If there was any doubt what winning the coveted Autumn Waterloo Handicap still means to the finest crown green bowlers, it became clear from Jon Palmer’s tears of joy on becoming the 2018 champion in Blackpool
The emotional Shrewsbury bowler was so overcome he was unable to give a speech on being presented with his trophy at the iconic South Shore arena after defeating Liverpool’s Phil Lee 21-14 in the final.
Finals day in the 110th Autumn Waterloo began with eight qualifiers from the field of 512 who had rolled their first bowl in this tournament at the start of July.
The first quarter-final was between Blackpool hotelier Stuart Mort and Westhoughton’s Kevan Shaw, who was bidding for a Waterloo double after his triumph in the Spring tournament.
Mort got off to a flyer, moving into a 13-7 lead before Shaw clawed the deficit back to 15-12. However, Mort put his foot back on the gas and pulled clear to win 21-14.
Next up were Palmer and former champion Simon Coupe, the bookies’ favourite from Preston. But in a finals week full of surprises the underdog had his day again as Palmer raced into a 13-6 lead.
Couple closed the gap to 15-10 but Palmer was in no mood to surrender his lead and ran out the 21-15 winner.
Lee came up against Leigh’s David Higginbottom, the son of legendary Waterloo bowler Len.
Higginbottom showed all his father’s resilience to reduce an 18-10 deficit to just one chalk but then a loose lead gave Lee the opening he needed to seal the match 21-17.
The last of the quarter-finals saw Wrexham’s Matty Worden get the better of Kevin Boon from Congleton.
Junior All England champion Worden, who only turned 18 a few weeks ago, stretched his lead from 13-9 to 19-11 before closing out the match 21-13.
Palmer dominated the first semi-final against Mort, conceding five chalks but running out a comfortable 21-10 winner.
Worden was bidding to become the youngest ever finalists if he could defeat Lee, who moved 9-6 ahead in a nip-and-tuck contest.
Worden briefly hit the front at 11-10 and 12-11 but he would not lead again as Lee turned up the heat to win 21-15.
The first half of the final was tight, Lee leading 10-8 only for Palmer’s three-break to edge him ahead.
It looked to be anybody’s match at 11-11 but Palmer scored a break of nine to move within a single of the title at 20-11.
Lee refused to throw in the towel as he took a three break but Palmer got the single he needed to end a wonderful week’s bowling in style.
Quarter-finals: Stuart Mort (Blackpool) 21 Kevan Shaw (Westhoughton) 14, Jon Palmer (Shrewsbury) 21 Simon Coupe (Preston) 15, Phil Lee (Liverpool) 21 David Higginbottom (Leigh) 17, Matty Worden (Wrexham) 21 Kevin Boon (Congleton) 13.
Semi-finals: Palmer 21 Mort 10, Lee 21 Worden 15
Final: Palmer 21 Lee 14.