By Michael Burgess
Ahead of his favourite tournament of the year, Dean Gilshnan made a pivotal decision.
With the Jim Munn Memorial pairs on the horizon, the Takaro stalwart decided to split with long term bowls partner Pat Horgan.
There was no bad blood between the pair, more just a mutual feeling that it was time for a change.
“We have been playing together a long, long time and had a lot of success,” said Gilshnan. “But we wanted to try something different…we felt things had got a bit stale.”
It was a gamble, as both men had enjoyed plenty of success. Gilshnan has claimed 18 centre titles over 11 seasons, while he estimates Horgan has accumulated 29 across his career.
And the event, played in honour of Munn since his passing in 2018, means a lot to them both.
“It’s been running for 33 years,” explains Horgan, now the tournament director. “It was the go-to tournament in the Manawatu for a long time and Jim was the body and soul behind the event, especially in the 2000s.”
It remains extremely popular, with the reduced field of 16 teams (due to green renovations) filling up in “20 or 30 minutes”.
Gilshnan teamed up with clubmate Graham Cooley and was looking forward to the event.
“It’s our prestige club tournament,” said Gilshnan. “There’s always a good field and it is one of the biggest ones around here.”
A two-time former champion, Gilshnan was confident, despite the new partnership.
“We knew each other’s play pretty well,” said Gilshnan. “I had the feeling we would be quite hard to beat, especially on the carpet.”
Gilshnan’s background is in the indoor game, which he played for almost three decades, representing New Zealand at one stage, before prioritising outdoor bowls about 10 years ago.
The pair qualified top of their group with a 100 per cent record on the first day, in difficult conditions with constant drizzle.
“That felt good, but you still need to turn up the next day,” said Gilshnan. “There are no prizes handed out then.”
But Gilshnan and Cooley continued their imperious form the following day. There were some close contests, but they emerged unbeaten from the Top eight main event, vindicating Gilshnan’s decision to forge a new team.
“We gelled really well,” said Gilshnan. “And we backed each other up, getting out of trouble when it matters. We are both very competitive, we like to win and it’s all about line and length and getting close.”
It was a well-earned triumph for Gilshnan, who has struggled to find time to practice this season with the demands of his job.
“It’s not easy,” said Gilshnan. “But I try to get down to a roll up on Thursdays, when I can.”
Bruce Harris and Steve Love were runners up, while Horgan combined with Shane Rogers to win the plate.
Horgan hailed another successful event, with players drawn from Wanganui, Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Kapiti Coast and Arrowtown, as well as the Manawatu region. Horgan also paid tribute to the club members and volunteers and the invaluable assistance of sponsors Tui Brewery and Trade Me Autos.
By Michael Burgess