Potters prepares to welcome cream of world's indoor bowls talent to Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 04:39 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 04:39 10 January 2018
Tension is mounting at Potters Resort as the Just World Indoor Championships get underway this morning.
When bowls roll in anger it will signal the 20th time the sport’s flagship event will have been held at the groundbreaking, family-run establishment at Hopton-on-Sea which has become the Wembley of bowls.
Although the famous blue portable rink, which takes centre stage in the resort’s purpose-built International Arena, will not see action until tomorrow, 19 mainly overseas hopefuls will be strutting their stuff on the green in the Bowlers’ Bar.
They have qualified for these preliminary play-offs, and are hoping to clinch their place in the main draw, and have the privilege of playing on the rink which has seen the likes of David Bryant, Tony Allcock, Richard Corsie, and more recently Mervyn King, Greg Harlow, Nick Brett, Paul Foster and Alex Marshall crowned as world indoor singles champions.
Today’s competitors, giving their all in the pairs play-offs, have travelled from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Israel, while one pair, Stuart Bennett and Mark McPeak, have flown across from Belfast to challenge for their place in the main field.
The Hong Kong pair – Queenie and Lychee Lai – and are the only women in the field this year but, in bowls, strength is not as important as finesse, and it will be fascinating to see if they can do their gender proud.
In sport, elation and despair are never far away. Bowls is no different, and already there has been bitter disappointment for one competitor, who was hoping to break through into the World Bowls Tour Top Sixteen after 30 years of trying.
Dashing Devonian Danny Denison was drawn to play the world number eight Jamie Chestney – who was born in Little Snoring, near Fakenham – but broke his leg in a bar-room incident in Bournemouth last week, and has withdrawn from the event.
The 56-year-old Denison was cockahoop last year when he won his WBT Tourcard that gave him automatic entry to all three WBT events of the winter season.
“I thought it was my big chance of gaining some points, and I was pleased to win my first game in the Scottish International Open in Perth in November,” said Denison. “Drawing Jamie at Potters was tough, but I was all set to give it 100pc, until that incident in Bournemouth.
“There’s no way I could play at Potters, and I’m gutted.”
It’s quite remarkable that Denison, who has won the national outdoor Champion of Champions title four times, is able to play bowls at all these days, after being involved in a horrendous motor accident in Torquay in the summer of 2015.
On that occasion, he actually broke both his legs, and has been engaged in a long period of rehabilitation, though, ironically, he has been playing as well as ever – perhaps, he suggests, because he has slowed down his delivery, and thinks a lot more about what he is doing.
Next Tuesday, in the first round of the singles, instead of facing Denison, Norfolk-born Chestney, who now lives in Devon, will come up against Lancastrian Chris Gale, who was next in line on the WBT ranking list.
Another Norfolk hero, Mervyn King, the number 14 seed from Fakenham, who won the world title in 2006, meets PBA qualifier Ian McIntosh in his first round next Wednesday, while wildcard Wayne Willgress, from the Norfolk club, will play three-time world champion Andy Thomson next Thursday.
World Indoor Pairs Championship (qualifying rounds in the Bowlers Bar)
10am – Trentan Healey and Scott Walker (Australia) v John Bezear and Erik Galipeau (Canada); Moti Palak and Roy Jennings (Israel) v Stuart Bennett and Mark McPeak (Ireland).
11,30am – Neil Furman and Dan Le Mesurier (USA) v Lychee Lai and Queenie Lai (Hong Kong); Thinus Oelofse and George Lotter (South Africa) v Murray Glassey and Paul Sorenson (New Zealand).
2.15pm – Furman and Le Mesurier v Bezear and Galipou; Polak and Jennings v Oelofse and Lotter. 4pm –00hrs: Healey and Walker v Lai and Lai; Polak and Jennings v Glassey and Sorenson.
7.3pm: Bezear and Galipou v Lai and Lai; Oelofse and Lotter v Bennett and McPeak.
World Indoor Singles Championship (qualifying rounds in the Bowlers Bar)
7.30pm: Gary Pickering (Canada) v Chun Yat Wong (Hong Kong);Charlie Herbert (USA) v Moti Palak (Israel).