BAKER IS DELIGHTED AS HE REGAINS OVER 35 CROWN
Veteran former club champion John Baker rolled back the years on Friday evening when he regained the Club’s prestigious Over 35 title which he previously won nine years ago in 2004. Baker, who announced himself as a teenager when he won the club’s handicap tournament in 1984 and went on to win four club championships in the late 1980s and early 1990s just had the edge over fellow veteran, Gary Spruce coming out on top 9-7 7-9 9-7 10-8 in an entertaining and well contested final.
The Over 35 tournament was first contested in 1985 and is held in memory of former club member Jeff Morris who died at the club earlier that year and it was fitting that Jeff’s daughter Debbie, was among the large and appreciative crowd who watched the match from the balcony.
Baker, who Technical Director Barry Starling says “Still hits the ball cleaner than any other player in the club”, started the match as though he was going to storm to victory as he opened up a 7-0 lead in the opening game and had “game ball” at 8-3 before Spruce rallied to within one point only for Baker to take the game 9-7. The second game was almost a mirror image of the first as Spruce opened up a 6-2 lead as Baker served no fewer than ten times before being able to win his third point. He clawed his way back to 5-6 but Spruce always just had the edge and he drew level as he took the game 9-7.
The third game turned out to be crucial as the two players traded point for point with very few mistakes until Spruce made a couple of vital unforced errors. With the score at 7-7 he lost his serve when he “tinned” a routine back hand drop and then, more importantly, having regained the serve and serving at 7-8 he sportingly called a double hit against himself to return the serve to Baker who went on to take the game 9-7.
The match looked to be heading for a decisive fifth game when Spruce opened up a 6-1 lead in the fourth and then twice went on to serve for the game at 8-6 before Baker regained the serve and, at the second attempt, closed out the game 9-8 to win the match 3-1 and regain his title.
After receiving his trophy Baker, who had to settle for the runners-up trophy in 2008, said: “To win this title again means a lot to me since some thirty years ago it was Jeff Morris who actively encouraged me to join the Fire Service and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him. The final was hugely enjoyable to play in and Gary proved himself not only a terrific opponent but also a terrific sportsman when he held his hand up at such a crucial time in the third game.”