After a long day of tough competitive bowling it was the Greater Manchester Pair of Cathy and Graeme Wilson won the BCGBA Mel Evans MBE Centenary Mixed Pairs.
The finals day was held at the famous Waterloo Hotel in Blackpool last Saturday (1st October). The finals day saw some of the best mixed pairs partnerships gather from the four corners of the crown green world.
The competition is sponsored by Mel Evans MBE, the BCGBA Commercial Officer, who was sadly unable to attend. Mel was represented on the day by his partner, Lynn Pritchatt and daughter Jenny Norton.
The final was an all Greater Manchester battle as Karen Hughes and Bradley Cooke took on Cathy and Graeme Wilson. Neither pair had a comfortable route to the final as both had huge battles in the semi-finals. Karen and Bradley faced the formidable pairing of Jackie and Stuart Rutter and Cathy and Graeme faced the reigning champions Andrea Buckley and Michael Sweeney.
Both games were fantastic to watch and they just about had it all. Both finalists were behind in the games and it was by a fine margin that they both got through to the final.
The final itself was a brilliant game. Cathy and Graeme seemed to be close to pulling clear but Karen and Bradley were both in superb form to keep in touch. The turning point looked to be a brave bowl by Cathy Wilson going wrong as she tried to couple up. This led to Bradley taking charge of the game and turning a 14-10 deficit into a 17-14 lead.
Typical classy bowls from Graeme got them back in control of the jack and they looked to count a full house, playing away from the shop corner, to go 20-18 up. This was before a breath-taking last bowl from Karen which sat on Graeme’s six-inch lead bowl.
Bradley led out the next end knowing two more points meant game but they couldn’t do anything about a fantastic bowl from Graeme to claim the end and make it 17-19. The next end was decided by Graeme’s awesome lead bowl which ended up, closely, surrounded by Bradley and Karen’s bowls.
Now at 18-19 Graeme changed tactics and went along the south stand edge of this famous green. Graeme again led well but Bradley put both his bowls behind the jack and he encouraged Karen to play up for the jack and game. Cathy had to play good defensive bowls but Karen still had a chance. As Graeme and Cathy lay two to go 20-19 up Karen’s last bowl seemed to be taking the jack through for game but just straightened and took out Graeme’s closest instead. This meant Cathy’s excellent last bowl claimed a single point to make it a level game.
Graeme took the jack and went on a horribly precise mark back on the edge towards the pub corner. You have to reach and it is unforgiving if you are off the land. Graeme played two good bowls and put all the pressure on their Greater Manchester compatriots. Neither Karen or Bradley could challenge Graeme’s bowls, thanks again to excellent defending bowls from Cathy. Cathy and Graeme added this trophy to the list of top class pairs competitions they have won.
The trophy was presented by BCGBA President in 2015, Barry Massey and Lynn Pritchatt and Jenny Norton.
After the presentation Lynn released a statement on Facebook which, with her permission, I have reproduced here.
Jenny and I were very proud to represent Mel Evans MBE and to present the trophy at the BCGBA Mel Evans MBE Centenary Mixed Pairs. It was the first time I had seen a bowling green for many months and it was very difficult to be at The Waterloo without Mel. Both Jenny and I were humbled by the very warm welcome we received from some of our friends who we saw there. The love and support shown to Mel and I is evident and is so very much appreciated far more than words can say. Well done to Cathy and Graeme Wilson on their victory. I am sure the BCGBA Mel Evans MBE Centenary Mixed Pairs will be around for many years to come.
It was fitting that this fantastic competition brought the curtain down on another very successful season both for the Waterloo and the BCGBA. This season we have been very fortunate to see so many fantastic competitions and also to have them broadcast around the world. Hopefully 2017 will be even better.