Clarke claims his first Merit crown
A sleepless night was Spencer Clarke’s reward for making it third time lucky and winning the County Merit.
The 45-year-old Sir John Bayley bowler stands at the pinnacle of the game in Shropshire after finally getting his hands on the Charles Beddard Trophy with a 21-14 victory over Callum Wraight on the big crown at Greenfields.
And Sunday’s sunshine success in Shrewsbury will take some time to sink in for the popular Clarke, who had lost in two previous finals and felt he was destined to join the ranks of ‘best bowlers never to have won the Merit’ brigade.
“I am over the moon and can’t quite believe it to be honest,” said Clarke, who lives in Telford with wife and top-class runner Michelle and their young daughter and son.
“I didn’t get much sleep on Sunday night, but I’m chuffed for my dad (Robin) to witness me winning it. And I know Albert (his granddad) would be proud looking down on us.
“I thought my chances of winning it had gone (he lost in the 2008 final to Andy Moss at Reman and in 2014 to Rich Goddard at Craven Arms) so I’m thrilled to finally win the holy grail.”
Defending champion and British No.1 Wraight was a red-hot favourite to triumph again and he never looked in real trouble – until he faced left hander Clarke.
“After a close start Spencer went 11-5 up in the corners before Callum got back to 13-12 down after shortening it up,” said a county association spokesperson.
“Spencer then went up another gear in the corners again to run out from 16-14 up and break into tears as his dad ran on to the green to congratulate him.”
A delighted Clarke added: “My form has been solid this year and preparation was ideal, but you never know what will happen on Merit finals day.
“A big thanks to Greenfields, organisers, supporters and special praise to Callum, who was very, very gracious and said some lovely words after the game. I follow everything he does and the guy is superb – great for the game.
“I am so thrilled, am going to enjoy every minute, and thank everyone for all the kind messages I have received.”
Clarke, who won £200 for his efforts in the Telegraph Tavern-sponsored event, beat Ash Wellings 21-14 in the semi-finals while another Hanwood ace, Wayne Phillips, was Wraight’s 21-15 victim. All four semi-finalists will now go forward to the British Merit finals being held on July 28 at The Grange in Warrington, along with lucky fifth qualifier Tony Rhodes (St Georges) thanks to having the best losing score in the last eight.
Quarter-final results: Clarke 21 Mark Shore (Hanwood) 14, Wellings 21 Will Tyler (Elephant & Castle) 12, Phillips 21 Rhodes 19, Wraight 21 Kane Beaman (SJ Bayley) 11.