Historic Bexhill tournament cancelled in 2018

The long-running Bexhill Men's Open Bowls Tournament will not take place this summer.

Thursday, 29th March 2018, 7:18 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:33 am
The Polegrove greens were a hive of activity during last year's Bexhill Men's Open Bowls Tournament. Picture by Justin Lycett

The annual week-long event, which last year was played for the 80th time, won’t happen in 2018 as new tournament organiser Mike Evans cannot commit to the role due to personal circumstances.

Evans did say, though, that he would be keen to resume the role should his personal circumstances change and hopes the tournament can be resurrected in the future.

He said: “It will be a pity, but optimistically I think it might just be a blip. I think once people think what it meant to play in it, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

“I think it’s got folklore after that amount of time. People’s fathers and relatives have played in it, and it will be missed for a number of reasons - and I hope they’re not just bowls reasons.

“It’s a good community, close-knit event. There’s a number of bowlers who made a sojourn down here to be part of that bowling week.

“Once you lose an event, it’s very hard to reinstate it. But hopefully it will be a blip and next year it might pick up again.”

It was reported in April last year that the tournament may well not continue beyond 2017 unless help was forthcoming to run it.

That was because three prominent committee members, including long-standing tournament organiser Bill Whittington, had decided to relinquish their duties at the end of the 2017 event.

But in the summer Evans, a local bowler, offered to take over as entries secretary and tournament organiser, and said he had some friends who he hoped might assist him in the running of the tournament.

It therefore seemed as though the tournament had been secured for the foreseeable future, but with Evans now unable to carry out his roles, it’s a case of back to square one.

“It does take quite a bit of administration to get it up and running,” said Evans, a retired schoolteacher who did plenty of organising schedules for shows and big productions in drama and performing arts.

“Three or four (committee members) went at the same time and three or four didn’t come forward. It wasn’t something I could’ve done on my own; I had other people in mind. It’s something the committee needs to run together.”

Whittington and the few remaining tournament committee members held a meeting last Thursday morning when they decided the event definitely wouldn’t run in 2018.

Whittington said: “I’m gutted because it ran for 80 years and I did it (the role of tournament organiser) for 20 years.

“If somebody comes forward between now and next year, there’s a possibility it will start up again. Money’s still there in the kitty, but dealing with entries is the main problem.”

The tournament, which is on a very sound financial footing, has taken place at The Polegrove bowling greens every August and attracted players from all over the south east.

Prize-money was increased for all three events - singles, pairs and triples - last year after The Birchwood Group upped its sponsorship contribution, although Whittington said entries for the 2017 event were the lowest he had known.

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

He played in the Bexhill tournament a number of times down the years, picking up a trophy or two along the way.

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Spartan Bowls Club talent Rob Morphett has been among the winners in the Bexhill Open Bowls Tournament over recent years. Click here to read about him winning the county indoor singles title for the third straight year.