Future of Bexhill tournament secured

Players battle it out on the final morning of the 2016 Bexhill Men's Open Bowls Tournament.
Players battle it out on the final morning of the 2016 Bexhill Men's Open Bowls Tournament.
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The long-running Bexhill Men’s Open Bowls Tournament has been secured for the foreseeable future.

It was reported in April that the historic event may well not continue beyond this year - when it will be held for the 80th time - unless help is forthcoming to run it.

Tournament organiser Bill Whittington, one of three prominent committee members who have decided to relinquish their duties at the end of this year’s event, described the situation as ‘really serious’.

But a local bowler, Mike Evans, has offered to be entries secretary and tournament organiser. He also has some friends who he hopes might assist him in the running of the tournament.

Another local bowler, Graham Stone, has offered to be the tournament treasurer. Stone is a member of Bexhill Bowling Club and played in the Bexhill Open last year.

Evans said: “It has been a wonderful tournament run by Bill Whittington and his team for so many years that I did not want to see all their hard work come to an end.

“It’s a close-knit community that seems like an extended family, and I know the players and spectators would still like to be a part of that special relationship.”

Evans, of Spartan Bowls Club, has played Middleton Cup bowls for Sussex, as well as winning a county triples title and several open tournaments.

A retired schoolteacher, his background was in drama and theatre arts. He did plenty of organising schedules for shows and big productions, so is well placed to look after the Bexhill Open.

Evans has played in the tournament a number of times down the years, picking up a trophy or two along the way. He has had to withdraw from this year’s event as he is due to undergo surgery on day three of the tournament, but will be in attendance on the first two days to learn from what Whittington has put in place.

“All round people are pleased,” said Whittington, who has organised the tournament for two decades and known Evans for many years. “Having run it for so long, I would’ve been sorry to see it go.”

The week-long tournament, which is on a very sound financial footing, takes place at The Polegrove bowling greens every August and attracts players from all over the south east.

This year’s event will run from Monday August 7 until the following Saturday and prize-money is up for all three events - singles, pairs and triples - with The Birchwood Group having increased its sponsorship contribution.

Despite that, Whittington says entries for the 2017 event are the lowest he has known. The singles semi-finals will be the only semi-finals to be played on the Saturday morning as the pairs semi-finals will be held on the Friday afternoon and the triples on the Friday evening.