INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (since 1970)
Now updated to 2017. See paragraph at the end of each section. Asterisks in the text indicate an update.
The brilliant, the brutal, the stylish. The quirky, the romantic, the persevering. The youthful, the venerable, the consistent. Braintree individual championships have had them all, and more besides.
By common consent, Steve Dettmar was probably the best player to win the men’s singles, until Neil Charles took it off him in 2001. England-ranked players (Charles was No.34 at the time) are a rarity in Braintree so it is fair to say that Charles on his day would have beaten any of the previous champions on their day.
For brutal, Paul Chaplin’s assault on John Leith in 1988 takes some beating. It was not so much that he won in two straight (21-12, 21-17) but the manner in which he did so – a devastating all-out attack that left his opponent with little to do other than pick the ball up occasionally.
And Leith was no mean player. He deserves the ‘venerable’ tag, having become the previous year the oldest player (48) to win the title*.
Until Steve Kerns in 2005, Leith was the only veteran to win the title while Terry Dowsett is the only junior, his first title coming in 1979 when he was 17. He has since gone on to establish a record by winning the title six times, the last in 1996.
Dowsett lost his title in 1980 to Kevin Howard, who like Robin Lang, champion in 1983, actually learned his table tennis in the Braintree League. None since 1983 can make that claim* (although Kerns started life as a cadet in the third division).
And stylish? A matter of taste, but for naturally gifted players, it is probably a choice between Rob Hellaby (1978), Philippe de May (1986) and Peter Hayden (1992 and 1994*).
Quirky: undoubtedly Rob Milne who set out to confuse his opponent by doing the unexpected and succeeded sufficiently to take the title in 1975.
For determination, Andrew Wadling takes a lot of beating. Always just on the fringe of the top set, he broke through in 1989 at the age of 24. His sheer determination turned him into twice the player he was in the league. Steve Kerns (finalist in 1989 and 1990) and Derek Wood (1991) both had victories over him in the league but found him an entirely different proposition on finals night.
To Kerns goes the accolade for perseverance. He had played in six finals and 13 semi finals before he finally got his hands on the trophy in 2002 when he proceeded to hand out a record drubbing (21-9, 21-2) to Jon Hill.
He was also in one of the most exciting finals when he led Dowsett 20-17 in the third only to lose the next five points.
But for the most amazing turnaround one has to go back to 1971 when Tony Guy changed ends in the third game 10-4 down to Mike Musson. Astonishingly, he then won the next 14 points and the third of his five titles.
UPDATE 2008: John Leith’s record as the oldest player to win the title was taken over by Steve Pennell whose 2006 victory came at the age of 49. He also ended the run since 1983 of winners who had learned the game outside the Braintree League. Paul Davison made it two local players in three years when he won in 2008, after Peter Hayden had added to his two titles the previous year.
2017 update: Davison and Hayden continued their exclusive hold on the trophy up to 2014. From 2007 to 2014 Hayden won it three times and Davison five. Then came a surprise return to the top step for Steve Kerns, who had last won it in 2005, before Hayden took his total to six in 2016, equalling Terry Dowsett’s record, and new signing Brandon Crouchman got his name on the trophy in 2017.
One name leaps out from the list of ladies’ singles winners. June Plampin won her first title in 1960 and her most recent, amazingly, 34 years later. There were 11 others in between. And she didn’t stop there. She has also been runner-up seven times, has 11 wins and 15 runners-up medals in the ladies’ doubles and appeared in 17 mixed doubles finals, winning seven of them.
That’s a total of 31 titles in 63 finals.
The fact that June always seems to have been around is only given added credence by the report in the Braintree and Witham Times of her first finals night appearance in which she is described as ‘experienced’.
That was in 1956, the first of three defeats at the hands of Paula Songer, 17 at the time of her first win. Even back then, the sports editor noted June’s ‘solid defence’ as she failed to get to grips with her opponent’s strong attack. June missed the final the next year but returned in 1960 to register the first of her 13 wins.
From that point to the mid 70s, June rarely missed a final. June Crozier, Joan Pedder and Muriel Buck occasionally wrested it from her but it was not until a 14-year-old Julie Dowsett came along in 1977 that finals without June became a regular occurrence.
Julie, with a powerful all-round game, won it four years in a row, the last three against Tricia Taylor, who took advantage of her former adversary’s absence to take the title herself the following year in one of the competition’s most one-sided finals, beating Margaret White 21-5, 21-8.
June came back in 1982 for her first win in six years, then Celia Whybrow took over, with four wins in the next five years, followed by a Kate Gower hat-trick 1989-91, the same years her then boyfriend later husband Andrew Wadling was winning the men’s singles.
Julie Askem scored two wins before June came back for her final success in 1994.
Julie came up from Southend to play in Braintree as before her Kate had come across from Ingatestone. But it was back to home-grown talent the following year when Sarah Davison, who had learned her table tennis in the Braintree League, took the title.
The unthinkable happened the following year when there were too few entries to hold the competition and it was agreed as a one-off to hold an open singles so that Sarah could tackle the leading men.
The following year the event had its youngest ever finalist when Leanne Bentley took the runners-up medal at the age of 11. And the next year it had its youngest ever winner as Leanne upset the seedings by beating Kim Dowsett in the final.
UPDATE 2008: Sadly the unthinkable happened in 2007 and 2008 too but not before Clare Johnson had got her hands on the trophy for the first time in 2006, a reward for almost 20 years of trying.
2017 update: The dearth of female players continued and the event was held only once between 2008 and 2017, in 2011 when Vicki Stredder added her name to the list of winners. Her win came 14 years after she become the youngest player ever to appear on finals night when she won the mixed doubles with Paul Davison at the age of nine.
Most men’s singles titles: Terry Dowsett, Peter Hayden 6
Most consecutive men’s singles titles: Peter Ogilvie, Steve Dettmar 4
Most ladies’ singles titles: June Plampin 13
Most consecutive ladies’ singles titles: June Plampin, Julie Dowsett 4
Most restricted singles wins: Larte Lawson 3
Most ladies’ restricted singles wins: Celia Fowler/Whybrow 5
Most veterans’ singles wins: Dan Pedder 9
Most consecutive veterans’ singles wins: Ian Whiteside 6
Most handicap singles wins: Paul Whybrow, Derek Wood, Steve Kerns, Ian Whiteside, Tom Hill 2
Most junior boys’ singles wins: Paul Davison 4 consecutive)
Most junior girls’ singles wins: Julie Dowsett (consecutive), Leanne Bentley 4
Most cadet singles wins: Ashley Skeggs 4 (consecutive)
Most men’s doubles wins (pair): Peter Byford and Peter Ogilvie, Paul Davison and Kevin Gowlett 6
Most men’s doubles wins (individual): Peter Byford 9
Most ladies’ doubles wins (pair): Muriel Buck and Joan Pedder (King) 5
Most ladies’ doubles wins (individual): Muriel Buck (Loveridge) 11
Most mixed doubles wins (pair): June Plampin and Len Woolmer 5
Most mixed doubles wins (individual): June Plampin 7
Most junior doubles wins (pair) Sarah and Paul Davison, Alexander and William Bettley 3
Most junior doubles wins (individual): Paul Davison, Sarah Davison, Lee Daines 4
Leading individual average most times: Steve Kerns 13
Most finals night appearances: June Plampin 63 (events)
MOST APPEARANCES IN FINALS (up to 2017)
June Plampin 63 (31 wins)
LS winner 13, runner-up 7
LD winner 11, runner-up 15
XD winner 7, runner-up 10
Steve Kerns 40 (19 wins)
MS winner 4, runner-up 8
MD winner 7, runner-up 5
XD winner 4, runner-up 2
JBS winner 1
VS winner 2, runner-up 7
O50s winner 1
Joan King 36 (18 wins)
LS winner 4, runner-up 9
LD winner 9, runner-up 5
XD winner 5, runner-up 5
Paul Davison 35 (27 wins)
MS winner 5, runner-up 1
MD winner 7, runner-up 4
XD winner 3, runner-up 2
VS winner 1
JBS winner 4, runner-up 1
JD winner 4
CS winner 3
Peter Hayden 29 (20 wins)
MS winner 6, runner-up 4
MD winner 5, runner-up 4
VS winner 8, runner-up 1
O50s winner 1
Muriel Buck 27 (15wins)
LS winner 3, runner-up 2
LD winner 2, runner-up 7
XD winner 11, runner-up 3
Ian Whiteside 27 (12 wins)
MD winner 1, runner-up 3
VS winner 6, runner-up 10
O50s winner 5, runner-up 2
Celia Whybrow 26 (17 wins)
LS winner 5, runner-up 3
LD winner 6, runner-up 3
XD winner 6, runner-up 3
Derek Wood 26 (wins 10)
MS winner 3, runner-up 4
MD winner 2, runner-up 7
XD winner 1, runner-up 5
VS winner 4
Terry Dowsett 23 (wins 20)
MS winner 6, runner-up 2
MD winner 6, runner-up 1
XD winner 5
JBS winner 3