Bowls Scotland’s National Championships finals get underway at Ayr’s Northfield Bowling Club on Tuesday with its highest entry yet including a number of top internationalists – six current world champions will be competing venue.
Conspicuous amongst the big guns at Ayr are Alex Marshall MBE and Paul Foster, two of the most recognisable figures in the world game. They are World Champions in the Pairs and Commonwealth Games gold medallists from 2006.
A year ago Marshall and Foster both competed (although not together) in the Pairs at Northfield. A much anticipated final never materialised after Foster went out in the quarter finals and Marshall lost in the semis.
But this year, as part of their bid to gain the sole Singles spot on Team Scotland for next year’s Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, both will be going it alone in the Men’s Singles starting on Friday.
“With the Commonwealth Games coming up next year in Glasgow obviously I would like an opportunity to be in the Singles,” says Marshall, who plays for East Lothian’s Gifford Bowling Club.
“But at the end of the day it’s whoever does well between now and selection time; who does well in singles will get the singles spot.”
“I just want to give myself a chance and I’ve got the hunger back that I used to have and I’m playing more now than I used to play many years ago. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Both players have come through what they describe as hard district matches to reach this week’s finals. Now they are in opposite halves of the draw, so if they do meet in Ayr this time, then it will only be in the final
The fact they are both World Champions is no guarantee either will reach the latter stages, with Marshall facing a tough opener against fellow international, Iain McLean. And in many ways being a top world player carries with it a significant disadvantage.
“Everybody will be in Ayr on merit and there is nothing better to put on your CV than you have beaten one of the big guns,” says Troon Portland competitor, Foster, winner of the National Singles in 2004 and the Pairs in 2007.
“I know a lot of people will look at the draw and say I hope Paul and Alex get to the final because it will be a cracking final but you’ve just got to look at one game at a time.”
“I’ll never be disrespectful to any of the players, there are a lot of good players in the draw. I know that if you don’t play well at these championships then you’re out, it’s as simple as that.”
On a long list of Scottish internationalists in action at Ayr this week are twice Commonwealth Games gold medallist and three times World Champion, Willie Wood MBE from Gifford Bowling Club who teams up with his cousin Brian Bissett and Brian Galloway in the Triples.
Contesting one of the strongest ever Ladies Singles draws is Margaret Letham, multiple Commonwealth Games competitor and reigning Fours World Champion (Burnbank Hamilton) who will be challenging title holder Lorna Smith (Linlithgow). World Champions Caroline Brown (Bellshill & Mossend) and Lynn Stein (Kennoway) are both in the Ladies Pairs.
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Photo credit: Rob Eyton-Jones