Spring Waterloo has a new champion

The Waterloo Hotel in Blackpool was once again the centre of the bowling world as many of the game’s best players gathered at the sun bathed iconic venue for the Spring Waterloo final day.

The 2018 autumn Co-op Funeralcare Waterloo Handicap winner Wayne Ditchfield was attempting to add the Spring Waterloo title to his already bulging trophy cabinet and Mike Leach who won the event so impressively last year was looking to defend his crown and make it a hat-trick of wins having first won the event in 1994.

Gary Ellis, the winner of six Waterloo titles including the Spring in 2010 was the bookie’s favourite but he fell at the first hurdle to Yorkshire’s 2014 BCGBA Senior Merit Champion Ashley Daykin. Ian Nicholson beat Graeme Wilson in a top pedigree first round tie and there was a notable win for Mark Parry (Llanwrst) who defeated South Yorkshire’s former autumn Waterloo finalist Chris Brown.

The second round saw Glynn Cookson halt Mike Leach’s bid for glory, former junior waterloo winner Chris Barton take out Ian Nicholson, and Andy Hughes overcome the fancied Leighton Roberts in an all Wrexham tie. The soon to be finalists Wayne Ditchfield and Kevan Shaw progressed at the expense of Kevin Boon and Ashley Daykin respectively.

In the quarter finals Ditchfield despatched Barton 21-16, and Cumbria’s Martin Gilpin overcame Glynn Cookson 21-18 in a game of green experts. Andy Hughes maintained his good form with a 21-18 win over Bradford’s Stuart King and Kevan Shaw recovered from a 12-5 deficit to win by the narrowest of margins 21 20 against Preston’s Brian Morgan.

The Semi Finals were next. The first game on the green between Wayne Ditchfield and Martin Gilpin was expected to be close and it lived up to its billing with Wayne edging it 21-19. The green had played difficult all day and Wayne acknowledged that he struggled with the pace  throughout the game. The other semi-final saw Kevan Shaw recover from a slow start to beat Wrexham’s Andy Hughes 21-16 and set up a final between two very experienced players on the Waterloo.

The finalists were looking to add their names to a roll of honour dating back to 1977 when Chadderton’s Stewart Buckley claimed the inaugural Spring Waterloo title. Since then and particularly in recent years the venue has been through uncertain times. When Greenall Whitley, the brewery who managed the Waterloo through the glory years, pulled out, the venue survived thanks to the hard work of successive bowls managers, volunteers and through personal investment. All the people involved worked tirelessly to keep the game’s legendary venue alive. The recognition of this effort and the prestige of winning a Waterloo title was underlined by the quality of today’s field.

Onto the final and a match between last year’s ITV4 broadcasted Autumn Waterloo winner and treble junior Waterloo winner Wayne Ditchfield of Eccleston and Kevan Shaw of Westhoughton, the losing finalist to Mike Leach in 1994 and losing 2005 autumn Waterloo finalist to John Bailey in a game delayed by TV coverage that almost finished in the dark. Wayne had won the North Lancs and Fylde merit the day before and Kev was bringing some good form and an unbeaten start to his league season into what proved to be an enthralling final.

2018 Spring Waterloo Champion – Kevan Shaw

Kevan got off to the better start which really was the difference in the game as Wayne never had a run with the block. He steadily pulled away to lead 19-12 and despite a late rally from Wayne finally got his name on a Waterloo trophy with a well deserved 21-15 win.

Kevan was delighted to lay the bogey of those two 21-20 final defeats to rest and add his name to the history of the Waterloo.

He said “It was fantastic that my parents were there to enjoy the day. My dad (Ken) will now be able to talk to his mates about a Waterloo win rather than a hard luck story”

Kevan now claims a place in the season ending Champion of Champions, which is played in front of the biggest crowd in the game, again at the famous Waterloo.

Steve Davies

Throughout his bowling career Steve has always supported the admin side of the game. As a club secretary, association secretary, county delegate on the BCGBA (National Governing Body) Management Committee, Merseyside champion in 2002 and Merseyside County President (2014-15) Steve has always been keen to promote the game especially through the broadcast of the game on TV or Internet. Steve set up the LIVE BOWLS YouTube channel and, through the LDBA, runs national competitions. Seeing an avenue to report and promote the game Steve set up the Bowls Observer on-line magazine after consulting with respected figures in the game and journalism.