George has a day he’ll never forget

DAVID THORPE Norfolk's least and most experienced world indoor bowlers delighted a bumper Hopton-on-Sea crowd yesterday by pulling off a back-to-back winning double.


Norfolk's least and most experienced world indoor bowlers delighted a bumper Hopton-on-Sea crowd yesterday by pulling off a back-to-back winning double.

Rollesby's George Tubby was shaking with nerves when he took centre stage for his debut in the Potters Holidays world indoor singles - but still managed to claim the scalp of World No 21 Neil Furman, from the USA, in straight sets before settling down to watch Fakenham's Mervyn King make a comprehensive start to the defence of his world indoor pairs title.

Tubby, who was 27 last week, admitted that the size of his following - over 100 of them from Acle Bowls Club alone - might have been a mixed blessing, adding to the pressure he felt as he walked into a near-full international arena.

"It was lovely to play in front of such a huge support, but I was horrendously nervous," he admitted.

"Nearly everyone from Acle was coming up to me before the match and wishing me good luck, which was great but probably not ideal. It was all I could do to stop shaking before I went out. I've played in junior internationals where there is a fair crowd, but they are spread around six rinks watching 48 people. It is nothing like this where they're all concentrating on you."

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King was impressed with the way his young county colleague handled it, saying: "I was pretty nervous when I made my world championships debut, but it was slightly easier for me because it was a long way away from home. I certainly felt the pressure of expectations when it moved from Preston to Norfolk."

Despite the palpitations, Tubby took the first set 9-6 against his seasoned opponent from Aspen, Colorado. But his nerves were tested to the limit in the second, which was tied at 6-6 going into what turned out to be an epic final end.

Furman, who plays most of his bowls in California (the North American one rather than the one near Yarmouth), sensed his opportunity to take the match into a sudden-death shoot-out when he knocked Tubby's shot off the jack with his second delivery. Tubby responded by reclaiming shot with another superb draw shot, only for Furman to drive through the two front reds to lead again.

What happened next will remain etched on Tubby's memory for years to come - not least because his clubmates will be forever reminding him of it. It seemed his nightmare shoot-out scenario was about to come to pass when his attempted draw clipped the inside of a wide wood to deflect onto Furman's shot, which cannoned onto the jack - which in turn rolled gently but decisively onto Tubby's back wood.

Tubby held up his hand in embarrassment and offered genuine apologies which Furman sportingly accepted with good grace. But it was the Norfolk man who found himself with a second-round match against Mark McMahon to look forward to - and the American left to concentrate on the pairs.

"What a way to lose," said Tubby, whose mother Cindy and sister Jade were reported to be "nervous wrecks" long before the quirky finale. "I apologised straight away but you can say sorry as much as you like and it doesn't make it any easier."

Not that he had need to feel guilty, because Tubby fully deserved his success and his chance to take on McMahon, the 2004 singles runner-up and 2001 world pairs champion, on January 21.

Tubby admits he has only ever seen McMahon on television, which is not so surprising when you hear that he had only once previously even visited the bowling Mecca which is barely 20 minutes from his home - and then for a boys night out playing ten-pin! But he'll never forget his bowls debut there, saying: "The whole experience has been way beyond my expectations."

There were no nerves showing from King and his fellow world champion, Australian Kelvin Kerkow.

With King giving a masterclass in lead bowling and Kerkow also hardly putting a foot wrong they totally demoralised their South African opponents John Connellan and Donny Piketh, who won only four of the 15 ends played.

A four and a three helped the top seeds take the first set 12-1, with two ends to spare. And, with no hint of letting the pressure drop, they completed the rout by taking the second 9-5 in eight ends to book a second-round match against England's Les Gillett and Simon Skelton, who won 2-1 in a shoot-out against Chris Young and Paul Coleman after recovering from losing the first set 7-6 to win the second 9-5.

Kerkow had cause to be happy to find his best form so early, having watched Stephen Rees qualify to play him in the second round of the singles with a 9-3 10-1 demolition of Israel's Dedi Hakak.

King also had reason to be pleased to win with plenty to spare. This morning he starts his singles campaign against Scottish qualifier Gordon McKenzie - and tonight he's in action again for his club, Gallow, in the National Fours.