2004 Veterans Tournament

Graham Pulsford reports:

The twentieth Over 40s Tournament took place on a warm and sunny afternoon with near perfect playing conditions. Everyone was there to enjoy themselves and a wide cross-section of clubs was represented.

This year's entry was as diverse as ever and included Aldenhamiams, Berkhamstedians, Carthusians, Cholmeleians, Citizens, Edwardians, Etonians, Ipswichians, Lancing Old Boys, Millhillians, Reptonians, Salopians, Stoics and Westminsters - as well as players from Goddington Lane and the Heath.

The format was similar to previous years in that each pair played four rounds of one game up to fifteen points, and then the two pairs with the best record contested the final. New for 2004 was the introduction of the "Cox Coefficient", a subtle rating system to give the more "senior" players a points start, of one up to a maximum of eight, over their younger opponents. This certainly enlivened the proceedings and helped to produce a series of nicely balanced matches in which the winning margins averaged only four points!

To pick out the highlights of the competition amongst so many was difficult, but, worthy of special note:- the early tussle between Philip Corn/Andrew Mitchell and Keith Turnbull/Pete Scholey, the battling Whitehead brothers against the two Doctors Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison, the stamina sapping marathon of Richard Black/Andrew Fraser again against the Doctors, the wry humour of Ian Leeming/Martin Powell, the staying power of Geoff Bates/Martin Lindsay, the irrepressible humour of Jim Pitts/Colin Spurrell, the "return" of Barclay Lawrence/David Wright and the "walkabouts" of Neil Margerison.

The first match to decide a finalist was yet another Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison marathon, this time against Keith Turnbull/Pete Scholey. The Doctors opened up a commanding lead and looked to be heading for an easy victory. But not with Pete Scholey as an adversary! The scoring slowed and the younger pair slowly clawed their way back into contention. A couple of edges helped Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison reach foot down first and then at 14-11 the game score halted. The spectators lost count of the number of foot down serves that came and went before, true to script, a back court edge allowed the Doctors to win.

The other semi final was a briefer affair, in time alone by 25 minutes! Peter Boughton/Simon Woolfries pushed Courtney Friend/Graham Pulsford hard in a very crisp and open game. The quality of back court rallies was exceptional and the pick of the shots were two from Simon Woolfries that left his opponents utterly wrong footed. In the end Courtney Friend's return of cut and Graham Pulsford's cut enabled them to minimise their opponents scoring opportunities and they won through 15-7.

To the final. Courtney Friend/Graham Pulsford against the Doctors! Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison claimed their three point start as per the Cox Coefficient (now you know why he wanted it introduced!) and then scored a quick point to put them 4-0 up. However the effect of their marathon matches begun to take its toll and the score soon reached 5-5, and then 5-8 as the younger pair increased the tempo and speed of the rallies. Neil Margerison went for a couple of "walkabouts", and then the match was halted for five minutes for Courtney Friend to receive medical attention (Pete Scholey as nurse!) after a searing shot almost removed both his glasses and his nose. Bloodied, plastered, but not unbowed he returned to the fray. The end came quickly with Courtney Friend/Graham Pulsford winning 15-6 and the losers requiring both oxygen and a stiff drink!

Richard Black presented the Martin Shortland-Jones Cup to the winners and there was sustained applause for the defeated finalists. Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison were confirmed as Over 50s champions, and Geoff Bates/Martin Lindsay as Over 60s champions.

The ensembled throng then moved off to the Waterman's Arms for suitable liquid refreshment. A fine time was had by all, with animated conversation and lively discussion. Mrs Woolfries was in fine form, Courtney in a state of elation and Derek Whitehead looking forward to next year! My thanks to Andrew Fraser for teaching Master Pulsford how to use a fruit machine!

A few tournament records were set on the day:-

Derek Whitehead, at 71, became the oldest veteran to play in the competition.

The "highest age of four players on one court" at 251 years. (60, 60, 60 and 71)

Neil Margerison reached his eighth final. (W4, L4)

Martin Lindsay has played in all 20 Veterans Tournaments.

The Cox Coefficient will be retained and refined for 2005. We look forward to more enjoyment and an increased entry next year. Note the date down in your diary, Sunday 17th April 2pm at Eton College.