As the sun belted down on the Auckland greens on day one, the Summerset National Championships got underway, with qualifiers found in the Men’s Singles and the first three rounds of the Women’s Pairs completed.
Weeks out from the competition, the Men’s Singles always promised plenty of surprises, though with the format reverting back to three wins from four to qualify – the star names found a way to progress and pre-tournament predictions ran virtually to the letter.
However, shock opening losses went the way of defending champion and World Singles champion Shannon McIlroy, falling at the hands of North Harbour protégé Darryl Read – Read also qualifying after an impressive day with wins against Neil Barron and Kevin Beasley. Though, McIlroy, as he so often does, recovered in fine form to post wins against former New Zealand representative Jamie Hill, Tokoroa’s Michael Lyttle and Richard Kupa.
Double world champion and 13-time national title holder Gary Lawson also found himself immediately in the pressure zone after round one, dropping his fixture against Kensington’s George Lyddiard, before bouncing back in scintillating fashion to defeat Rob Ashton and former New Zealand Development representatives Chris Le Lievre and Finbar McGuigan – consigning all three opponents to single figures only.
Young guns Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Seamus Curtin, Dean Drummond, Bradley Down, Logan Amer, Bowls3Five national victors Alex Reed, Aiden Takarua and last year’s semi-finalist Caleb Hope all proved in promising form, comfortably clocking up the three wins and booking a place in the knock-out rounds this weekend.
Other qualifiers include former Blackjacks Tony Grantham, Richard Girvan, Justin Goodwin, among top local performers in Jordan King, Petar Sain, Kerry Margan, Bowls3Five Royal Oak Rockets’ profile Martin Dixon and seasoned Southlanders Roger Stevens and Craig Tinker, to name only a few.
Notable absentees among the qualifiers include 2017 champion Dean Elgar, former national club singles champion Pat Houlahan, among the vastly experienced Maurice Symes, Victoria duo Ray Martin and Lou Newman and 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Aiden Zittersteijn – narrowly missing the cut with a final round loss.
Meanwhile, two-time women’s pairs finalists Dale Rayner and Ashleigh Jeffcoat find themselves with it all to do going forward if they are to progress through to post-section play for a third successive occasion, losing two of their three match-ups on day one in the women’s pairs and requiring an unbeaten streak on day two to qualify.
In other results, the Blackjack skipped pairing of Val Smith with lead Lisa Prideaux was among only one of eight combinations to post an unblemished record, with Patsy Robinson, Diane Strawbridge, Reen Stratford, Alison Rennie, Wendy Jensen, Josie Mitchell and Adele Ineson all skipping their respective duos closer to qualification.
Other pairings pushing their claim early with two wins include the Blackjack-esque pairings of Clare Hendra and Tayla Bruce and Amy McIlroy and Selina Goddard, while Sarah Scott, Nicole Toomey, Debbie White and the mother and daughter line-up of Kirsten Edwards and Leigh Griffin all look in control heading in to day two.
Day two will see the final three rounds of the Women’s Pairs conclude, while the Men’s Pairs will get underway as many star-studded combinations look to sound an early signal on their tournament intentions going forward.
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