SEVENTH heaven is where Chesterfield bowler Andy Spragg found himself on Saturday afternoon, although he was in Scarborough’s Alexandra Gardens.
The reason? He’d just won the prestigious Gambart Baines Challenge Cup for the seventh time.
Spragg, one of the country’s outstanding crown green bowlers of the past two decades, previously won the £1,000 prize event in 1991, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2010.
And in the week running up to his seventh success he had also won £500 and £250 prize competitions at Barnsley and at Shireoaks.
Twenty eight bowlers - many of them acknowledged as top flight players in the West Riding and South Yorkshire area - had qualified for Saturday’s final play-offs at competitions held in Scarborough throughout the summer.
For the first time for many years there was no local qualifier.
In the quarter-finals Peter Wilcox (Leeds) beat I Booth (Halifax) 21-13, Spragg beat David Fisher (Wakefield) 21-13, Neil Wood (Leeds) beat N Breadley (Bradford) 21-17 and Dean Reilly (Doncaster) beat Mark Crawshaw (Sheffield) 21-13.
Wilcox, who won the Gambart in 2007 and 2009, never got into his stride in the quarter-final against Spragg, who won 21-8, while Reilly overcame Wood 21-14.
The final looked to be going all Spragg’s way when, bowling long corner marks, he enjoyed a 13-4 lead after 13 ends, but Reilly battled away to prove a worthy challenger before going down 21-16.
At the close, Scarborough Council’s leisure services manager Andrew Williams, who acted as MC, introduced the Mayor of Scarborough, Cllr John Blackburn, who congratulated all the players before presenting the awards and a cheque to Scarborough and District Crown Green Bowling Association in appreciation of its members’ services in running the competition throughout the summer.
Spragg’s record is outstanding. Two wins of the Gambart is the best any other bowler has done over the 72 competitions since it was inaugurated in 1919: Gordon Ashmore (Eastfield) in 1978 and 1984, Jason Gilroy (Whitby) in 1998 and 2000, and Peter Wilcox (Leeds) in 2007 and 2009.
Provisional dates for next year’s competition are: qualifying rounds, Thursdays May 31 to September 27, plus bank holiday Mondays May 28 and August 27; finals day, Saturday October 13.