Short Mat Players Tour 2014 Review

As 2014 draws to a close, we thought we would look back at some of the highlights from the last 12 months.

January started with the Swedish Masters and saw Joe Beattie from Ireland claim his third SMPT title after defeating fellow countryman Mark Beattie 10-7 in the final, they would renew their rivalry later in the season. It was an all-Ireland top 4 in Sweden, with Cecil Dillon beating Jal Richardson to retain his spot at the top of the Order of Merit. Dick Almen insured that the home crowd had something to cheer, as he claimed the Plate with a 14-10 win over Lisa Douglas, while the Wooden Spoon went to Dimitri Payne of Belgium.

The English Masters at the end of February saw a SMPT first, as Lee Toleman proposed to Bronagh Malone! Joe Beattie found the going a bit tougher in Bromsgrove, as Bronagh pipped him to second place in the group. Mark Beattie couldn’t make it past the second round as he fell to Neil Davidson, while Jal Richardson went out at the same stage to Stephen Gale. There was no stopping Cecil Dillon however, as he navigated his way to the final where he met Dimitri Payne. The final was level heading in to the last end but Cecil ditched the jack with his third wood to claim his maiden SMPT title and increase his lead at the top of the Order of Merit standings. Anthony Fautley took the bronze medal home with him after beating Ben Pay 14-12. William Morrison beat Marc Lancaster 9-8 to leave with the Plate while Nigel Nicholls beat Mitchell Young 12-5 for the Wooden Spoon.

February saw another first for the SMPT as 4 bowlers from the UAE confirmed their entries for the World Masters in April, however the next tournament was the Double Rink which saw the Devon Destroyers beat TOWIE 19-3 in a one-sided final. The Red Dragons won the Plate 19-17 against Arwel’s Army.

As we moved in to April, preparations for the World Masters were in full flow with 252 players entered in the main event at Belfast. The Friday before the action got underway was the first ever World 2 Bowl Singles which saw 83 players enter. The competition was played as a straight knockout with matches played over 21 ends. Gary McNabb took the title after beating Nathan Haire 18-15 in a cracking final.

As the World Masters got underway defending champion Alan Paul got through a tough group along with Mark Beattie while Cecil Dillon insured his top spot in the Order of Merit after topping his qualifying group. Dimitri Payne also progressed after finishing second to Ryan O’Neill in his group. As the rounds passed, some mouth-watering matches were served up, with Cecil Dillon eventually losing to Kevin Conroy in the last 16. Pauline Beattie ended Mark Beattie’s title hopes at the same stage. The semi-finals saw Kevin Conroy fall to Gerry McCabe 10-9 whilst Paul Reid joined him in the final after an 11-9 victory over Eddie Crawford. Gerry McCabe was in excellent form and looked unstoppable as he opened up a 5-0 lead, but Paul Reid fought back to trail by one shot half-way through the final. Gerry once again opened up a lead and this time he didn’t let it slip, taking the World Masters 2014 title 10-5. Kevin Conroy had to settle for bronze as he defeated Eddie Crawford 10-6. Niall Cox lifted the Plate after an 11-10 victory over Mark Petticrew and Richard Allen took home the Wooden Spoon, beating Aaron Taylor 10-9.

Joe Beattie’s run to the third round saw him pip Dimitri Payne to second place behind Cecil Dillon in the Order of Merit. Mark Beattie finished in fourth position with Jal Richardson completing the top 5.

As the 2013/14 season drew to a close, the SMPT team were busy working on a revamped rankings system for the Order of Merit, which would also see the top 4 players from each country qualify for the brand new World Cup in 2015.

Before the UK Open, the SMPT announced another new series of competitions, the Cyprus Grand Prix which will be held at the Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos from Wednesday 3 June to Friday 5 June 2015.

On to the UK Open 2014, and we saw our biggest event so far outside of Ireland, as 144 players from 13 countries, including Erika Wachholz from Germany and Jesse Godinho from India for the first time. However, one important player was missing as Joe Beattie was unable to defend his trophy because of injury. There was still a strong representation from Ireland as Cecil Dillon, Jal Richardson, Mark Beattie and Pauline Beattie all had their eyes on the top prize. Last year’s Order of Merit winner found himself dumped out of the main competition after Jal Richardson beat Cecil Dillon to second spot in his group. Dimitri Payne was looking to go one better than his English Masters effort earlier in the year as he topped his group, however his tournament was eventually ended by Mark Beattie in the second round. 4 time World Champion Stephen Williams from Wales fell to Ireland’s Diarmuid McMahon, who then lost to Jal Richardson in the next round. Mark Beattie found himself in another final after wins against Martyn Craig and Allan Williams, while in the top half of the draw England’s Robert Martin was quietly moving through the gears as he beat Aled Humphreys and Peter Rees from Wales, before a 15-2 win over Jal Richardson. Robert took control early in the final against Mark Beattie, leading 6-0 and then 10-4 with two ends to play. A four brought Mark right back in to contention but Robert held on to claim the UK Open with an 11-8 victory. Jal Richardson took third place from Martyn Craig. Cecil had made his way to the final of the Plate, but Alan Jones stood in his way and Scotland’s Lawrence Moffat lost out to Chris McWhinnie in the Wooden Spoon.

As we entered September everyone was looking forward to heading back to Belfast for the Irish Open. Joe Beattie was fit again and looking to add to his SMPT collection while Jal Richardson was still searching for his first title. Kevin Conroy was also there, looking for his maiden SMPT title. Cecil Dillon again found himself in the Plate after finishing third in his group, while Jal, Joe & Kevin all progressed to the Main knockout. World Masters champion Gerry McCabe joined Cecil in the Plate along with Dimitri Payne. Jal Richardson moved in to the semi-finals after wins against Andrew Morrison, Malcolm Cunningham & Stuart McSorley, where he would face Joe Beattie who had edged past Raymond Stubbs 7-6. Kevin Conroy lost out in the quarter-finals after a 12-7 loss to his father Sean, who would go on to face PJ McCrossan after he had a 17-3 victory over Gary McNabb. Jal was in fine form in his match again Joe and after his 4th attempt finally defeated his compatriot as he moved in to the final with a 12-3 victory. PJ had a much closer game against Sean, eventually winning 12-11. Many thought this would be Jal’s maiden victory on the Tour, but PJ had other ideas, quickly taking control of the game, and a 3 on the penultimate end saw him wrap up a 13-3 win to claim the Irish Open 2014 title. The bronze medal went to Joe Beattie after a tie-break win over Sean Conroy while his wife Pauline Beattie took home the Plate after an 11-7 victory over William Morrison. Jonathan Payne won the Wooden Spoon, beating Marty McNicholl 12-7 to stop an Irish clean sweep of the titles.

In October the Tour moved to Belgium as the European Masters took centre stage. Jonathan & Dimitri Payne were hoping home advantage would pay off, while the regulars from Ireland were all there, as well as Sweden’s Dick Almen & Joel Hager who both looked strong in their respective groups. The English contingent found the going tough with James Trott failing to make the Main knockout after being drawn against Joe & Mark Beattie in the group stages. Nigel Reed had another impressive run after wins against fellow Englishman Jack Pye and local Louis Helsen before Dick Almen ended his hopes in the quarter-finals. Cecil Dillon was back in the Main knockout but he would see his challenge ended by Lisa Douglas 11-5. Jonathan Payne beat Jal Richardson 12-3 before beating Nathan Haire. Unfortunately after a spectacular match against Joe Beattie, Jonathan fell 12-11 to the Irishman. Joe would meet his wife Pauline in the semi-final after she once again beat William Morrison. Mark Beattie booked his place in the final after beating Dick Almen 11-6 whilst Joe Beattie set up a rematch, after beating Pauline 14-2. Mark was going for his second SMPT title while Joe was aiming for his fourth and it was Mark who took his chances, stretching to a 7-3 lead. He kept his 4 shot advantage going into the final end and with Joe needing a 4 to force a tie-break, could only manage a valiant 3 to lose by one shot. Pauline Beattie took the Bronze medal after a 14-6 win over Dick Almen for a Beattie 1,2,3. Defending champion Chris Mann beat Steve Puttock 14-9 to claim the Plate while popular local player KaatjeVangeneugden beat Sam Moore in the Wooden Spoon final.

November saw the World Fours Masters & World Pairs Masters take place at Bromsgrove. A strong field saw familiar names take the Fours title as Lisa Douglas, Jal Richardson, William & Andrew Morrison beat the English quartet of Chris Williams, Alan Jones, Alan Williams & Jody Bright in the final. William Morrison & Jal Richardson were hoping to make it a double celebration over the weekend as they looked to defend their World Pairs Masters title, however they found Martin Simcock & John Manley of England in their way as they succumbed to a 10-3 defeat. This set up an all-English final against Michael Ivings & James Smith. Simcock & Manley took the advantage in the final, leading 5-3 after seven ends, but Ivings & Smith came back, scoring 5 over the next two ends to lead by 3 on the final end. Simcock & Manley could only manage a 2, to leave Michael Ivings & James Smith as the 2014 World Pairs Masters champions.

So as 2014 comes to an end we are looking forward to 2015 and our first tournament of the year in Sweden on the 10th & 11th January. Entries are still open for our remaining tournaments of the year and preparations are well underway for the 2015/16 season. As always we appreciate the support, help and feedback from all the players who make our tournaments such a pleasure to run.

Have a great New Year everyone!

The SMPT Team.

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