Gore bowlers shine at nationals

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Gore bowlers Caleb Hope (19) and Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (22) made an emphatic statement before national selectors Peter Belliss and Sharon Sim at the BLK National Bowls Championships hosted by the Taieri Bowling Club over the past two weeks.

Both came away with silver medals, Hope in the men’s singles and Bagrie-Howley in the men’s fours.

Hope first drew attention to himself in the first round of qualifying in the men’s fours as a member of a composite four including Finbar McGuigan and father and son Graham and Bradley Down that handed the Ali Forsyth composite four including Gary Lawson, Shannon McIlroy and Justin Goodwin a 16-12 defeat.

But such are the fortunes won and lost in bowls, the Forsyth four took advantage of a second life in qualifying and went on to win the national fours title, while Hope’s team were knocked out in post-section play.

“We ended up being the only team to beat them all tournament,” Hope said.

But Hope was to meet McIlroy, the current world singles champion, in the semifinals of the men’s singles, and gave him the fright of his life, before McIlroy, at two down and the score favouring him 20-19, qualified for the final playing a miracle bowl, nudging one of his front bowls to sit alongside the jack to win the match 21-19.

“I came here with a goal of making the last 16 of the singles,” Hope said.

In post section, not one to respect reputations, Hope eliminated Black Jack Richard Girvan, then dispatched another Black Jack, Tony Grantham, in the quarterfinal.

“I was pretty stoked to get past those guys and not be too far of the mark against Shannon,” Hope said.

Bagrie-Howley was another of the future stars of the game to make a statement on the national stage over the past two weeks.

He was eliminated in post section by Black Jack Mike Kernaghan. In a composite pairing with Seamus Curtin, Bagrie-Howley got as far as the quarterfinal stage, where he and Curtin were eliminated by Peter Belliss and Lance Tasker.

But he found his mojo in the fours with Curtin, Jesse Russell and Taylor Horn to make the final up against the might of the Forsyth four, where after 10 ends they could be forgiven for feeling overconfident at 10-1 up on Forsyth. But Bagrie-Howley’s four were soon brought back into the heat of battle as Forsyth took control of the match to win 21-13.

“Nobody really came close to us until the final,” Bagrie-Howley said of his fours team’s road to the final.

“It was really just a couple of slack ends in relation to the amount of bowls in the head that let us down in the end,” he added of falling at the last hurdle in the fours.