PHIL Nuttall says he was “absolutely gobsmacked” after becoming only the second Bury player in 60 years to win the All England Handicap Association Croquet Cup.

The 63-year-old only took up the sport two years ago, when he joined Bury Croquet Club, but has seen his handicap tumble over the past year.

Despite continued improvement, he admits to surprising himself after winning all five of his games in the northern final, and was shocked to repeat the feat at the national finals at Wrest Park Croquet Club in Bedfordshire.

“I am absolutely gobsmacked at winning such a prestigious competition,” said Nuttall. “I got to the final last year but did not play very well so I was determined to do better.”

As winner, he received the Trophy Cup while Bury Croquet Club, as the home club of the champion, were presented with the New Zealand Tray.

It is the second time a Bury player has won the competition in the last three years after David Good became the first to lift it in 2014.

The New Zealand Tray has been played for since 1956 after it was presented to the English Croquet Association by the New Zealand Croquet Council.

This year’s competition began with 168 players playing preliminary heats at 30 clubs around the country, with 32 making it to four area finals.

The top two in each region made it to the national final.

Nuttall and Pendle’s Libby Dixon qualified from the northern region after the finals day at Fylde Croquet Club, and they went on to claim a one-two at Wrest Park, with Dixon finishing runner-up after winning three out of five matches.

Nuttall added: “The nature of the competition meant that I was pitted against technically better players.

“But I played above my 16 handicap and was able to beat players with handicaps of three and five, so I was thrilled with that.

“My handicap has since gone down to 12, and if that continues it will get harder to repeat my victory next year, but it won’t stop me from trying.

“I really enjoy my croquet: the competitive edge along with the social side of the game. I compare it to a combination of snooker and chess.”

Bury Croquet Club has been going for 28 years and is based in Coronation Park, Radcliffe, but also has courts in Whitehead Park and Heaton Park. For more information visit