Gore bowler Sheldon Bagrie-Howley has run out the winner of the 2023 Summerset National Men’s Singles, defeating two-time winner and reigning world singles champion Shannon McIlroy in an entertaining finals’ display.
In the early stages of the contest, McIlroy proved to be in devastating touch on the Browns Bay green, displaying an array of exquisite draw play and attacking shots to jump out to an 11-5 lead. However, such was the tenacity of Southland representative Bagrie-Howley, the Gore Rams skipper was able to weather the storm and peg back the deficit – eventually going in front, 18-15.
A three-count on what proved to be the final end concluded proceedings, gifting Bagrie-Howley his second national title and denying McIlroy his Gold Star – that performance having to wait a little longer, perhaps next month in the Summerset National Fours or Mixed Pairs.
Bagrie-Howley, who has been on the New Zealand selection radar for quite some years, moreso in the last few seasons – has now stamped his name in the country’s bowls folklore, winning the men’s national singles at the 2023 Summerset Nationals and undoubtedly pushing his case for further honours in the coming months.
Beaten semi-finalists were Carlton Cornwall’s Petar Sain and Mt Albert hopeful Gary Lawson, with McIlroy prevailing 21-13 opposite Lawson and Bagrie-Howley scraping a one-point advantage opposite Sain.
Meanwhile, after five years of trying, including several near misses, Clare Hendra and Tayla Bruce have finally cracked the winning formula and can now call themselves national pairs’ champions.
The final saw Hendra and Bruce get out to a comfortable lead opposite the Takapuna pairing of Wendy Jensen and Robyne Walker – settling into the green quicker than their opposition and working hard to retain the advantage throughout.
Despite a spirited fightback from the North Harbour duo, Jensen and Walker were unable to overturn the deficit, and eventually succumbed to the will and desire of Hendra and Bruce, both so desperately wanting, this time, to get over the line.
The win moves Bruce within one title of her Gold Star, while for Hendra, this marks her second. Notable mention must also go to Bruce, who has now appeared in all four consecutive finals of the women’s singles and pairs in the last two seasons - with Bruce able to secure two titles in those attempts.
Beaten semi-finalists were composite pairing Janeen Noble and Robyn Schischka and Hinuera’s Karen De Jongh and Deb White, with Jensen and Walker making light work of Noble/Schischka, 21-3 and Hendra and Bruce proving too strong for the Hinuera duo, 16-10..
In other results, the New Zealand para combination of Graham Skellern and Bruce Wakefield hung tough to win the open disability pairs honour, defeating the formidable line-up of Steve Delaney and Jonathan Radka, 18-11.
The win marked Skellern’s fourth national para title in as many years, with Wakefield chalking up his second.
After eight action-packed days in the Auckland and North Harbour centres, weather disruptions, quick thinking logistics and a tonne of skill from competitors, our first set of 2023 champions have been found. These are Selina Goddard (Women’s Singles), Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Men’s Singles), Gary Lawson, Tony Grantham (Men’s Pairs), Clare Hendra, Tayla Bruce (Women’s Pairs), Darron Wolland (Open Disability Singles) and Graham Skellern, Bruce Wakefield (Open Disability Pairs).
Congratulations to all.