2008 Veterans Tournament

Graham Pulsford reports:

The twenty-fourth Veterans Tournament was held on Sunday 13th April at Eton College. Included in the line up, and playing their full part, were Derek Whitehead, age 75, and Gordon Stringer, age 70. A shining example to all!

The familiar format was followed with each pair playing four rounds of one game up to fifteen points and then the two most successful pairs contesting the final. The Cox Coefficient was again in use to give the older pairs a small "assist"; had Derek Whitehead and Gordon Stringer played together the Coefficient would have seen them win the trophy without a "ball being played"!

There was some high quality fives. The first rally of the Derek Whitehead/Gordon Whitehead and Mike Hughes/Grant Williams game exceeded 40 shots and this set the tone for the day. All matches were keenly fought and all players entered the gentlemanly spirit of the competition; Richard Black/David Cooper and Gordon Stringer/John Cooley were in fine form and their on-court etiquette was of the highest standard. The highlight of the early rounds was Chris Davies/Chris Lloyd coming back from 4-14 down to beat Derek Whitehead/Gordon Whitehead 15-14, although Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison may argue it was their victory against two "old" adversaries who shall remain nameless!

In the first semi-final the holders, Mike Hughes/Grant Williams, were paired against Courtney Friend/Graham Pulsford. This was a close match with Courtney, having barbequed his gloves and vowed never to play again, returning for further punishment! The score nudged along to 8-8 before the fitter and younger pair accelerated to victory. This allowed them the luxury of watching the second semi-final whilst Courtney retired to the oxygen tent.

The second semi-final was a classic. Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison took on Chris Davies/Chris Lloyd - the Doctors versus the Chrises. The game was long, exhausting and played with a great deal of pace and skill. Nigel Cox/Neil Margerison forged ahead to lead 11-3 and then the game went into a ten minute stalemate during which no one could score. The Chrises clawed their way back and true to legend the game moved on to 14-14. It was fitting that Chris Davies played the winner; as he did so all four players slumped to the floor with exhaustion.

The final was therefore Mike Hughes/Grant Williams against Chris Davies/Chris Lloyd. It was a little unfair to expect the Chrises to play again immediately after their marathon semi-final but this is the luck of the draw. The holders pulled away from the start to win comfortably 15-3. Despite some excellent defensive fives the Chrises simply didn't have the energy to make a third fight back of the day.

The MJS-J Cup was presented to Mike Hughes/Grant Williams by Gordon Stringer. The players then retired to the Waterman's Arms, supposedly for liquid refreshment and good conversation. This fell a little flat as the pub had "no beer, no crisps and the barman no sense of humour" (Richard Black) and en route to the pub we managed to loose the winners!

A last thought; how many of us will manage to match Derek Whitehead's achievement of playing competitively at 75?!!!