New Season, New BUTBA, Same Old Press Secretary

To mark the end of one season of student bowling and the start of the next we held the traditional Masters Weekend of bowling on the 6th and 7th of October 2012. This was comprised of the BUTBA (British Universities Tenpin Bowling Association) Men’s Scratch Masters, the Ladies’ Scratch Masters and the Handicap Masters tournaments on the Saturday (with the Order of Merit Trophy Presentation in the middle of it!), and the BUTBA Student vs Ex-student Challenge Match on the Sunday (with our AGM in the middle of it!), all of which were held at 1st Bowl in Nottingham.

In other words, an awful lot happened over a single weekend, and I’ll do my best to summarise events as succinctly as possible!

The Scratch Masters is an invitation only event, with the invitations being based on bowlers’ performances on our tour over the preceding season. We run a minimum of 8 Order of Merit (OoM) tournaments every season, open to all of our members, at each of which the bowlers are ranked based on the scratch averages they bowl on the day, split into 4 different categories, student men, ex-student men, student ladies, and ex-student ladies, and receive points accordingly. At the end of the season only each bowler’s five best OoM scores count towards their final OoM total, and consequently their finishing place in the OoM.

The top 8 student and top 8 ex-student men qualify automatically for the Masters, whereas for the ladies it is the top 4 in each section that qualify!

The Handicap Masters is also an invitational event using a similar set of criteria to determine who gets invited as the Scratch Masters. At every OoM event all bowlers who enter are ranked based on the handicap average they bowl on the day, split in to two categories, student and ex-student bowlers. At the end of the season the top 8 students and top 8 ex-students in the handicap OoM table are invited to bowl in the Handicap Masters.

2011-12 Scratch OoM Results – Student Men: 1). Danny Crook, 2). Mark Hodds, 3). Paul Marks, 4). Matt Anniss, 5). Alex Fitzpatrick, 6). Joe Crook, 7). Dan Frazer, 8). Saiful Salihudin.

Student Ladies: 1). Rachael McKenzie, 2). Nicky Donowski, 3). Jess Davidson, 4). Rachel Rawlings.

Ex-Student Men: 1). Rich Balaam, 2). Pete Thornley, 3). Dave Abbott, 4). Paul Williams, 5). Gaz Balaam, 6). James Larkin, 7). Dan Chan, 8). Rob Goodwin.

Ex-Student Ladies: 1). Louise Parker, 2). Anne-Marie Turner, 3). Lorna Seed, 4). Roxanne Turner.

2011-12 Handicap OoM Results – Students: 1). Rachael McKenzie, 2). Danny Crook, 3). Joe Crook, 4). Paul Marks, 5). Matt Anniss, 6). Nicky Donowski, 7). Saiful Salihudin, 8). Mark Hodds.

Ex-students: 1). Louise Parker, 2). Dave Abbott, 3). Pete Thornley, 4). Rich Balaam, 5). Anne-Marie Turner, 6). James Larkin, 7). Dave Brooks, 8). Chris Barrand.

As you can see from the above, several names appear on both scratch and handicap invitational lists, and bowlers who were in that position were allowed to choose which event they wanted to bowl in (if any!), with bowlers next in line on each OoM list being invited to fill any spaces that developed.

New proposals voted in at this year’s AGM will ensure that we have 2 completely distinct pools of qualifiers for the scratch and handicap masters for this coming season (and hopefully for the foreseeable future), as each bowler must choose at the start of the season, whether they want to enter the Scratch OoM, the Handicap OoM or neither.

BUTBA Men’s Masters 2012:

The Men’s Scratch Masters sees all 16 entrants bowling a qualifying block of 6 games (two sets of 3 games) at doubles pace, after which the field is cut in half, and the remaining bowlers are drawn into two groups of 4 bowlers, and bowl 1 game of matchplay singles against each of the bowlers in their group (2 points for a win + 1% pinfall), with the winner and runner-up in each group progressing to the seeded Semi-Finals and Finals, all decided by a single game of matchplay!

Mike Hurst (Swansea) finished top in qualifying with 1271, just ahead of Danny Crook (Sheffield) on 1269, and James Larkin (Ex-student) on 1268. 4th was Paul Williams (Ex-Student) 1259, 5th= Jonathan Spivey (Portsmouth) and Jez Knight (Ex-student) on 1238, 7th Jordan Wong (Loughborough) 1231, and 8th Mark Bloor (Ex-student) 1223…with Mark Hodds missing the cut by 4 pins back in 9th place!

In Group A, James Larkin did just enough to beat both Jordan Wong (184 to 162) and Jonathan Spivey (213 to 203), whilst Jon annihilated both Mike Hurst (278 to 215) and Jordan Wong (288 to 188), and Mike completed Jordan’s whitewash (258 to 214), which set up a really interesting final match between Mike and James. If Mike won it, then Jon, James and Mike would all finish on 4 points each (2 wins), but Mike and Jon would progress by virtue of their greater pinfall, whereas if James won or even drew the final match, he’d top the group and he and Jon would make it through to the finals!

It was a nervy and nail-biting encounter with both men knowing exactly what was at stake, and in the end it came down to the very last ball, Mike had to strike or go home, and he held his nerve, struck and won the match up 205 to 204!

In Group B, Paul Williams copied the James Larkin style of bowling, by not scoring a lot but somehow finding a way to beat your opponent (i.e. they were both very skilled at dragging their opponents down to their level!). He won his first game against Mark Bloor (172 to 150), just missed out on the second to Jez Knight (195 to 201), and came up with a crucial win against Danny Crook in the 3rd (190 to 187), and despite having the lowest pinfall total in his group, managed to sneak through as second qualifier. Meanwhile Mark recovered from his loss in the first game, to storm to victory against both Danny (258 to 187) and Jez (230 to 217), and secure his place as top qualifier in the group, due to Danny beating Jez (193 to 156) in their first game in the group.

In the first Semi-final Jon Spivey was still on scintillating form and easily saw off the challenge from Paul Williams (242 to 190), whilst in the second, Mike Hurst and Mark Bloor had a seriously high powered and tightly fought encounter, which Mark just edged (244 to 238).

The 3rd/4th play-off saw two weary bowlers (in their 11th game of the day!) both struggling to find some form, but the game went the way of Paul hitting 178 to Mike’s 141!

From the start of the second round, there had only really been one bowler making all the running, so it should come as no surprise that the eventual winner of the BUTBA Men’s Scratch Masters 2012 was Jon Spivey, with a rather modest (by his standards) 211 game in the final being enough to see off Mark’s challenge of a 186. Jon also broke the all time high average record for the Masters tournament with 2460 pins over his 11 games for an average of 223.64 over the whole tournament (the previous record was 2447 pins over 11 games by James Larkin in 2010). Although unfortunately his second round set of 769 can’t count towards the series record!

BUTBA Ladies’ Masters 2012:

The format for the Ladies’ Scratch Masters is almost identical to the men’s event, except that there are only 8 competitors to begin with, which then cuts to 4 after the 6 games of qualification. In round 2 these four ladies compete in a single round robin matchplay group, with the rankings they achieve in this round determining their seeding for the finals (there is no semi-final!).

Rachael McKenzie (the Defending Champion from Leeds Met) blew away all of the competition during qualification, outscoring all the men, with a truly impressive 1317 over the first 6 games (including a 689 Series!). Her nearest rival was Nicky Donowski (Leeds) on 1195, closely followed by Roxanne Turner (Manchester) on 1186, with the 2010 champion Louise Parker (Ex-student) taking the 4th spot in the second round on 1154.

Rachael beat Roxanne in the first of her second round matches (200 to 180), before coming a cropper to Louise Parker in the second (214 to 187), and then recovering to beat Nicky (204 to 186) in the last. Louise also beat Nicky (195 to 172), but lost out to Roxanne in her final match (203 to 170); whilst Roxanne herself was beaten my Nicky in what turned out to be the closest match of the round (187 to 183).

Louise topped the group by virtue of a 2 pin lead over Rachael during this round (579 to 577) as they both had 2 wins to their credit, whilst Roxy (566) and Nicky (545) both had a single win apiece.

The 3rd/4th playoff saw Nicky and Roxy engaged in a really hard fought match, with neither bowler wanting to give quarter to the other, but in the end Roxy emerged victorious with a score of 192 to 181!

In the final Louise proved the truth of that old adage, “Form is temporary, whilst class is permanent!” In her own words, she hadn’t been bowling at her best that day, but kept finding a way to win, but in that final she gave a true champion’s performance, trouncing Rachael with a score line of 240 to 173!

Rachael recorded the highest average on the day (and certainly one of the highest I can ever remember seeing bowled in the ladies’ masters!), with a 206.7 (2067 over 10 games), almost 100 pins ahead of Louise (on 1973).

Now that Louise has recorded her 2nd Master’s win in 3 years, and Rachael and her have contested the last 2 finals the question has to be asked, “Can anyone break their monopoly on the Masters?” You’ll have to tune in next year to find out!

BUTBA Handicap Masters 2012:

The format for this event like the other 2 masters events begins with a qualification set of 6 games, but in the second round, all bowlers who make the cut must bowl 3 new qualification games, with the four bowlers with the highest pinfall over just those 3 games being ranked 1 to 4 on the basis of those games and progressing to their respective positions in the stepladder final!

Saiful Salihudin (Nottingham) led the field out with a very impressive handicap total of 1473 (1257 scratch) during qualifying, followed up by the defending champion Pete Thornley (Ex-student) on 1426 (1270 scratch, only 1 pin behind the top qualifier in the Men’s Scratch Masters!) with Joe Crook (Sheffield) in 3rd on 1379 (1163). Carl Whitfield (Sheffield) was 4th on 1367 (1127), Wing Lai (Ex-Student) 5th with 1343 (1007), James Harris (Nottingham) 6th on 1306 (880), Robert Humphries (Nottingham) 7th with 1304 (914), and the 8th and final qualifier was Paul Turner (Leeds) on 1300 exactly (1036).

Joe Crook was the best performer in the second round with a 694 handicap series (586 scratch), ahead of Pete Thornley on 683 (605), Wing Lai 678 (510) and Saiful Salihudin 675 (567), with the other 4 competitors missing the cut by 60+ pins.

In the first match of the step-ladder, Wing comfortably saw off the challenge from Saiful with a handicap score of 218 to Saiful’s 186, but then himself was narrowly beaten by Pete (236 to 226), setting up a final showdown between multiple winner Pete and Joe “The Upstart” Crook! Joe isn’t one to let reputations scare him though, and managed to emerge triumphant from a titanic struggle with Pete, to claim the title by a score of 244 to 228!

Pete finished with top scratch average in the tournament with a very impressive 207.91 (entering off a 188 average!), over his 11 games (mind you this is still some way off the record set by Phil Keeling in the inaugural handicap masters, of a scratch average of approximately 230!).

BUTBA Challenge Match 2012:

The student ex-student challenge match is the annual grudge match between the two sides of our tour, and traditionally takes place the day after the Masters events, and in the same centre.

Each side fields a team of 12 bowlers for the match, split into an A team of 6 and a B team of 6 (with both A and B team having to contain 2 female bowlers). The two A teams compete against each other on scratch, whilst the two B teams compete on handicap, but in all other respects the format for both A’s and B’s is identical, and the scores garnered by both A and B teams are combined to give a team points total, and determine the overall winner of the match.

The format of the match is combination 6’s where each team bowls 3 games whilst split into 3 doubles teams, then 3 games split into two trios teams, and finally 3 games whilst split in to a five and a single. There are points available for winning each game, and for winning the series, with the number of points available increasing with the size of the sub-team bowling (so for singles, it is 1 point for a win, 0 for a loss, and ½ for a draw, in doubles it’s 2 for a win, 0 for a loss and 1 for a draw etc.).

This is another invitational event, whereby only the top 4 male bowlers and top 2 female bowlers in student and ex-student OoM are selected for the A team, however for the B team selection is based not on OoM Points, but on number of games bowled on the tour over the preceding season! So the 4 men and 2 ladies who have bowled the most games on the student and ex-student tours are selected for the B team. As with the scratch and handicap masters, if any bowlers are unavailable to take their spot, their place goes to the next best person on the list.

In the A team Doubles, the first pairing of ex-students, James Larkin & Pete Thornley (Captain) took on a pair of crooks (The Crook brothers to be precise, Joe & Danny), and after narrowly losing the first game (371-392), totally dominated their rivals from then on (382-327 & 451-308) finishing on 1204 scratch (courtesy of James’ 685 series, finishing with a 258 game) to their opponents 1027, and gaining a points victory of 6 to 2.

The second match saw ex-students Dave Abbott and Paul Williams, trying to find a chink in the armour of Mark Hodds and Paul Marks, they lost the first (374 to 429) and second (399 to 400!) games, but finally scraped a win in the third (421 to 414). A very tight and close fought affair, with 3 of the 4 bowlers breaking 600, but the students won the match by 6 to 2!

The final match was an all female affair, for the ex-students we had Louise Parker and Anne-Marie Turner, whilst representing the students were Nicky Donowski and Rachael McKenzie, and their match was every bit as close as the previous one! The students won the first game (321 to 364), the second was drawn (420 to 420), and the last went the way of the ex-students (387 to 374), with the students edging the overall by 30 pins. The high scoring was mainly down to Nicky and Louise, who hit 636 and 610 series respectively. So the students won the match by 5 points to 3, giving their A team as a whole a lead of 13 to 11 after the doubles.

The first match in the B Team Doubles saw Mike Carey and Charlie Baldwin keeping ex-student hopes alive with a 6-2 win over James Harris and Rob Humphries, although none of the bowlers involved were on particularly good form. The handicap game scores were as follows, 440-415, 388-405, and 389-339.

This hope then wavered again during the next doubles, where Rob Lewchenko and Sam De’athe (ex-students), were whitewashed by Saiful Salihudin and Frazer Bowen, although they definitely had chances to save themselves in games 2 and 3! They lost 402-442, 393-419, and 375-388, the students taking all 8 points.

The final doubles pairing saw that hope rekindled as the ex-student pairing of Roxy Turner and Lorna Seed also whitewashed their opponents, Poppy Girdlestone and Rachel Hodds 407-395, 451-428, 419-414, giving the ex-students an 8-0 win!

At the end of the doubles, the ex-student B team had a 14-10 lead over the students, which when combined with the A team result, gave the ex-students a slender lead of 25 points to 23!

The trio of Danny, Rachael & Paul M representing the student A team came out fighting and turned the tide against the ex-students (Paul W, Pete & Louise) starting with a whopping 689 scratch game (courtesy of a 279 from Danny) annihilating the ex-students game of 542! After the initial fireworks both teams submitted more modest efforts, and shared the next two games (518-570 & 614-581), but the student pinfall lead was uncatchable, so they secured the series points and the win by 9 points to 3. Danny finished on a 674 series.

Joe, Nicky and Mark tried to pull of something similar for the students in the second trio, but didn’t sync their efforts quite as well, with Joe copying his brother with a big game in the first 252, whereas Nicky slept through the 1st game but woke up for the second with a very nice 255 game. Whilst the ex-students (James, Dave & Anne-Marie) got off to a slow start, but then put in 2 solid games to finish, helped by James’ two consecutive 232 games. The upshot of all this was that the students won game 1 (600-533), lost games 2 (619-638) and 3 (574-608), but did just enough to take the overall pinfall, and tie the match 6 points apiece! Joe finished on a 614 series, Nicky on a 612, and James on a 649!

In the first of the B team trios one of the ex-student bowlers (Charlie) had an absolutely catastrophic 3 games of bowling, and despite his two team mates (Mike and Lorna) bowling out of their skins, the best they could do was make some of the games close, as with bowling this bad, the whitewash was inevitable! The student team of Saiful, Poppy and Frazer gratefully took all 12 points with handicap games of 626-585, 591-571, and 632 -591!

The second match wasn’t much more cheerful reading from an ex-student perspective, with the trio of Rob, Sam and Roxy being over-matched by their student counterparts Rachel H, Rob & James H. The ex-students won the first game comfortably 640-609, but then lost the next 2 games (669-706 & 595-641) and the series, giving the students a 9-3 victory!

So after 6 games bowled the student A team led the ex-students by 28 points to 20, whilst the Student B’s had a lead of 31 to 17 over their rivals.

The A team singles came down to a battle of the Paul’s, with Paul Marks representing the students, managing to complete a whitewash over his namesake Paul Williams, although for the second time on the day Mr Williams lost out on a chance of scoring some points by a single pin in the middle game of a set! Mr Marks achieved his 4 point haul with games of 195-175, 177-176, and 220-180.

Unsurprisingly Charlie found himself nominated to bowl in the B team singles for the ex-students, but perhaps surprisingly he did manage to get 1 point off of his opponent Rob Humphries. Their handicap games were as follows 164-238, 202-196 and 183-245.

So as the match reached its conclusion in the fives, the situation was really very simple, the ex-student A and B teams could only afford to lose 1 game between them if they wanted to retain the title! It had been a long day and an even longer weekend (for those involved in any of the Masters events!), so no one was expecting the fives to be a particularly high scoring affair, but they obviously hadn’t told the students that!

The Student A team of Rachael, Joe, Danny, Mark & Nicky started out with a 1072 scratch game, the ex-students (Pete, Lou, Dave, James & A-M) lived with them for 9 frames, but couldn’t match their finishing and ended up on 1027…and things only went downhill from there, with a 952 to 862 drubbing in the second, and then a total massacre in the final game 1132 scratch pins to a mere 887!

The ex-student cause wasn’t helped by a visibly tiring James, who could only just eke out a disappointing 540 series in the fives.

Every single student bowler put in a 600+ series in the Fives, a really impressive team performance, Rachael (649), Joe (632), Danny (631), Mark (623), and Nicky (621) with her third consecutive 600 series of the day, a truly impressive display of consistently great bowling! The only ex-student to break 600 was Pete (608), although Lou provided great support on 593! Winning the Fives 20-0 turned the match into a complete route, with the student A team finishing the match with 52 points to the students 20!

It was a much more competitive match-up in the B team fives, with the ex-student team of Mike, Roxy, Sam, Rob & Lorna winning the first (1085-1056 handicap) and the third (1051-1042) games, whilst the students (Saiful, Rachel, Poppy, James & Frazer) won the second (1067-1139) and also snuck the overall! Mike and Saiful were the stand out bowlers of the fives, with 624 and 612 scratch series’ respectively. The students and ex-students shared the fives points, scoring 10 apiece, and the student B team were victorious overall with a final total of 44 points to 28!

Despite his collapse in the fives, high average at the event went to James Larkin with 208.2, although he was only just ahead of Nicky Donowski on 207.7, Mark Hodds (201.6) & Danny Crook (201.4), were the only other bowlers to record a 200 average at the event. The Most Valuable A Team Player was Paul Marks, and the Most Valuable B team Player’s were Saiful Salihudin and Frazer Bowen.

So the overall match finished in a resounding victory of the students over the ex-students by 96 points to 48, quite possibly the largest ever winning margin! This was the second consecutive win by the students, but the ex-students still have the better win-loss record overall, and I’m sure they will regain the title next time!

James Larkin (BUTBA Press Secretary).

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