Torrential rain and lake-like greens marred the qualifying rounds of The Trusts New Zealand Open over the weekend, though with a hardy and proactive attitude shown by bowlers and organisers alike, spirits remained high as the qualifiers were found for the flagship Auckland event.
Kicking off proceedings on day one, the heavens opened in the City of Sails and the men’s singles
was reduced to two rounds with all section winners proceeding, while the women’s pairs was held
in trying conditions throughout – albeit managing to complete the three required rounds.
Surfacing from the rain sodden greens after day one, last year’s runner-up in the men’s singles progressed through with two wins, as did multiple national title holders Rob Ashton, Petar Sain and other notable performers Mike Bradshaw, Ray Martin and Central Otago hopefuls Pat Houlahan, Richie Muir, Alistair Watson and Conor Muir.
Following a shortened format in the women’s pairs, pre-tournament favourites such as New Zealand Development representative Ashleigh Jeffcoat and promising local Rebecca Jelley remain strong contenders heading into the main draw, though with previously strong performers in the mould of Natarsha Grimshaw, Catherine Bien, former winners Aggie Motu and Kirsty Hill and reigning champions Elaine McClintock and Marilyn McLeod still among the mix – the title is anyone’s for the taking as the action heats up.
Unsurprisingly, day two proved no let up from the weather gods, with heavy rain forcing venue changes and testing commitment and patience from competitors far and wide. An eventual programme of play was completed and the men’s pairs and two rounds of the women’s singles dictated this year’s qualifiers.
Looming strong in knock-out play, Royal Oak’s combination of Mike Galloway and Martin Dixon are
on track to meet the talented young Pt Chevalier duo of Aiden Takarua and Alex Reed in the men’s pairs, while the formidable Victoria pairing of Ray Martin and Richard Corry will prove a tough obstacle for any opposition as they navigate their way to the business end of the competition.
Other fixtures to look out for include the last-64 matchup between former national pairs champions Rob Ashton and Petar Sain and the seemingly ageless Mike Bradshaw and Neville Hill – 2010 winners of the NZ Open pairs.
In other matchups, women’s singles champion McClintock will take on her pairs ally McLeod in a thrilling first round encounter, while Grey Lynn’s Rima Strickland, Jeffcoat and Carlton Cornwall heavy hitters Karen Hema and Helen Blick pose strong claims to the silverware come crunch time later this week. Intriguingly, Papakura club mates Grimshaw and Leanne Poulson, a strong pair in this year’s field, will also go head-to-head in the first round of singles play.
The final day of qualifying saw the men’s and women’s triples battling it out for the all-important final qualifying spots, though with continued rain and water-logged greens, many were left questioning the irony of changing the event’s date from November to February “for better weather”.
However, as all bowlers are all too aware, nobody has the power to control the elements– therefore the best was made of a bad situation and play resumed throughout. Qualifiers in the men’s field included the star-studded trio of Jamie Hill, Chris Le Lievre and Justin Goodwin, Petar Sain, David Eades, Neil Fisher and 2014 victor Shane McGonagle, all joining last year’s champions Scott Evans, Schalk Mouton and Blackjack squad member Tony Grantham.
In other results, the women’s triples charge was spearheaded by the Carlton Cornwall trio of Margaret MacColl, Jeffcoat and Jelley, who progressed through as a non-section winner alongside section champions Agnes Motu, while fierce competition looms in the form of previous NZ Open champions Karen de Jongh, Grimshaw and St Helier’s Ling Qu.
With the main draw complete, all play will now be held at the event’s headquarters, Blockhouse Bay Bowling Club, and will see the men’s and women’s singles getting underway on Tuesday (Feb 13). All televised finals will be played on Saturday and Sunday, commencing from 9.30am.