World Ranking: 3
Order of merit: 2
|2022/23 SMPT season record||W||D||L|
Another successful year for the 35 year old from Dromore. Gary was able to participate in five of the six ranking events this season, and was a strong favourite to add to his six SMPT titles, already attained.
At the season opening UK Open, It was a straightforward task, qualifying for the Cup knockout. Four wins and a draw against Cennydd Howell, saw Gary top group 4. Two tough wins against the experienced Lee Toleman & Joseph Beattie followed in the Last 32 & 16 respectively, before a great Quarter Final match against the in-form Peter Roberts of England. Peter snuck home 10-9.
Back in Belfast, at the Irish Open, Gary, once again, made light work of qualifying from group 23 and then proceeded to beat England’s Andrew Shorney in the Cup round of 64. In the Last 32, Gary again lost out by one shot, this time to UK Open Champion Pauline Beattie.
In our third event of the season, Gary encountered a tougher time at the fast paced, hard floor venue of Skien, Norway. A tough opening win in group 7 against David Studden was followed by a surprise defeat against Norwegian, Joakim Jensen. Things improved considerably after this and Gary once again made it through to the Cup knockout. Two close wins over John Pye & Thore Amundsen, set up a Quarter final rematch against Peter Roberts. Again Peter came out on top, this time by 11 shots to 6.
In the New Year, Gary returned to York, to defend his British Open title which he won back in 2020. An outstanding run in the group, saw Gary amass an amazing 103 shots and just 19 against, including two wins of 33-1 & 25-2. In the knockouts, he came through some tough matches, including a 12-11 win against Ben Holbrook of England in the Last 32, and an intriguing match against Matty Worden who had been running at the jack all day. It took all Gary’s skill to come through that Semi-Final 9-3 and a shot at defending his title. Gary was up against James John Davies from Wales, who had been bowling superbly well all day. In a tight, high quality match, Gary was able to get home 11-6 and pick up his 7th SMPT title.
Gary was unable to attend the English Masters, but did make it to Belfast for the Belfast Open Pairs & World Masters. In Friday’s Pairs event, Gary partnered Rachel McDonnell. An amazing run, which saw them beat some tough pairs along the way, saw them reach the Final, where they would take on the Welsh/Irish combo of Dafydd Howell and Jason Hand, who they had already beaten in the group stage. Despite some nervousness from Rachel and an 8-0 deficit, the pair were able to storm back and claim victory by 14-8!
Heading into the World Masters, a title he had won back in 2018, Gary was also well placed to take home the coveted Order of Merit title. With the absence of Pauline and Joe Beattie, this looked like a straight up fight with his nemesis from earlier in the season, Peter Roberts.
Yet again, qualification from group 35 was assured with five wins from five. Three wins followed in the knockout stage, including a one shot victory over compatriot David McCullough. With Peter Roberts losing out in the last 16, this meant Gary could win the Order of Merit if he was to go on and win the title. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the case as Gary lost out in the Quarter Finals to eventual winner Alex Kley, by 9 shots to 4. It was another top season from Gary, obtaining two titles and finishing second in the OoM.
The Short Mat Players Tour’s (SMPT) selection of short-listed players is final. Voting is open to all players who have a SMPT Player Profile on our website.
Players who have previously played in a SMPT event but do not have a Player Profile can register for one by emailing email@example.com – any player wanting a profile should send their email from the email address that is to be used for their profile, confirming the name of the last SMPT event they entered. Once a Player Profile has been set up, the player is eligible to vote.
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All votes must be received by the SMPT in the required format before 8pm on Sunday 2nd July 2023. The winner will be announced on our website on Tuesday 4th July 2023