Cheltenham Table Tennis Association, one of the longest running leagues in the country, was founded in January 1923 as Cheltenham Ping Pong Association.

One of the founder members of the Association was Cheltenham YMCA and the YMCA is still heavily involved in the sport. They hold regular practice sessions during the day and host Cheltenham Table Tennis Club, the biggest club in the town, on two evenings a week. The Association is grateful for their support.

The Cheltenham Centenary Tournament was held at the YMCA Sports Hall, Arle Road, and attracted players of all standards and abilities. The format gave every player the opportunity to win a prize if they played to the best of their ability. Players faced a gruelling schedule of seven or eight games before a knockout decided the winners of each section.

The morning saw everybody drawn into a group of 5 or 6 players with the top two in each group going forward to the Main Section, third and fourth progressing into the Consolation Section and fifth/sixth playing for the Plate.

Groups 5 and 6 proved to be the closest with all the matches between the top three players being decided in five games. Sam Turner secured the top spot in Group 5, winning 3-2 (9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 15-13) against Grant Pawsey. In Group 6, Richard Comley beat Simon Morgan in the final match 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8).

Top seeds Darren Griffin, Matt Hartwell, Ben Roberts and Charlie Davidson comfortably won their groups although Charlie’s game against Jon Gaskell went to the wire. In Group 1, a tight match between Lee Wilkinson and Dave Metcalfe saw Lee triumph 12-10 in the fifth to secure a spot in the Consolation.

The afternoon saw further groups of three or four players in each section ahead of the knockout stages. In the Main draw, again top seeds progressed with relative ease into the knockouts. Simon Morgan gave Matt Hartwell a scare with Matt having to come back from 2-0 down to secure the win. Charlie Davidson faced a similar predicament against Pradeesh Mappa, again winning 3-2.

The KO stages saw the oldest player in the tournament, Scottish over-70s international Gordon Shaw, edge out Ben Roberts in the quarter-final with the youngest, 15 year old Charlie Davidson, beating Sam Turner 3-1 to set up a semi-final with top seed Darren Griffin. Darren and Matt Hartwell both won their semi-finals 3-0.

In the final, current county champion Darren beat Matt 3-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-3). Darren adds the Centenary Championship to his 25 County Championships and has been one of the county’s outstanding players over the years. In this tournament he showed his class by winning all his matches 3-0.

Winner Darren Griffin (left) with Matt Hartwell (right)
Semi-finalists Gordon Shaw (left) and Charlie Davison (right)

The Consolation saw some more close games, none more so than in Group G where three players tied for second place. Otto Klempt won on countback by having marginally better results against Lee Wilkinson and Rob Amphlett.

Unfortunately, Otto was unable to take his place in the quarter-final, handing a walkover to Darrell Wiltshire. In the second quarter-final, in another tight match, John Tait overcame Callum Parkins 3-2.

Darrell’s quarter-final walkover set up a rematch with Jon Gaskell. In the morning group stages, Darrell triumphed 3-2 (11-5, 9-11, 4-11, 13-11, 11-7) but this time Jon reversed the result, winning 3-1. Grant Pawsey beat John Tait 3-0 to set up a fascinating final between two players with very different playing styles.

As with many matches in the afternoon, it took five games to decide the winner, with Jon’s blocking skills with pimpled rubber combined with forehand counter-attacks just edging out left-handed Grant’s out-and-out attacking play.

Consolation winner Jon Gaskell (left) with Grant Pawsey (right)
Consolation semi-finalists John Tait (left) and Darrell Wiltshire (right)

Last, but not least, the Plate was played with three groups of three to decide the finalists. Dave Metcalfe, Mike Tyrell and Tony Murfitt had a relatively straightforward path into the KO rounds. Chris Boivin qualified with a 3-2 victory against Julie Taylor, winning 11-9 in the fifth. Hannah Sharpe and Ian Leitch secured the final places.

In the quarter-finals, Hannah and Tony progressed, both with 3-0 wins. They were unfortunate to come up against two strong players in the semi-finals, Dave Metcalfe and Mike Tyrell, Dave beating Hannah 3-1 (11-4, 9-11, 11-3, 11-3) and Mike beating Tony 3-1 (12-10, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8). Dave went on to triumph over Mike 3-0 in the final.

Plate winner Dave Metcalfe (right) with Mike Tyrell (left) 
Plate semi-finalists Tony Murfitt (left) and Hannah Sharpe (right)

Special mention must be made of Tournament Referee, Dave Harvey, who ensured the tournament ran smoothly on the day. Dave has been playing for over 50 years and, like Darren, has been one of the county’s outstanding players. Dave has won the Cheltenham Closed Championships 30 times and the County Championship 13 times. If it wasn’t for a serious injury which has forced Dave into retirement, there’s no doubt he would have been competing rather than refereeing.

Players like Darren, Dave and Gordon show that age is no barrier to success in the sport. It’s also exciting to see the next generation of players like Charlie Davidson and his younger brother Jake coming through and the next few years will see the veteran players struggle to maintain their grip on the trophies.

Thanks go to all those who helped make the tournament a resounding success – to Jon Gaskell, Paul Upton, Julie & Phil Taylor and Tim Mytton who helped set up the tables; to Cheltenham YMCA and Cheltenham Table Tennis Club for use of the Sports Hall and tables; to Dave Harvey for running the event on the day; to Cheltenham Table Tennis Association and Gloucestershire Table Tennis Association for their financial support.