A SPECIAL game of pétanque, also known as boules, has been played to raise money in memory of a former number one player who died of cancer.
Retired potato merchant Martin Baker, 61, from Northwood, who represented both Harrow Pétanque Club, based at the Old Lyonian Sports and Social Club in Pinner View, Harrow, and his country, lost a short battle with cancer on February 24.
On Saturday, 63 players – a mixture of experienced hands and novices – took part in the inaugural singles competition in Mr Baker’s name, which is to be held at the club every year to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Research.
His daughter Tammy Baker, who lives at the family home, said: “It was a good turnout and everyone had a fantastic time. An extra 50 or 60 people just attended to take part in the day. And because my dad was a potato merchant, they had a potato shoot-out which is when you have to get your boules to smash a potato instead of the jack.
“All the big competitions are doubles and triples matches so the Martin Baker Singles Competition is recognised as the ‘best of the single players in Britain’.”
The proceeds from the day raised £546 for Macmillan Cancer Research.
The Baker family have also bought a memorial bench, which has been placed beside one of the pistes, or gravel rinks, used to play pétanque.
Mr Baker, who picked up the sport during family holidays in Tenerife, was English triples champion in 2009 and won the English Club Championships last year with The Half Crown Pétanque Club, based in Stockton, Warwickshire. He topped the national player rankings in 2008, turned out for both the Thames Valley and West Midlands regional teams at various times, and represented England twice at tournaments, including the International North Sea Pétanque Tournament in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2008.
Sadly he could not earn his third cap in Sweden as he was too ill to travel.
Miss Baker said: “We are very proud of him and he was very well regarded as he used to take time to coach people when playing with them.
“He bought my daughter Caitlin, 11, her first junior boules and, having been taught by grandfather, the former Great Britain number one, she had quite a lucky start and, poignantly, Saturday’s competition was the last game she could use her junior boules before outgrowing them.”