2009 Veterans Tournament

Graham Pulsford & Neil Margerison report:

In glorious sunshine the twenty-fifth Veterans Tournament was held on Sunday 19th April at Eton College. We welcomed a healthy cache of first timers including Chris Moore, Mark Platt, John Reynolds, Richard Tyler and Mark Yates as well as the welcome return of veterans Patrick Gibbs, Ronald Pattison, Martin Powell and Marco Rimini.

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 but this year with a slight twist added by Chris Davies; now the Cox/Davies Coefficient!

The published start time was delayed by over half an hour for players to complete their preparations by applying a combination of lotions, potions, ointments, strappings and supports to the required areas (mainly Peter Boughton with assistants). Matches in the pools were keenly fought with all players entering into the spirit of the competition. The pick of the early matches saw Nick Bunyan/Peter Boughton narrowly loose 13-15 to Richard Tyler/Pete Scholey in a lengthy and highly competitive game that set the tone for the day. Neil Margerison/Gordon Whitehead started and finished strongly, Richard Black/David Cooper offered lets at every opportunity, whilst Martin Powell/Foreman Wickes kept their own nerves on edge with two narrow 15-14 victories. The Wulfrunian pairing of Mark Yates/Chris Moore was narrowly edged out by Marco Rimini/Patrick Gibbs before the latter pair was overwhelmed by Graham Pulsford/Courtney Friend in the next game.

The longest game of the afternoon was a hotly contested semi-final between John Reynolds/ Nigel Cox and Richard Tyler/Pete Scholey. Despite an extraordinary number of lets taken by both pairs the quality of the fives was never in question. A large group of spectators were treated to a feast of attacking fives and some of the top court play would be worthy of a Kinnaird final. The outcome was a narrow win for the more experienced pairing of John Reynolds/Nigel Cox.

For a commentary on the final we turn to the ringside experience of Neil Margerison...

This year's final was a contest between previous champions Graham Pulsford and Courtney Friend and olden but golden Nigel Cox with his new toy boy John Reynolds. After his success in the Kinnaird in the 80s and 90s, John had indicated for some years he would not play in the Veterans but Nigel had managed to "twist his arm".

The Cox coefficient meant that John Reynolds/Nigel Cox started 2-0 up plus the serve. Both pairs attacked from the start and several early rallies were played for no points scored as they sized each other up. The crowd gathered: Ronald Pattison in his deluxe armchair complete with thermos attachment had settled in for a long evening.

Something of a pattern developed through the first half of the game. John was commanding on the top step, covering plenty of ground; Graham and Courtney kept the ball coming back, but if it was too near the buttress John picked it off. Nigel was neat around the top step, nipping in to put the ball away. John on the back step wound up for his characteristic heavy spin cut shots straight into the buttress - on either hand - but failed to kill the ball. Graham was strong on the top step off either hand and both he and Courtney managed some amazing last gasp returns from under the front wall. Courtney's left hand added some important variety sending the ball round the angles.

John and Courtney's cutting were strong but not imperious with each pair looking to take more points when Nigel and Graham were cutting. All the players occasionally - but regularly - made what seemed to be unexpected unforced mistakes, putting the ball just a few inches down, possibly striving to keep it tight to the ledge. Players were seen breathing heavily as the game progressed: John's heaving chest visible at the back of the court; while Courtney leant forward, hands on thighs, red faced, at the front.

The score mounted steadily with neither pair talking a decisive lead: John and Nigel kept just out in front up to 9-7. Richard Tyler was coaching from the crowd about how to play Reynolds "move him around" but those on court were oblivious.

Then came a shift in momentum. Courtney and Graham both returned John's cut. Graham set two volleys round the right corner of the front wall dropping into the bottom of the buttress leaving Nigel stranded. Courtney and Graham had their first lead (10-9) and kept up the pressure forcing mistakes from their opponents. The score moved on to 14 (championship point) - 11. John ["We can still do it"] and Nigel mounted a spirited and impressive fight back. John's wide eyes would lock onto Nigel's each time he went up to serve throughout the game. Now that stare became even more piercing. An unexpected let seemed to interrupt Courtney's concentration for a couple of points as John and Nigel crept closer reaching 14-13. Then a mid court shot from John went just down and the game was over.

The MJS-J Cup was absent on the day and, after searching for a suitable substitute, Ronald's thermos (now empty) was ceremoniously presented to the winners by Neil Margerison. The winners thanked their absent coach, Joe Seelig, for his brilliant insights into the game and then the ensemble enjoyed liquid refreshment and lively conversation in the beer garden of the George PH - until it became too dark to see!

For 2010 we will include an open competition for the MJS-J Cup as well as an over 50s and an over 60s section. All veterans will be warmly welcome!