The Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson final was already entertaining a crowd of spectators as their first-to-11 points final reached a score of 9-9 with the next round determining the tournament champion. But the drama reached the levels of Shakespearean high-school play when both players missed a chance to win the match in the 10th round, ultimately pushing the score to 10-10 and setting up for another winner-take-all round.
In the spirit of collaboration the Owen Sound event, typically scheduled in November, swapped places with the Brucefield Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship due to organizer conflict. The switch was a nice benefit for those driving through Western Ontario that Saturday morning. While the roads were clear of the impending snow that November commonly brings to the region, the Fall leaves offered a scenic path on the way to the Scenic City.
The competition contingent brought in 20 doubles teams in the Recreational division and 26 competition singles players, which included the Scenic City's last 5 champions (Ray Beierling 2014, Roy Campbell 2015, Jon Conrad 2016 & 2017, Andrew Hutchinson 2018) and 7 of the top 10 finishers from the previous World Crokinole Championships.
The morning preliminary competitive singles action was a random draw of 10 games. Ray Beierling topped the points and 20s tallies with 64 points and 128 20s. Robert Bonnett and Connor Reinman filled in the next two spots with 61 points, followed by Reid Tracey and Andrew Hutchinson at 59 and 57. The afternoon A pool was rounded out by Jeremy Tracey, Jon Conrad, Nathan Walsh and Darren Carr. Walsh and Carr both scored 53 points, just ahead of Eric Miltenburg at 52 who settled into the B pool for the afternoon.
Meanwhile in the Recreational division, the preliminary round included a random draw of 6 games, with players scores determining their advancement into the A or B pools for the afternoon. Neil and Carol Cook led the preliminary play with 43 of a possible 48 points, followed by Ab Leitch and Rex Johnston who also counted up a ludicrously high score of 41 points. Carol Weins and Ron Hill had the 3rd highest finish with a more reasonable 33 points.
In the afternoon Recreational division 8 games were played. Sharon Jolley and Jim Downing won the B pool title with 52 points and a mirrored 52 20s. Jeff McKeen and Rob Nicol finished 2nd with 46 points, while David McCormick and Kathi Fisher finished 3rd with 43.
In the Recreational A pool, Neil and Carol Cook's momentum was slowed from the morning, but they still did manage to finished 4th with 36 points. Carl Weins and Ron Hill finished 3rd in the afternoon as well with 39 points, and Harvey Bell and Peter Carter finished 2nd with 42 points. The first time pairing of Ab Leitch and Rex Johnston took the Recreational title away from the local contingent with 49 points to top the table.
In the Competitive C pool, Kevin Ranney was the top of the group after the 7 game round robin with 39 points, followed by a 3-way tie for second. Wayne Gingerich, Howard Martin and Gloria Walsh piled in 36 points to complete the playoff qualifiers, while Dale Henry finished in 5th at 30 points. The C pool champion was determined by a Final 4 round robin. Gloria Walsh claimed the title at 15 points, just surpassing Wayne Gingerich in second at 13 points while Howard Martin rounded out the podium at 11 points.
Roy Campbell dominated the B Pool round robin, scoring 50 points in 8 games. Following Campbell a large margin away were 4 players vying for the final 3 spots in the playoffs. Ron Langill grabbed the second seed with 38 points, followed in line by Dwayne Campbell at 37, and Clare Kuepfer at 36 for 4th. For the second time in the day, Eric Miltenburg just missed the cutoff by one point, finishing 5th in the B pool at 35 points. In the Final 4 round robin Campbell's run was was challenged by Langill, but Campbell held on by scoring 16 points for top spot, just ahead of Langill at 15.
In the Competitive A pool 20s were in high demand and Robert Bonnett, despite his own claims contradicting his proficiency, piled in a tonne. Bonnett scored 131 20s over 8 games, good enough to average 163.75 20s over 10 games. The mark put him 2nd in the all-time 20s scoring records, just behind Justin Slater's 164.54 10-game average, which Bonnett could have surpassed had he scored just one more 20. In addition to the 20s, Bonnett also tallied 41 points for 3rd place in the round. Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson took the top two spots at 43 and 42 points respectively. The final spot in the playoffs was a real scrap (and mathematical challenge) with Connor Reinman, Darren Carr and Jeremy Tracey all scoring 32 points to tie for the final spot. The head-to-head points tiebreaker was also dead-even as all 3 players had earned 8 points combined in their respective head-to-head matches. Connor Reinman claimed the final playoff spot by virtue of head-to-head 20s, with his 31 20s ahead of Carr's 29 for 5th and Tracey's 27 for 6th.
The Final 4 round robin saw all 4 players looking to finish in the top 2 to advance to the championship match. Both Jon Conrad and Robert Bonnett got out to early advantages and both sat tied at the top with 10 points going into the final game, while Hutchinson and Reinman had 6 points each. The final round robin matches were Conrad v Reinman and Bonnett v Hutchinson, where Reinman and Hutchinson needed to win 6-2 to advance to the finals, while Conrad and Bonnett needed to stop them to maintain their top 2 positions. Jon Conrad did his part by winning 6-2 over Reinman and finished as the top seed at 16 points, while Hutchinson and Bonnett went down to the wire, with Hutchinson just edging Bonnett 6-2 to take the second spot in the championship.
The finals matchup was the 3rd time Conrad and Hutchinson had played against each other in an elimination game. The previous two matches both resulted in wins for Conrad, the first being the 2016 Hamilton final, which was Hutchinson's first tournament final, and the second being the 2019 St. Jacobs 9-7 semifinal for Conrad.
The match began with 2 standard wins against the hammer as both players got an opportunity to win a 20 race and proceed to hold the lead with relative ease. Hutchinson got a break in the 3rd round when Conrad (who was leading by a 20 without the hammer) missed his final takeout attempt through Hogan's alley, giving Hutchinson a 4-2 lead after he made his final shot for an open 20. However, Hutchinson would miss his opening 20 attempt in each of the next two rounds, and Conrad pounced on the opportunity to turn the tide and lead the match 6-4.
Hutchinson was determined to not let the match get out of reach and won the 20 race to begin the 6th round. But Conrad fought back and tied the round on a tight-ricochet-takeout-20 on a disc on his own side of the board. The players then scored their final two 20s each to tie the round, making the score 7-5 for Conrad.
Hutchinson's 20s shooting continued to improve as the match advanced into the later rounds. He'd win the 20 races in the 7th and 8th rounds and successfully defend the lead in each to achieve a 9-7 lead, and move two points from the tournament title. He began the 9th round well with 2-straight 20s, but his 3rd-attempt just popped out of the 20 hole, while Conrad went 3-for-3 facing elimination and stopped Hutchinson from scoring a break-even 20 later in the round to tie the match at 9-9.
Jon Conrad had the hammer advantage in the winner-take-all 10th round but, following Hutchinson's opening 20, left a hanger 20 on his very first shot and then lost his shooter off the board on his second shot. Only three shots in and Conrad trailed massively by two 20s. While Conrad did score a touch-20 to cut the deficit, it still seemed that Hutchinson was assured of victory when he made a great takeout and roll on his 7th shot. That left Conrad facing 2 opposing discs, while trailing a 20 and only having 2 discs remaining to shoot.
BANG! Conrad smacked an impressive follow-through 20 on the disc in the 15 to tie up the 20 count and give himself a slim ember of a chance, but it could still be snuffed out with Hutchinson scoring one final open 20 to win the title. However, Hutchinson missed long giving Conrad a chance to win the match if he could successfully make a double takeout. But Conrad's double attempt jammed leaving one red and one black disc on in the 10 for a tie round. The score even at 10-10.
In round 11, both players made their first 3 20s, but Conrad was the first to miss on his 4th shot. Both players then danced around the 15 circle, Hutchinson looking to slide to the outside, Conrad looking to get one good look at a takeout-20 attempt. On Conrad's 7th shot he lined up a long follow-through 20, but his shooter rolled outside to the side of the board. Hutchinson's takeout left no line for Conrad to slide back into the 15 circle, so he had to settle for a simple takeout, and Hutchinson then proceeded to make the final takeout of the match to win the final by a score of 12-10.
The win is Andrew Hutchinson's 3rd NCA title, putting him tied for 5th in NCA history for most singles titles with Nathan Walsh and Quin Erzinger, and still trailing Jon Conrad (5 singles victories), Brian Cook (15), Ray Beierling (16) and Justin Slater (22).
In terms of the NCA rankings, Connor Reinman's 4th place finish pushes him back into first on the Tour at 181 points, trailled by Ray Beierling at 179, Andrew Hutchinson at 175 and Jon Conrad at 169. However there are still other top players yet to record 4 or more tournament entries to achieve a full NCA ranking, notably Justin Slater, Jason Beierling and Darren Carr. But a good opportunity exists for those players to do so at the 2019 Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship in Brucefield.