downham, 20), Charles Ostler (Pinchbeck, 2) and Richard Sanville (Ashby, 11).
In the end, Mark ran out the clear winner, with 6 wins from 7 matches, making him the first ever back-to-back winner of a COB final. Now he has two engraved crystal decanters! There was a three-way tie for second, all on 5/7, which was resolved with a spectator-friendly shoot-out at the peg, won by Richard.
Sunday's Regional Final at Surbiton was inevitably larger, with more heats run by the Southern Clubs. 35 players enjoyed the club's hospitality.
After lunch we had seven contenders: Michael Durtnall (East Dorset, 18), was unbeaten; and on 4/5 were Diana Wilson (Roehampton, 5; hoping to improve on last year's runner-up spot), Keith Eaton (St Albans, 20), Joel Taylor (Roehampton, -6; the 2021 winner), Mark Ormerod (Dulwich, -5), Charles Briggs (Caversham, 14) and Kate Sander (Tunbridge Wells, 17.5). The manager's job was to play them off against each other for a tea-time final.
Diana fell to the seemingly unbeatable Michael, and Keith (who over lunchtime called in his family to come and support him) found that his 8.5 bisques were not enough to counter Joel's shooting. And then there were five.
Michael, too, tripped up against Joel, but stayed in the contest, since he still had only one loss. However, Mark knocked out Kate, who found you cannot underestimate a minus-player's ability to hit in and establish a break, even in one-ball. Meanwhile, Charles, now really firing, won again. The semi-finals were between Mark and Michael, which Mark won, and between Joel and Charles, which went to the wire before Joel prevailed.
This left a keenly anticipated final between Joel, playing off -6, and Mark, playing off -5, the latter relishing the unusual experience of receiving a half-bisque. After a lengthy tactical opening won by Joel, he made a rare error, letting in Mark, who proceeded to make a six-hoop break. Joel then hit in across the court and embarked upon a lengthy break. Most of the other players had stopped to watch this fascinating duel and marvelled at the skills on show. Joel's break was up to seven hoops and he only had to run the last three with a controlled break to win. There was a debate in the crowd as to how odds on he was to finish that turn ("2-1 on? I would take that"), but maybe the pressure got to him, because he unaccountably blobbed penult. Aided by his half bisque, Mark took position in front of his hoop, but Joel hit it and finished. What a cracking final!
In both finals, about half of all players were solely or predominately GC players, who enjoyed this sojourn into AC, and many did well, figuring prominently in the reports above.
When the reckoning was done, we recorded 40 heats this year, in which 427 players participated. Both figures suffered from the weather, with three heats cancelled and lower player numbers in many more. The final amount raised at the time of this writing was a fraction under £7000, which is expected to rise a little as late donations come in, plus up to £1000 of Gift Aid. All of this will go to UNHCR, except for the contribution from the Carrickmines heat, which will instead go to an Irish charity.