PETE Illidge has said he doesn’t know how he’ll react when he steps onto the green for the first time during bowls’ most prestigious competition.

He travels to this weekend’s British Senior Individual Merit as the reigning county champion after winning the Cheshire Senior Merit last month, although he insists that is no extra burden.

“They still won’t know who I am!” he quipped.

“I’m used to standing there with my wife as a spectator, so it will feel different to be taking part.

“My plan is to soak it up; after all, I never expected I’d get chance to play at the All England.

“I’ve been thinking about it all the time recently, but that’s only made me look forward to it even more.

“I’ll give it my best shot, and see what happens.”

Northwich Guardian:

Pete Illidge lifted the Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association's Roberts Bakery Cup for the first time after winning last year's final at Winsford Cons. Picture: Nick Jones

The Rudheath member, who won the Roberts Bakery Cup last season, has been paired with Welsh Merit winner Kieran Roberts in the first round at Griff & Coton Sports Club in Nuneaton.

They know each other, and have met in the past.

Illidge said: “He used to come over and play in the Mid-Cheshire League, and we’ve beaten each other previously.

“Obviously, he can play a bit because he wouldn’t have qualified!”

The 59-year-old usually travels to the All England with his friends on a bus.

Once there, they cheer on the bowlers representing Cheshire.

This time, it will be his name they shout.

Illidge added: “We always get behind the guys from around here that have made it through – it doesn’t matter who they play.

“They’ve been calling me ‘Mr Merit’ recently, I’ll take that!

“It’s going to be strange not being on the bus with them, but I think I’ll drive down on Friday and stay over somewhere nearby.

“I’ll have one less thing to worry about then won’t I?”

His run to the last 64 almost ended before it had chance to gather momentum, but he squeezed past Tom Palin – a teammate at Rudheath – by 21-20 in a nail-biting preliminary round encounter at Owley Wood.

That composure served him well at Urmston in the Cheshire Senior Merit, where he beat Castle duo Steve Morrey and Rob Winnington in the last four to claim the title for the first time.

Illidge said: “It’s all experience that has done me good. My confidence is high, and I back myself.”