PETE Illidge will end a wait to play in crown green bowls’ most prestigious competition after winning the Cheshire Senior Merit for the first time.

His reward is to contest next month’s British Senior Individual Merit, referred to by bowlers as the ‘All England’ championships.

He had to earn it too.

A 21-20 success against Rob Winnington, of Castle, in the final was the Rudheath member’s fourth of a long afternoon at Urmston Sport Club.

“I had to wait three hours just to get on the green!” said Illidge, who had a bye to the last 16 after coming through a qualifier last month.

“My target was to win two games so I knew I’d have a place at the All England.

“Once I’d done that, I relaxed.

“Well, kind of – I won 21-20 twice afterwards, and I’m sure everybody watching thought they were nail-biters!”

Illidge, who turned 59 earlier this year, is enjoying the best 12 months of his career.

He won the Roberts Bakery Cup last June, his first major singles title while playing in the Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association.

However he says last weekend’s success tops that memorable occasion.

“People will have looked at the draw and made me second-favourite to win all of those games,” he said.

“I know I can beat anybody when I play my best; the challenge for me has always been to do that consistently, and that’s hard.

“I used the fact I’m not expected to win to my advantage; it means I play under almost no pressure.”

He saw off Jason Cornes (Castle) 21-15 in the second round on Sunday before beating another Cheshire regular, Lloyd Hotel’s Lee Fletcher, in the last eight (21-18).

A first 21-20 success, against Steve Morrey of Castle, followed in the semi-finals.

However Illidge saved the best until last.

With Winnington lying game at the final end with the duo tied at 20-across, he sent a match-winning wood closest to the jack.

“I think he thought he’d done enough,” added the newly-crowned champion.

“I’m proud to have beaten four county players, and three of them have won this tournament in the past.”

Winnington, as runner-up, Morrey and Tom Vickers (Wharton Cons) will represent Cheshire at the All England in Nuneaton next month.


Cheshire Senior Merit

Sunday, June 25

At Urmston Sports Club

First round, Sunday: Dave Baskerville 14-21 Rob Winnington; Jamie Bramley 21-13 Mike Heald; Mike Collier 10-21 Tommy Johnstone; Mark Gabriel 11-21 Glynn Cookson; Jon Gurney 9-21 Daniel Nixon; Lee Johnstone 7-21 Michael McDonnell; Steve Morrey 21-18 Mike Geraghty; Andy Pearson 19-21 John McDonnell; Malcolm Sims 21-9 Chris Barlow; Pete Smith 12-21 Barry Ellams; Tom Vickers 21-20 Ryan Sandham; Mike Watkins 17-21 Gerald Merry

Second round: Jason Cornes 15-21 Pete Illidge; Ellams 9-21 Winnington; Lee Fletcher 21-19 Matt Thurlwell; Tommy Johnstone 9-21 Merry; Michael McDonnell 21-7 Cookson; Morrey 21-13 Bramley; Nixon 8-21 Vickers; Sims 13-21 John McDonnell

Quarter finals: Fletcher 18-21 Illidge; Merry 11-21 Winnington; Morrey 21-16 Michael McDonnell; Vickers 21-17 John McDonnell

Semi finals: Morrey 20-21 Illidge; Vickers 10-21 Winnington

Final: Winnington 20-21 Illidge