Blackjack earns long awaited gold star


Val Smith has finally earned a gold star, capturing the fifth national title of her glittering career on the final day of the Summerset National Singles and Pairs at Carlton Cornwall Bowls in Auckland.

The long-time Blackjack representative and Lisa Prideaux (Composite) have won a gripping women’s pairs final, edging Reen Stratford and Linda Ralph (Composite) 20-18.

Smith and Prideaux picked up two shots on the 18th and final end after the decider was all-square at 18-all.

They had earlier jumped out to a 10-1 lead after five ends before Stratford and Ralph clawed their way back.

Val Smith says “it means a lot” to have won a fifth national title, 15 years after her first.

“I felt quite emotional at the point we won the game because it’s been a long time coming,” Smith said.

“I’ve played in a lot of national tournaments now and made a number of finals and come runner-up.”

Three of Smith’s previous titles came with good friend Jo Edwards, but with Edwards skipping this year’s event, she partnered with her former Sydney club-mate Prideaux, who last played in New Zealand in 2008.

“I just really wanted to play well for Val because she’s my idol,” Prideaux.

“I’m just really happy…this is my first elite event.”

Chris Lowe and Jordan King (Mangere) have won an equally enthralling men’s pairs final.

They have edged Colin Gawith and Karl Garrett (Composite) 20-19, after picking up two shots on the 18th and final end.

Lowe and King had led 9-2 before the Thames Valley combination came storming back to lead 16-11.

It is only their second year at Mangere and Lowe says it’s “big for the club”.

“We’re just a little club and we haven’t got a lot there, but we’ve got some good club members and we hold our own,” Lowe said.

For King, an eight-time Auckland title holder, it’s a dream come true.

“My father got me into bowls and it was always his dream to get a national title back to his club so to get that for him is pretty awesome,” King said.

The pair have played together for several years and are close friends, but often haven’t been in contention at the nationals.

“We don’t play too many nationals. We’re normally out fishing at this time so I had to coerce him to have a go,” King said.

Chris Lowe will be glad he did.