Bagrie-Howley takes championship

Winning the national men’s bowls title this is particularly good timing, Sheldon Bagrie-Howley says.

On Monday, the 27-year-old Gore Bowling Club member became the first Southlander to win the New Zealand men’s singles championship at the Brown’s Bay club in Auckland.

Behind 13-6, Bagrie-Howley staged a comeback to beat world champion Shannon McIlroy 21-15.

Bagrie-Howley said the win would aid his cause to be selected for the Multi Nations tournament on the Gold Coast in March.

‘‘It couldn’t have come at a better time.’’

Champion . . . Gore Bowling Club member Sheldon Bagrie-Howley is the New Zealand men’s singles champion after beating Shannon McIlroy of Stoke in the final on Monday in Auckland. PHOTO: NZ BOWLS

Sheldon Bagrie-Howley is not sure whether winning the New Zealand men’s bowls singles championship has sunk in yet.

‘‘It’s definitely the pinnacle event that I’ve won in my career.’’

Last year he missed selection for the Commonwealth Games team.

The turning point of the final came when he had a chat to friends on the sideline.

After that ‘‘everything just sort of clicked into place’’.

‘‘I didn’t just go good — I started going really, really good.

‘‘I think I got 11 shots in four ends.’’

Bagrie-Howley led 18-15 in the first-to-21 final and held three shots as McIlroy stepped on to the mat to send down his final bowl of the end.

It was nerve wracking waiting to see where the bowl would go, he said.

‘‘I don’t think I stopped shaking watching Shannon’s last bowl come down.’’

McIlroy drove the bowl down but was a couple of centimetres off the mark so he could not disrupt any of his opponent’s shot bowls which gave Bagrie-Howley the match.

‘‘I watched every single inch of it.

‘‘I didn’t want to wait for the click.

‘‘I was quite happy to see it hit the front.’’

Last year Bagrie-Howley joined the SBS Bank Academy Southland programme.

The two-year programme supports athletes to reach their full potential with training in mental skills, strength and conditioning, nutrition and athlete life.

‘‘It’s been a big help to my game,’’ he said.

Bagrie Howley started playing bowls when he was about 10 years old.

His grandmother Raewyn McCord suggested he take up the game.

While his grandmother was too nervous to watch the match, someone gave her updates and she was ‘‘over the moon’’ with the result, he said.

Gore Bowling Club members Tony Cockerill and John Speden watched the final together on television.

Mr Cockerill coached Bagrie-Howley when he started playing and still gives him advice.

‘‘It really was an exciting event to have this happen,’’ Mr Cockerill said.

‘‘He deserved it.’’

Mr Speden said club members were very proud of Bagrie-Howley.

‘‘A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes.’’

In November, Bagrie-Howley will take part in the World Singles Champion of Champions event at Naenae, where national titleholders from other nations will play each other.

Additional reporting Hayden Meikle.