As we approach the first Short Mat Players Tour event of 2016, we thought we would look back at some of the highlights from the last 12 months.
January started with the Swedish Masters and saw Cecil Dillon from Ireland claim his second SMPT title after defeating home favourite Jorgen Karlsson 13-5 in the final. England’s Nigel Reed recorded his first spot on the SMPT podium by beating Order of Merit leader Mark Beattie (Ireland) in the bronze medal match, 12-5. The Plate was won by Lars Hansen after he beat Steve Puttock in the final while Susanne Kallsvik beat Dick Almen to claim the Wooden Spoon.
The English Masters at the beginning of February witnessed Welsh legend Stephen Williams claim his maiden SMPT title at Bromsgrove as he beat England’s Paul Bax 12-6 in the final to add to his very impressive trophy cabinet. Bronagh Toleman (England) claimed the bronze medal by beating Mark Beattie in a tie-break. This was a sweet victory for Bronagh as she avenged her defeat to Mark in the final of the 2012 UK Open. Nigel Nicholls took the Plate after beating Neil Davidson (both England) 13-7 and Luke Lane won the Wooden Spoon against Eric Pavey (both England). While Mark continued his stint at the top of the rankings, Belgian duo Jonathan and Dimtri Payne looked set to challenge the Irish dominance with the season nearing its conclusion.
As we moved into April, preparations for the World Masters took centre stage with over 200 players entered in the main event at Belfast. The Friday before the action got underway saw the return of our popular World 2 Bowl Masters which saw a record entry of 96 players. This tournament was played in groups of 3 before the players were split into Main and Plate knockout competitions with matches played over 15 ends. In an all Swedish final Dick Almen beat Joel Hager 18-15, in what would prove to be an early indication of this nation’s rapid rise on the international arena.
Mark Beattie won the 2015 World Masters to claim his third SMPT title after a 14-4 win over Paul Canning. Andrew Morrison beat John Quinn for the Bronze Medal while England’s Jack Pye beat Derek McCann in the Plate final and Cecil Dillon won the Wooden Spoon after beating Ryan Cavan in the final. Mark finished the season by wrapping up the Order of Merit title ahead of Andrew Morrison & Jal Richardson, in second and third positions respectively.
This season the Order of Merit took on increased significance as a limited number of players would earn the right to represent their country at the inaugural SMPT World Cup in England, to be held later in the summer. Congratulations to all the qualifiers whose successful campaigns secured their invites.
In May, after the regular season had only just come to an end, the SMPT Team headed to Skien in Norway to pave the way for a new event in 2016. After productive meetings with Bowls Norway the Norwegian Open was finalised for inclusion in the 2016-17 season.
June saw the Tour head to the Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos for our first event in Eastern Europe, the Cyprus Grand Prix. This event consisted of two different pairs competitions and one singles competition, with the overall points winner crowned the Grand Prix Champion.
In the Open Pairs Brian Hill & Roy Staples beat Chris Collins & Roger Diddums 15-7, while Tony Lenton & Kath Fussey took the Plate final with a 10-9 victory over Mark Hollis & Ian Ford. Raymonda Van Roy & Robert De Rijke won the Matchplay Pairs after a 15-5 win over Martyn Dubb & Steve Puttock. Lawrence Moffat & Suzanne Steele won the Plate after a 16-5 win over Karen Hannen & Mick Smith. Scotland’s Lawrence Moffat won the Masters Singles with an 8-5 win over Joel Hager from Sweden.
The last piece of action from the 2015 Cyprus Grand Prix saw a 3 end play-off which was required to determine who would be the Cyprus Grand Prix Champion. Kevin Males from Cyprus beat Chris Page from England 2-1 to claim the prize of a week long stay courtesy of the sponsors Constantinou Bros Hotels (CBH). Kevin Males also claimed the Bob Berriman trophy which was awarded to the top performing Cyprus based player.
August marked another SMPT milestone as 9 teams participated in the first World Cup of short mat bowls, held at our home venue in Bromsgrove. After the group stages had been concluded, the semi-final line-ups were England v Belgium and Sweden v Ireland. England recorded a comfortable 6v0 win to secure their birth in the final, whilst Sweden produced an upset to knockout the pre-tournament favourites Ireland, 4v2. The final proved to be a very close contest which went down to the last bowl of the match. In the end, the Swedish outfit comprising of Joel Hager, Dick Almen, Jorgen Karlsson and Tommy Dahlgren had just enough to pip the English quartet of Chris Mann, Dominic Reed, Jack Pye and James Trott, as they won 4v2 (39v38 shots: 1 mat win each & 2 mats drawn).
The day after the World Cup saw the start of the regular 2015-16 season with the opening world ranking event, the UK Open. This event smashed a SMPT personal best as players from 16 nations were included in the draw. Ireland’s Gary McNabb took the crown beating Paul Pomeroy of England, 12v11. Buoyed by their success in the World Cup winning team, Joel Hager claimed the Bronze Medal after beating fellow Swede Dick Almen 10v8. There was more silverware for the Irish as William Boggs won the Plate competition with a 14v4 victory over England’s Peter Roberts. In the Shield (which replaced the Wooden Spoon from previous seasons), Karl Hudson (England) beat Jorgen Karlsson (Sweden), 13v10.
In September the Tour headed west for the Ramada Plaza Irish Open, the second ranking event of six. Belgian Dimitri Payne’s maiden SMPT victory meant that he became the first overseas winner on Irish soil. In a dramatic final Dimitri beat Andrew Morrison (Ireland), 8v7. In the all-Irish 3rd place play-off, Pauline Beattie claimed her second Bronze Medal with a 7v6 win over Brendon Murphy. Aidan Corrigan was victorious in the Plate beating his fellow countryman Adrian Tanner 11v6, whilst Frank Cunningham beat local favourite Stevie Mulholland 12v6 in the Shield final. In the Order of Merit, Gary McNabb consolidated his position on top with Sweden’s Joel Hager in second place and husband and wife Joe & Pauline Beattie tied in third place. Mark Beattie remained the World Number 1 in the rankings, ahead of Andrew Morrison & Jal Richardson. Jonathan Payne was fourth, 1 point ahead of his son, Dimitri Payne.
Following our trip to the Emerald Isle, the next stop on the Tour was Herentals, Belgium for the European Masters. Still oozing confidence from his part in Sweden’s World Cup win and his subsequent podium at the UK Open, Mr Consistency, Joel Hager, defeated Ireland’s Gary Moore 14v5 to take his first SMPT ranking title. Sibe Laureys ensured Belgium were on the podium in successive events as he took the Bronze medal after an 8v6 victory over Paul Pomeroy (England). A welcome return to SMPT action for Sweden’s Marcus Almen saw him take the Plate with a 12-8 win over Dom Reed (England). Holland’s Saskia Schaft won the Shield after beating England junior Alex Kley, 10v9.
The SMPT’s competitive action in 2015 would end with the World Fours Masters and World Pairs Masters weekend in December. In the Fours, the standard of play in the final was typical of that played throughout the day. The Devon rink skipped by James Smith with Michael Ivings, Paul Pomeroy and James Trott would go on to beat Lee Toleman’s rink, including Bronagh Toleman, Martin Simcock and John Manley, on a tie-break, after the game finished 7v7. The win meant that Smith and Ivings joined Ireland’s Jal Richardson and William Morrison in an elite group of players to have won both Fours and Pairs titles. The Plate competition was won by a second all Devon rink: Graham James, Elliot James, Mike Avery & Tony Main.
The Pairs on the Sunday witnessed a capacity 64 teams bidding for the title. In what was an excellent final, the Irish pairing of Lisa Douglas and Jal Richardson ultimately proved too strong for England’s Ollie Hipkiss and Ryan Knight, as they ran out 11v7 victors. The win meant Jal regained the trophy he first won in 2013 and it was further success for the pair who were both part of the rink to win the World Fours Masters in 2014.
Thank you to all the players for your support, help and feedback in 2015, which make our tournaments such a pleasure to be a part of.
We look forward to 2016 and our first tournament of the year in Sweden on the 9th & 10th January. Please note that entries are still open for our two charity events in England and the World Masters weekend in Northern Ireland, which marks the end of the season.
See you all soon.