Former New Zealand champions Sue Wightman and Ann Muir combined in victorious fashion to take out the 2020 Birkenhead Women’s Open Pairs, with the Northland composite continuing their fine run of form at the event over the last three years.
Now in its 10th year, the Birkenhead tournament has grown from strength to strength, attracting top pairings from all pockets of the country, with players looking to add their names to the history archives and take out the generous $1500 winners’ cheque.
This year’s event, endorsed as part of the Bowls NZ Summer of Bowls programme, promised plenty, featuring the likes of past and present New Zealand representatives and a plethora of top-performing locals – as well as prolific world title winner Karen Murphy, who teamed up with local Colleen Rice to take a shot at the sought-after silverware.
Murphy, who has been busy throughout the week carrying out specialised bowls’ clinics throughout the North Harbour, has certainly seen her presence in high demand, with many locals taking the opportunity to learn from one of the best exponents in the sport and most capped international of all time.
And for those watching on, the action certainly lived up to its pre-tournament billing.
Day one saw the thirty-two combinations play four games of section play in a bid to make the cut for the “Top 16” and keep their title hopes afloat. At the completion of play, few surprises were thrown up , with all the favoured combinations progressing to the knock-out phase.
Demonstrating the talents that have seen her top the podium on countless occasions over two decades of dominance, including back to back World Singles wins, Murphy was quick to adapt to the Birkenhead surface, comfortably combining with Rice to suggest it was going to take something special to beat them, as they coasted to this year’s big dance.
However, cutting a similar path to the final, Wightman and Muir, who finished runner up in 2018 and third equal last year, appeared to be in devastating form themselves, dispatching Deb Presland and Kelly Clark, 14-10, Sue Curran and Paula Kempthorne, 13-6 and Jan Gledhill and Colleen Sexton, 20-5 to set up a final opposite Murphy and Rice.
In contrasting fortune, reigning champions Trish Croot and Lisa White once again combined well to push through to the business end, on this occasion finishing third equal alongside Gledhill and Sexton, falling at the hands of Murphy in the semi-final fixture, 12-10.
The final saw Wightman and Muir continue their dominance, comfortably easing ahead and holding the lead over the 14-end fixture, winning 17-5.
Meanwhile, Curran and Kempthorne combined to take out the Cup Championship A Flight, defeating the strong Auckland composite of Catherine Bien and Ling Qu, while Jenny Jones and Agnes Motu took out the Cup Championship B Flight, defeating Karen Forrest and Donna Jackison in their respective final.
In other results, Alison Rennie and Helen Blick won the Consolation Flight opposite Michelle Matheson and Cathy Richards, while Maree Atwood and Karen Scott edged a solitary point thriller opposite Ruth Lynch and Milika Nathan to take out the Consolation tier, 10-9.
With the men’s and women’s open pairs champions now found at Birkenhead for another season, all focus now turns to the Bowls North Harbour NZ Masters, with event proceedings officially opened by Bowls New Zealand life member Jean Ashby (ONZM) on Sunday evening.
The Good Home $6500 Birkenhead Women’s Open Pairs will return for its 12th edition in 2021.
Results at a Glance
The Good Home $6500 Birkenhead Women’s Open Pairs, North Harbour
Champion: Sue Wightman, Ann Muir (composite)
R/Up: Karen Murphy, Colleen Rice (composite)
Cup Championship A Flight
Winner: Sue Curran, Paula Kempthorne
R/Up: Catherine Bien, Ling Qu
Cup Championship B Flight
Winner: Jenny Jones/ Agnes Motu
R/Up: Karen Forrest, Donna Jackison
Winner: Alison Rennie, Helen Blick
R/Up: Michelle Matheson, Cathy Richards
Winner: Maree Atwood, Karen Scott
R/Up: Ruth Lynch, Milika Nathan
by Sam Morton