Kelvin Scott wasn’t planning to compete at the 2022 Summerset National men’s singles tournament, until a late change of heart.
He managed to get an entry just before the deadline, for his first appearance at the event since 2016.
It proved to be a prescient decision, as the Cantabrian achieved a popular triumph, 24 years after his first national singles title, way back in 1998.
“I’m normally away on holiday over the Christmas and New Year period,” explained Scott. “I haven’t played in the national singles or pairs for six years. “But this year we were holidaying in the South Island and I got a late entry into the singles, just a few weeks before the event.”
Asked about his preparations ahead of the tournament, Scott laughed, admitting they were “poor”.
He played Canterbury interclub in mid-December, then hadn’t been on the green since.
Despite that, and the long absence from the event, Scott backed himself to rise to the occasion.
“The last time I played I lost to Mike Kernaghan in the last eight, so I've normally been pretty competitive in the singles,” said Scott. “I have usually been in the last eight or last 16 most of the time.”
“A lot of players have a forte and singles is probably my forte. I knew if I got to the last eight, I could be competitive again. I just had to play my way into it; it’s just the mental side of it really… put your head down and anything can happen.”
Scott beat Elmwood Park teammate and bowls legend Gary Lawson 21-15 to reach the last 16, then topped Scott McGavin (Bulls) 21-12 to ensure his passage to the quarter finals. He enjoyed a straightforward victory over Eric Pattillo 21-7, setting up a semi-final clash with defending champion Mike Galloway.
It was the match of the tournament, as Scott sealed an epic 21-20 victory on the last end.
“It was a great game of bowls - one of those games,” said Scott. “Mike did everything he could and I did everything I could. And it was just fortunate that I got the shot on the last end and that's pretty much it.”
“I don’t think Mike could have walk off the green disappointed. His last two bowls were great bowls, he just didn’t get a result out of it…you can't do any more than that.”
That set up a final with Tony Grantham, with Scott admitting he had extra motivation against the Mt Albert bowler.
“When Tony won his first singles title [in 2007] he beat me [on the way],” said Scott. “I was 20-14 up against him and he came back.”
“Those games are always in your memory bank. I had a lot more incentive than I probably normally would have, because they are the sort of games that hurt, especially [because] I was playing really well at that tournament.”
“He picked his game up for sure but I probably shouldn't have lost it…but that’s what the sport is all about.”
Scott was in charge for most of the final, and insists he wasn’t worried when Grantham mounted a late fightback.
“Clearly you want to finish the game off but games do have patches where they swing and you’ve just got to ride it out,” says Scott. “I wouldn't say I panicked by any means. I had a lot of shots on the board and it's sport; people or teams come back to you at some stage and you’ve just got to weather the storm.”
The 21-14 victory was a special result, almost three decades on from his first singles triumph.
“In 1998 I had one hell of a draw and I beat probably some of the best players to play for New Zealand,” said Scott. “So I’ve definitely got memories of that. But I've also got strong memories of other finals (three fours and one pairs) that I’ve lost as well along the way…you learn a bit from those.”
The 59-year-old said some technical changes to his delivery at the start of 2021 – “I changed my grip a little bit and my stance a little bit” – helped his confidence and consistency throughout the tournament.
Scott was also highly impressive in the national pairs alongside Barry Williams, reaching the semi finals before being knocked out by Lawson and Grantham.
“I'd probably run out of steam a little bit mentally,” reflected Scott. “Barry gave me a chance the whole tournament, he didn’t play too many bad ends. He always had a bowl in the zone, which made my job easier.”