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Gourlay passes tough test

PUBLISHED: 10:57 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:33 02 July 2010

David Rhys-Jones

David Gourlay, now back in his native Scotland again after six years playing bowls professionally in Australia, defeated one of his biggest rivals from Down Under, Kelvin Kerkow, 7-3, 7-7, at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea yesterday.

David Gourlay, now back in his native Scotland again after six years playing bowls professionally in Australia, defeated one of his biggest rivals from Down Under, Kelvin Kerkow, 7-3, 7-7, at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea yesterday.

The victory earned Gourlay, who won the title in 1996, a place in the quarter-finals of the WBT world indoor singles championship - and he will now enjoy a short break before taking on the winner of tomorrow's clash between teenage sensation Jarrad Breen, from Wales, and City of Ely star Nicky Brett.

"I don't play until Friday, so I'm off to London for a few days," Gourlay said. "I'm feeling very comfortable on the rink and have benefitted from the kind of training we are getting with Scotland's Commonwealth Games squad."

Gourlay, who was only too well aware that he had lost three of his four previous clashes with Kerkow, added: "Spike is always a difficult opponent, and is notoriously hard to beat, because he has such a fast and accurate drive. Fortunately, he didn't hit much today, so, after winning the first set, I felt very relaxed, and that worked to my advantage.

"But, with me winning the long ends, and Kelvin on top on the short ones it was very much a game of two lengths."

Kerkow was flying home to Queensland last night, but will be returning to the UK in 10 days time to compete in the next ranking event - the Welsh International Open, which gets under way in Swansea on January 30.

There was a real Scottish flavour to yesterday's programme, with Troon taxi driver Paul Foster, the provisional world number one, edging to the last eight at the expense of Dundee policeman Darren Burnett.

Burnett, who felt he had played better that Foster, was bitterly disappointed to be on the wrong end of the 7-7, 9-8 scoreline, and pointed to two bowls - one in the first set, the other in the second - that made all the difference.

"Both times I looked like winning the set, but Paul achieved a result with an off-target drive," said Burnett. "I'm convinced that I would have won both sets if he had missed with those lucky conversion shots."

Burnett was leading 6-5 in the first set, and was holding four shot on the eighth end, when Foster missed with two drives, then cut the count to one with his final delivery.

Foster picked up a double on the last end to tie the set, and did the same on the last end of the second set to edge home by the narrowest of margins.

In the quarter-finals of the Women's Match Play singles event, defending champion Debbie Stavrou, from High Wycombe, swept to a comfortable 8-2, 9-3 win over Israeli Ruthy Gilor, who surprised twice former champion Ellen Falkner in the first round.

Although Gilor, the reigning Atlantic champion, is a world-class player on grass, she lacks experience on carpet, and she was always playing catch-up against the 36-year-old England international.

Get two attacking players together and you are guaranteed to have an entertaining encounter, which, in all likelihood, is a high-scoring affair.

That was exactly what happened when Guernsey's Ali Merrien launched her bid to win the Women's Match Play singles title last night.

Merrien won in straight sets, 13-6, 7-6, but, as the score suggests, after scorching to victory over her close friend Janice Gower, from Cumbria, in the first set, she had to work hard to close things down in the second.

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