It is not often that a crokinole tournament gets to crown a local winner, but on Saturday Ray Beierling used the hometown advantage and dominated the field on his way to his 4th tournament title at the Forest City Flickers Crokinole Tournament.
53 competitors hit the boards for the 8th annual event in London, setting a new high number for the 2015-2016 NCA Tour. The 30 Recreational and 23 Competitive players were split into separate groups for the preliminary round with each player vying for seeding for the afternoon round.
Ray Beierling was extremely strong in Competitive A action, scoring 47 points to leave the rest of the field behind in his dust. Andrew Hutchinson and Ab Leitch were able to comfortably qualify for the semifinals with 41 and 40 points respectively. Jon Conrad was able to grab the last spot with 38 points, which left Rex Johnston and Clare Kuepfer the unfortunate closest outside positions at 36 points each.
The Competitive B field saw a crowded group of 13 trying to squeeze into the top 2 positions. Ron Reesor and Roy Campbell had a strong showing, but they had to settle for third and fourth place as Robert Bonnett and Howard Martin achieved the top scores and would play for the B title.
On the Recreational side, Tom Walsh and Sharon Watson grabbed the top 2 spots in the C pool with Tiffany Henry just missing out on the final by 2 points. When all was said and done, Watson was able to pull of the victory and capture the pool C crown.
In Pool B, Amelia Hartman scored well to have 42 points and finish in third, but it was Gus Hohmann and Jacob Westerhof who had 53 and 52 points, and would face-off in the final. Westerhof would get the better of Hohmann in the final and claim the Rec B title.
The race for the finals in the Pool A Recreational was very tight. Abijah Jong grabbed the top spot with 51 points and was joined by Jo-Ann Carter, who scored 47, in the final. Derek McKie and MJ Andrea fought admirably but just missed out on the final with 46 and 45 points. Abijah Jong was able to keep up his strong play and win the final to take the A title.
Back on the Competitive side, Robert Bonnett raced out to 6-0 start in the "First-to-9-Points" final. But Howard Martin found his stride in the 4th round and came all the way back to claim in the Competitive B title in thrilling fashion.
The Competitive A semifinals was made up of an interesting group. Ray Beierling, Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson had all qualified for the Hamilton semifinals just two months ago, while Ab Leitch was attempting to defend his London title from 2015. The match-ups saw another clash of the titans with Ray Beierling and Jon Conrad, while the other match of Hutchinson vs Leitch was their first ever playoff encounter.
Beierling continued to be on-fire throughout the semifinal, winning 10-2, while Hutchinson was able to edge-out Leitch in a see-saw affair, winning 9-7.
It was the second straight final for Andrew Hutchinson, after he was defeated in the finals in Hamilton, and a chance for revenge for Ray Beierling, after Hutchinson eliminated him in the Hamilton semifinals. But the day was to belong to Ray Beierling who made his victory look like it was never in doubt, as he won the match 10-0, to claim the 2016 London title.
As previously mentioned, this 2016 victory is Ray Beierling's 4th in London, to go along with his 2009-2011 streak. The win is also quite significant as it secures Ray Beierling's spot on the podium of the 2015-2016 NCA Tour. Here's an abbreviated look at the current NCA standings (top 4 events count towards ranking points):
With only one event to play, Ray Beierling holds the first place spot and is in the driver seat to win the Tour. Justin Slater is the only player outside of the top 3 who can find his way into a top 3 finish, but he cannot catch Ray Beierling. Jason Beierling and Jon Conrad have the difficult task ahead of them to win the St. Jacobs tournament if they hope to surpass Ray Beierling for the Tour Championship.
Speaking of the final event of the 2015-2016 Tour; it will take place in St. Jacobs on May 7th.