Tuesday, 7 September 2010

John Armstrong Memorial Award - Winner, 2010

By Danny Davies
At the Brighton Congress, it was announced that Bob Rowlands is this year’s winner of the John Armstrong Award.

'Its pretty strange being 17 and being shipped off to London on a regular basis to train to be a junior bridge international. Especially when the one thing I can't get out of my mind is, knowing most of my friends would be out in Sheffield working out which pub they could get into without having ID. It just made me feel worse, thinking pints of cider were 2 for 1 at the Beehive pub, as my train arrived at St Pancras. The tube was a gloomy place and maybe if I turned around now and got back on the train to Sheffield, would I be able to meet my mates for last orders and then see if I could get into KiKis nightclub... Having said that how would I move the business man out the way, to get off the underground. So I stayed on the train and got off at Barons Court. I followed the directions well trod by so many bridge players to Queens Club Gardens and used the key I had been sent to get into the posh building. I knocked on number 4 and heard steps coming to the door...

Looking back now I'm 38, its pretty tough to explain how amazing it is that someone would go that far out of their way... We didn't have much money at home, and I am pretty sure without the support and mentoring from Bob Rowlands, in fact I can guarantee I couldn't have afforded to go and play in Raymond Brock's Junior squad. Bob provided me with a place to stay in London, bought me take away food, gave me hands to bid and play but perhaps most importantly helped me understand how the game should be played; with courtesy, respect to partner and opponents as well as to win.

It isn't just me that Bob has provided food, shelter and coaching to... in fact it would be pretty impossible to list a Junior, Ladies or Open international team in the last 20 years that doesn't have a member of the team who Bob has helped. He is a proof there are good people playing bridge today and someone I along with many others continue to be thankful to. Bob's actions are extraordinary in his support of bridge players of all skills, ability and age. His selfless approach at the bridge table and away from it makes him the perfect winner of this years John Armstrong award...

An ash has now been planted for Bob Rowlands and an oak in memory of John. Anyone wishing to pay tribute to the late John Armstrong can visit Heritage Wood, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, where trees and bulbs are planted yearly in his memory as well as a bench placed in his name.