By Michael Burgess
When Lynda Milne and Linley O’Callaghan lined up for the first day of action at the Birkenhead Women’s Pairs last month, no one would blame them for feeling a little jaded.
While most of the field had driven from nearby Auckland suburbs, Milne and O’Callaghan had made epic journeys to be there.
Milne lives in Invercargill, which meant a two-hour drive to Queenstown then a flight, while O’Callagahan is based in Alexandra, around 1,500km from the Queen City.
“It’s a long way,” agreed Milne. “Linley went up last year, accompanying two others from Queenstown, who played Birkenhead before the Masters. She was only a spectator but enjoyed watching it and decided to play this year. When she was looking for a partner I said, “I’m keen” and decided to bring my husband as well.”
It turned out to be a profitable decision, as the pair took out the title, in the 12th year of the popular women’s event.
The duo had never played together before but knew each other’s game well.
“We play against each other all the time,” says Milne, who belongs to two Invercargill clubs (Waikiwi and Te Rangi). “So we gelled together quite comfortably – we have similar playing styles.”
It wasn’t plain sailing, especially on the first day.
“We played on a different rink and it was quite fast,” says Milne. “It was hard to adjust to and that’s where we had our one loss.”
The pair gained ninth seeding for post section play, one of seven duos with three wins, with teams from Queenstown and Tauranga the only unbeaten combinations.
The speed was more manageable on the Sunday – “it was a bit slower” – and the South Island duo remained relaxed as they progressed through the draw.
‘We were quite confident,” says Milne, of their approach. “We were playing well together, and Linley was leading superbly, which is such a big factor in pairs play.”
They won their last sixteen match 18-11 – after leaping out to a 15-0 lead – and were even more impressive in the quarter final, with a 28-6 victory.
The semi-final against Jenny Stockford and Angela Temple was a thriller, locked up at 12-12 heading into the last end before the Southerners gained two shots, to book a place in the decider.
In the final they were up against the Birkenhead combination of Trish Croot and Ruth Lynch, with the locals hoping for the first home win at the tournament since 2012.
‘We weren’t nervous,” said Milne. “We are experienced enough and had nothing to lose. All you can do is play to the best of your ability.”
After a tight start (3-3 after four ends) the South Island team accelerated away, accumulating steadily, including a five on the seventh end.
At 17-6 with two ends to play Croot and Lynch conceded, rounding off a wonderful weekend for the intrepid travellers.
“The support we had was phenomenal and it was great to get to know some of the Auckland bowlers,” says Milne. “And the organisation was absolutely superb. I have to mention the catering, with full cooked meals, which I understand was mostly done by the men. It was a top of the line tournament and we will definitely be going back next year.”
Tournament organiser Terry Moverley said the event was a “big success” and everything went to plan – even the weather. He was grateful to the 26 teams that participated and especially major sponsor The Good Home Birkenhead.