Mark Atkinson was a very popular winner of the Huddersfield Merit and beamed: “That’s one of my ambitions ticked off.”
The 24-year-old from Crosland Moor – he’s been secretary of the village bowling club since he was 17 – defeated Kirkheaton Con’s Ashley Tattersley 21-13 in the final at Rastrick and was naturally delighted.
But he wasted no time in thanking the people who have been most instrumental in fuelling his love of the sport and guiding him to his most prestigious career win so far – he picked up £250 and the famous old trophy in the TJ Garden Products (Linthwaite) sponsored event.
“It’s always been one of my ambitions to win the Huddersfield Merit because there are some great names on the list, so it’s definitely one ticked off and I’m thrilled to bits,” said Atkinson, who works for Kirklees and whose win completed a busy week as he was also moving house!
“I’ve always loved playing at Rastrick and once I qualified and found out the finals day was there I was delighted, because it’s one of my favourite greens.
“Myself and my mate Gary Siswick won a pairs there a few years ago and it always seems to be a place where I play well.
“I also knew I needed to concentrate from game one because I was up against Paul Ingleby, who I have a very poor record against. It made me realise that if I didn’t have my head screwed on from the start then I wouldn’t be going very far.”
Atkinson certainly produced his ‘A’ game to beat his Lockwood Con nemesis 21-10, before battling through a nip-and-tuck clash with Slaithwaite’s Richard Mozley 21-18 to earn a semi-final slot against Yorkshire ace Ashley Daykin.
“For my money, Ashley is the best player in Huddersfield if not in Yorkshire, so to beat him gave me a massive confidence boost for the final,” explained Atkinson.
“I don’t think I have ever beaten him off scratch before, so instead of going into the final all nervous, I had a lot of confidence and was actually quite fancying it.
“It was quite a close match in the early stages, but I just managed to disrupt Ashley’s lead all the time and didn’t let him get any rhythm. I managed to get some myself, though, on a nice mark up to the crown, and I was able to build a lead before getting over the line.”
Atkinson – a previous winner of the Liberal Merit and a beaten finalist (by Scott Fisher) in the 2010 Huddersfield Champion of Champions – hopes to again represent Huddersfield in the Inter-district and give the Champion of Champions another solid shot on Sunday, October 6.
“I’ve had a lot of help from the late Fred Baxter, from Mick Hinchliffe and from Brendan O’Prey, who has always looked after me and been a mentor,” said Atkinson, who also reached last year’s Yorkshire Merit finals day.
“Without people like that I wouldn’t even have got interested in the sport, and I also have to say a massive ‘thank you’ to Geoff Martin and all he does with the Junior League.
“That’s where I came from and Geoff has always been very supportive, as has my girlfriend Lynzi, who can be a bit of a ‘bowling widow’ at times but always wants me to do well.”
Atkinson – who won the Arthur Sheard Pairs with Siswick at Marsh United three weeks ago – runs his annual Floodlit competition at Crosland Moor in honour of Fred Baxter, and he’s just started advertising the event again for this year.
Tattersley picked up £100 as runner-up and played well throughout, beating defending champion, Andy Farmer of Thongsbridge, 21-18 in the semi-finals.
Daykin was voted best dressed to receive a £50 voucher from Laurie Hopkins Menswear.
HUDDERSFIELD MERIT SCORECARD
First round: M Atkinson (Crosland Moor) 21 P Ingleby (Lockwood Con) 10, R Mozley (Slaithwaite) 21 E Haigh (Lockwood Con) 10, D Radcliffe (Kirkheaton Con) 21 J Glazzard (Cleckheaton) 18, A Daykin (Netherton) 21 J Webster (Springwood) 9, H Seehra (Spen Victoria) 6 A Farmer (Thongsbridge) 21, G Smith (Moldgreen) 21 B Holland (Lowerhouses) 9, P Berry (Kirkheaton Con) 9 A Tattersley (Kirkheaton Con) 21, K Lunn (Waterloo) 21 D Hallos (Brockholes) 19.
Quarter-finals: Atkinson 21 Mozley 18, Radcliffe 8 Daykin 21, Farmer 21 Smith 13, Tattersley 21 Lunn 13.
Semi-finals: Atkinson 21 Daykin 15, Farmer 18 Tattersley 21.
Final: Atkinson 21 Tattersley 13.