Keith on a roll after retirement U-turn

It’s taken just a matter of weeks for Shropshire bowls legend Keith Pessall to make more history after his return from retirement from the sport.

Keith Pessall
Keith Pessall

He’s now the proud first ever Shropshire winner of the British Veterans Merit after a remarkable run of victories at Prees that ended with a 21-9 final success over Nigel McDermott of South Yorkshire.

The 69-year-old, who quit league bowling after the 2013 season to concentrate on golf, was simply unbeatable on a difficult green last Wednesday, having returned to senior citizens action with Sir John Bayley.

“I’m incredibly proud of being the first Salopian winner and that my name will now appear in a list of winners that includes such legends of the game as Noel Burrows, Mike Leach, Roy Armson and Joe Bradbury,” said a delighted Pessall.

“It was in the previous century (at a County Merit) that I played five games on the bounce, so I was surprised that I was able to stay the course – both mentally and physically.

“In the final I was running on empty and it has to be said that the green was obviously a great leveller.

“I think I managed my expectations of achieving clean running bowls better than most and in all the games I was determined to make sure I reached more often than not.”

Pessall, a two time County Merit champion and Midland Masters winner in 1992, beat Martin Bacon (Lancashire) 21-11 in round one, then Phil Goulding (South Yorks) 21-17, quarter-final rival Neil Sherbrooke (Merseyside) 21-19 and Steve Davies (Staffs) 21-16 in the last four.

And when it came to the final Pessall, watched by wife of nearly 50 years Lorraine, had big backing from his big bowls pal, Wem USC stalwart Derek ‘Lefty’ Wright.

“I discussed game plan options with Lefty, (now my coach and nutrition expert - he fed me Mars bars and very sweet coffee before the final!) and we agreed that going long was the best plan of attack, even though my first round opponent was a Panel player who would obviously be able to reach as well as me.

“I was worried I would not be able to walk next day but it’s back to reality now – the seniors bowls league is not quite as competitive, but at least I only have to play one game before I get a cup of tea!”

Shropshire’s other qualified for the Grocott Foundation-sponsored Veterans Merit finals at Prees, Bylet’s Bob Renke, suffered an agonising 21-20 defeat to Welshman Barry Harris in round one.

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