New Zealander Debbie claims a notable win at Potters
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Revolution is in the air at Potters Resort where the Just World Indoor Bowls Championships are well into their second week and the form book is being turned upside-down.
Yesterday, 55-year-old New Zealander Debbie Wilford struck a blow for her gender by beating the number eleven seed Mark Royal 10-4, 7-7 and proving that the sport of bowls is not subject to a male monopoly.
'Unfortunately, too many women have bought into the notion that they have no chance, and don't enter PBA events,' Wilford said. 'Some of my friends told me I was wasting my time – but, I hope that in qualifying for this event, and now winning the first round, I have helped other women to believe in themselves.'
Taking advantage of Royal's dip in form Wilford, who trailed 3-4 after four ends, compiled a 1-2-2-2 sequence to win the first set in eight ends, then scored a full house of four shots at the start of the second set when her green bowls were all closer to the jack than Royal's nearest.
Royal began to show signs of improvement, levelling the score at 4-4 by the fourth end, then took the lead at 6-4 with a double on the fifth end. On the next end, the Suffolk man was holding three shots, and looked poised to take a substantial 9-4 lead – but Wilford drew an inch-perfect shot to make it 6-5.
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Knowing she had merely to tie the set, she squared matters at 6-6 on the seventh end, before Royal edged in front again at 7-6, then collected a vital single on the ninth end to complete an historic victory.
Norfolk-born Jamie Chestney, the number 14 seed, dominated a one-sided encounter with Scottish PBA qualifier Paul Hay, winning, 15-1, 12-3.
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Later, four-times world indoor singles champion Paul Foster, the number six seed from Scotland, did the same, beating Londoner Michael Cheeseman, a 26-year-old primary school teacher, 9-4, 8-6.
Foster, whose next opponent will be Wilford, said: 'I'm delighted with the way I played today, but I will not be taking Debbie lightly, and will play her as if she is the world champion. She played some good bowls out there and took her chances, so she deserves respect.'
In the evening session, Darren Burnett, the reigning Commonwealth Games champion, and number seven seed, who is suffering from flu-like symptoms, turned up feeling under the weather but turned on a solid display of drawing bowls to beat Aussie qualifier Paul Butler, from Perth, 12-0, 11-5.
'I wasn't looking forward to playing that game,' said Burnett, 'But Paul gave me a bit of room to start with, and I settled to a length quite quickly.'
Butler improved in the second set, and a tiebreak looked possible when Burnett was only one shot in front at 6-5 with three ends left to play - but a Burnett double on the seventh, and a treble on the eighth were enough to see him home for an early finish.
With 12 first round matches already played, and only another four to go, there will be a truce in hostilities in the Just World indoor singles championship today so the Potters crowd can be entertained by a star-studded cast in the mixed pairs event.
Each of the world's top eight men has been assigned a partner, creating some cracking combinations, and today's quarter-finals, the first of which features defending champions Katherine Rednall from Ipswich and Arbroath's Darren Burnett should set the green alight.
In Karen Murphy and David Gourlay, the holders face two legendary players with strong Aussie connections: Murphy, who lives in Sydney, has won the world outdoor singles title twice, and lifted the indoor version here at Potters in 2012; Gourlay, a proud Scot, spent 10 years Down Under, but now lives near Barcelona.
Three of the players in the second quarter final – Ellen Falkner, Rob Paxton and Paul Foster – won medals in the world outdoor championships in Christchurch last month, the exception being Norwich's own Bex Field, who didn't make the England team for that event.
Field, who plays for the Norfolk club in Unthank Road, is looking forward to lining up with Foster, but the Anglo-Scottish duo realise that they will encounter tough opposition in the all-England pairing of Falkner and Paxton.
Katy Smith, from Wiltshire, not to be confused with her Northants namesake Katie Smith, is delighted that she has been given the chance to team up with Scotland's one-and-only Alex 'Tattie' Marshall, and can't wait for their match against another Scot Claire Johnston and England's world number one Nick Brett.
Tonight, Janice Gower, who has been providing the voice-over for the WBT's excellent streaming service, which can be accessed through You Tube, will leave her seat in the commentary box and will partner veteran Andy Thomson against Bowls England employee Amy Stanton, and Potters' own Bowls Ambassador, Greg Harlow.
Time was when mixed bowls was regarded as a poor substitute for the real thing – a sociable activity, maybe, but hardly top competitive fare. Things have changed, and this mixed pairs event is taken seriously. Skill levels are high, and spectators love the interaction between the players.