As Isaac Denny and Matt Gallop confirmed their triumph at the Harcourts Grenadier Stewart Buttar Burnside Pairs, they shared smiles of immense satisfaction.
Any tournament win should be savoured – especially for self-confessed infrequent bowlers – but this victory was extra special.
That’s because Buttar, who the tournament has honoured since his passing in March 2006, was a pivotal figure for the duo.
“It meant a lot to Matt and I,” said Denny. “Stewart was a pretty special person in our lives. Matt and I first started playing when we at secondary school level and Stewart was obviously very big in coaching at that time.”
“When I first started, the drawcard to go to Burnside was Stewart. He was the guy that you wanted to be coached by, his credentials are well known. He did a lot for bowls at that age group level.”
“He had a pretty active role in what we were doing when we were young, so to play in a tournament named after him was pretty special.”
The three-time national champion – and 1994 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist – was also prominent in the thoughts of Jo Edwards, who was runner up in the final alongside Val Smith.
“He holds a special place for a lot of people,” said Denny. “Even Jo Edwards, who we played in the final, mentioned in her speech what it means to her, as Stu was a big part of her life because he was the national coach at the point when he got sick.”
“He had a lot to do with the real high performers like Jo and she still carries around his death notice in her bowls bag to every tournament she goes.”
Denny and Gallop have a decent bowls pedigree, both with two decades behind them, but they play less frequently at the moment, due to work and family commitments.
They didn’t have particularly high hopes ahead of the weekend, especially given the quality of the field, with a number of current and former Black Jacks among the 48 teams.
“We are good friends and I love playing with my mates,” says Denny. “But it’s always a high calibre tournament…you know there are so many good players.
Their relaxed approach paid off, as they progressed steadily through the draw across the three-day event, eventually reaching the decider against Edwards and Smith.
“We enjoyed being out there,” says Denny. “There were some close games but we just got on the right side of the score. We just chipped away and got the result. And Matt was great…he has got all the shots, even though he doesn’t play much.”
“It probably wasn’t the best bowls that we have ever played but we did enough and played smart. We were in a good frame of mind.”
Denny will only play two events this season – the Burnside Pairs being the other – but will be back next year for the Stewart Buttar event.
“It’s a well-regarded tournament,” says Denny. “There is a ton of work done behind the scenes and people like playing in it. And it’s a format we don’t often see, so it’s a bit of a novelty. People keep coming back so they must like it.”
Tournament director Alan Bryce labelled the weekend a resounding success, apart from one unwanted weather intervention, when the greens flooded after a downpour.
“We had 49 different clubs represented,” said Bryce. “From Auckland to Invercargill, and everyone had a great time.”
Bryce was particularly grateful to main sponsor Harcourts Grenadier, as well as Summerset, for their financial support of the $12,000 event