The First Five “Masters Competitions”.
The Horsham Masters was an idea conceived in 1988 and the inspiration came from watching the Benson and Hedges Snooker Masters. The idea was a simple one – the best 16 players ability-wise (according to a full season’s averages) would receive an invite to play off in one evening to completion in a seeded knockout competition (1 v16, 2v 15, 3 v 14 etc)
Tarratt Tables agreed to install two extra tables into the Queens Head Bolney for an evening, it being local to their centre of operations in Twynham. The local paper the West Sussex County Times very kindly agreed to sponsor the competition by funding the purchase of two very smart perpetual cups. The idea soon caught on, and before long there was a Sussex County Masters – as well as those from rival leagues such as Brighton, Worthing and Littlehampton.
But the Horsham Masters was the first. The WSCT gave full coverage and I am able therefore to quote from the newspaper writeups of the time:
Horsham Bar Billiards League Secretary Clive Thompson was the surprise winner of the inaugural West Sussex County Times-sponsored Masters Trophy, when he outgunned second-seed Gerry McCarthy 7800-7180 in the final.
The competition featured the top 16 league players, based on highest current averages, and there were some early upsets: Three of the top four seeds, Peter Gibbs, John Slee and Tony Franks, all made early exits.
McCarthy justified his ranking by cruising into the final, notching the highest break (7330) and the highest score (8860) .
Thompson, ranked 13, beat the 4th, 5th and 6th seeds on the way to the final and the trophy.
Top seeds Tony Franks and Peter Gibbs pose with the Cups before the start
Gerry McCarthy became the new holder of the West Sussex County Times-sponsored Masters: He defeated Kim Wood 11,790-9750 in a competitive final at the Queens Head, Bolney on Tuesday night.
The last year’s finalist had to be at his very best to see off Wood’s strong challenge.
Wood elected to go first and produced a fine break of 9280 to put plenty of pressure on his opponent. But McCarthy was not to be denied and replied with a storming 10,720 in the second leg – which was good enough for the highest break and score awards of the evening.
Earlier Wood caused an upset by knocking out top seed Tony Franks in the Semis. The Limeburners player was granted a ‘life’ in the quarters when John Slee felled the white peg having made 10,000.
The competitors line up outside the Queens Head, Bolney before the start of the 2nd Masters.
Peter Gibbs of YMCA swept aside all opposition to claim the Horsham Masters, beating Brian Rendell 17,440-1020 in the final.
Gibbs followed the form book to add this prize to his recently acquired Horsham singles crown and Player of the Year award. But elsewhere it was a competition full of shocks as four top seeds fell by the wayside in the first round, including defending champion Gerry McCarthy.
The YMCA man, seeded four, was blitzed by the competition’s highest break, 8570, and went down to Nick Hayes (Windmill, Crawley) 5780-11,640.
It was Brian Rendell (George & Dragon) who emerged from the top half of the draw, defeating Bob Toye, seeded five, then Hayes, and Brian Marten who had earlier eliminated top seed Tony Franks (Eight Bells).
Rendell was delighted with this success on the singles scene, as he was previously best known as a doubles player. He is the current holder with Tony Temple of both the Horsham Mens Pairs and the King & Barnes Open Doubles titles.
No write-up this time, but it was an ‘interesting’ competition nonetheless. The Committee decided to tinker with the format, and increased the number of competitors from 16 to 24. But qualification was for the top eight from each Division, so effectively it was three competitions. This seemed to go off reasonably well, with the competition being combined with the Charity Cup Final and the King & Barnes Open Doubles Final into a “Horsham Summer Finals Gala” at the Edwin Hall (behind Horsham Arts Centre). But a year later there was further ‘tinkering’ by increasing the scope to 16 from each division with a Preliminary Knockout round, which had the adverse effect of ‘watering it down’ as many big names got knocked out at the preliminary stage and failed to make the big day. Thankfully the Competition Format has returned to the original one in recent years, and remains one of Horsham’s flagship events, enjoyed by players and spectators alike.
This was incorporated into the 2nd Horsham Summer Finals Gala on Saturday 26th June 1993 – along with the Finals of Charity Cup and a special Under-23s competition.
Qualification this time was opened up to 32 players, comprising the top 12 players by ‘average score’ from Div 1, the top 12 similarly from Div 2 and the top 8 players from Div 3. A preliminary round was fought in advance of the finals competition, and as sometimes happens, several ‘class’ players fell to the more opportunist type in the two-frame, highest aggregate format played on neutral tables.
On the day, Gareth Lloyd showed a maturity beyond his years to reach the Semi-final, and led his ultra-experienced opponent by a 4000 margin after a 6020 break in the first leg, however John Slee took the match with a magnificent 7230 break – the best of the day.
The Final was then a showpiece between old adversaries John Slee and Mick Holmwood: Facing a deficit of 5000 points from the first leg, Mick made a brilliant reply of 7000 in game two, only to see John return to the table and hold it together for his overdue first ‘Masters’ title. – Clive Thompson, June 2010.
Fast-forward 17 years…………………….
The illustrious Winner of the 2010 Masters (Dave Ingram) with the Runner-up (Adam Bateup).
Pictured after receiving their trophies. (Photo by Colleen Park).
Past Finals Nights covered in the West Sussex County Times, 1968 - 1988.
1.1967/68Many thanks to Elsie (Vizor) Fuller for this early press cutting.
2.1971/72 Jackie v Jenny and the hardworking Secretary Mrs Mercer.
3.1972/73Plough win the Team Cup.
4.1974/75 Jackie Lewry wins Singles v Doris Cordery.
5.1975/76President's wife with the 4 Singles Finalists.
6.1976/77Peter Thayre and Si Butler fight for the trophy!
7.1977/78 All of the Pairs Quarter-Finalists.
8.1977/78All of the Finalists on Finals Night. How many can you name ?
9.1978/79 Ladies Doubles and Mens Doubles Champs.
10.1981/82 Ted v Sam in Landlord's Final.
11. 1983/84Chippy v Ted in Landlord's Final
12. 1984/85Trio of YMCA finalists: Gerry McCarthy, Viv Meech & Peter Gibbs
13. 1986/87Gerry v Franksey in Final.
14. 1987/88Terry reigns supreme!