TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular local badminton player who has died after a long battle against cancer.
Geoff Williams, who died in Wigan and Leigh Hospice aged 67, successfully represented England and Lancashire during a career which also saw him spend decades playing in local leagues and encouraging countless young people to pick up a racquet.
Geoff, from Beech Hill, was a stalwart member of the Bridge club in the Wigan and District Badminton League until he became ill, originally helping to establish the team.
He also represented his country in veterans’ tournaments, with one of his proudest moments winning the over-55s mixed doubles title at the All England Championships with his badminton partner Sylvia Gill.
He also travelled to Spain as a member of the medal-winning England squad at the European Masters Championships.
Caroline Buchanan, chairman of the Wigan and District Badminton League, said: “Geoff was so encouraging to everyone he met at badminton. No matter what their standard was, he made them feel good about their game and about themselves.
“He was a great example to youngsters and players everywhere and will be very much missed by us all.”
Geoff began teaching badminton at night school at Shevington High around 40 years ago before moving to Whitley High School, where he helped found the club that would eventually become Bridge after moving to Rose Bridge High School in Ince.
He also coached many young people and passed on his enthusiasm for the sport to the next generation.
In addition he established international sporting links with Wigan’s twin town of Angers and took teams to France to play friendly matches.
He also played for Markland Hill in the Bolton league and ran summer veterans’ competitions there, as well as competing for Lancashire in inter-county tournaments.
Former team-mates described him as “a true gentleman” on and off the court.
He is survived by his wife Pat, son Paul, daughter-in-law Sarah and grand-daughter Emily.
His funeral is at St Anne’s Church in Beech Hill on Thursday, January 28 at 2pm. Donations can be made to Wigan and Leigh Hospice.