It's all systems go at Worthing

BOWLS: AS the national championships at Worthing draw closer, George Shaw, chief executive of the English Bowling Association and his staff at the headquarters are working overtime to add the finishing touches to the glossy programme of events which will run from this Saturday to September 1.

AS the national championships at Worthing draw closer, George Shaw, chief executive of the English Bowling Association and his staff at the headquarters are working overtime to add the finishing touches to the glossy programme of events which will run from this Saturday to September 1.

With all of the counties having submitted the names of their qualifiers in the various competitions, the full list of playing participants and sponsors for the glossy programme is almost ready for publication.

For the majority of bowlers, the national championships at the West Sussex resort are the culmination of the summer campaign of competitive play – the highlight of the season when ambitious competitors and their followers seek enjoyment and glory from the hallowed turf of Beach House Park.

George took time out from his work to describe the preparations to me and to give Evening Star readers a hot-off-the-press privileged peep at the list of competitors whom Suffolk's representatives will face in the championship's early rounds.

The venue, of course, does not just come alive for the fortnight of the championships: the park hosts three bowls clubs and accommodates a variety of bowls extravaganza during the season.

On the day I spoke to George, his next engagement was that of being interviewed by a southern radio station which was sponsoring an event consisting of 36 open fours in a one day tournament.

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The facilities within Beach House Park also provide visitors with the chance to pay and play on an informal basis.

So who are our local bowlers pitted against in this year's National Championships?

Well in the singles, Mark Royal will face Robert Chisolm of Northumberland, while California's Chris Love has to endure the misfortune of a preliminary round in which he will face Graham White of Bedfordshire.

Both Royal and Love have displayed the type of form that could take them to the latter stages of the most prestigious event in national bowls.

Royal arrives at Worthing as a twice winner of his county championship, to play on the type of smooth, free-running surface that suits his game so well.

An expert now in singles play, Mark has the determination and talent to outplay any opponent who stands in his way.

An international bowler indoors and out, Royal will be looking to enhance his reputation still further by making finals day.

Similarly, Love has a good chance of making an extended run. The popular player who has also won the county title before, arrives as Suffolk's runner-up this time.

Love's singles expertise has also flourished and developed, with a good all-round game built upon the foundation of excellent length bowl drawing to the jack.

Of the two players, Royal has the flair and potential to convert heads to his advantage, while the Love game is dependent on solid consistency, taking very few risks and restricting his opponent to as few high scoring opportunities as possible.

The field of contenders in the national singles also includes current internationals Tony Allcock, Danny Denison, Paul Barlow, Simon Skelton and Greg Moon, while players who have previously

represented their county such as Gordon Charlton and Julian Haines take their place in a high quality line-up.

Suffolk's pairs champions, Andy Meikle and Adrian Holden face Barry Taylor and John Davies of Somerset in their first round tie, while Jack Jermy and John Catchpole of Beccles play the winners of Warwickshire B or Essex A who have to play a preliminary round.

This will feature veteran former international Ralph Shakespeare and partner John Strain of the Avenue Bowling Club, Leamington, and Steve Mitchinson and Tony Nimmo of Nortle in Harlow.

Mitchinson is one of Essex's top prospects and played in the Essex Top Four team while Nimmo played many games at skip in the Middleton Cup.

Felixstowe and Suffolk's Meikle and Holden have demonstrated the excellent form that could take them to the latter stages.

It has been an excellent year for both players but particularly for Holden who has already impressed the international selectors with his 20-shot drubbing of Huntingdonshire's British Isles singles champion of last season, Nicky Brett in the Middleton Cup match at Felixstowe.

Jermy, of the Suffolk B pairing, always gives maximum effort and enthusiasm to the cause, never losing his appetite for national success.

However, if there is a drawback for the Beccles pair it is that while both players are good all-rounders, neither are specialists in their positions. Sometimes on this type of stage, specialist leads and skips are valuable.

Of the well-known pairings in the competition, Paul Barlow and Steven Farish of Cumbria look favourites having won the trophy last year when yours truly and Clive Webb were runners up.

They will face stiff competition from the likes of Gary Smith and Andy Thomson who were Commonwealth bronze medallists in 1994, and for former champions Mel Biggs and Steve Warrn who are also past winners of the national pairs.

Suffolk's triples representatives skipped by Ken Diaper and Ivan Turrell respectively face massive hurdles if they are to succeed at Worthing.

Of the six players, only Norman Wilcock of Melton has played at Worthing before. Their first round encounters are against Wiltshire in the form of Martin Murley, Neil Smith and Steve Snell, and a North Walsham triple skipped by M Chapman.

In the draw there are several triples that stand out as likely title contenders: Tony Allcock has qualified from Gloucestershire; Ron Gass, John Bell and John Wills from Cumbria; Gordon Charlton from Kent and Lee Miller from Cambridgeshire.

My England rink-mates this year – Kirk Smith and John McGuinness – represent Bucks alongside Alan Price.

Other strong triples are those skipped by Steve Warren, Brett Morley and Mervyn King while Lancastrians Alan and Ian Mayen with skip David Colbourne, are recent winners who could lift the silverware again.

The EBA national fours is also awash with international quality form all over the country.

Suffolk A in the form of Peter Peakman, Phil Last, Ashley Sale and Andrew Friend face Huntingdonshire champions skipped by Middleton Cup stalwart skip Pater Jessop while yours truly, partnered by Mark Addison, Clive Webb and Adrian Holden play Berkshire opposition in Michael Knight, Derek Parsonson, Mark Vaughan and Gordon Ballentyne.

The irony here is that Parsonson was a former Suffolk singles champion in the 1970s, then representing Sudbury.

He went on to become an inter-national, playing for Essex and then Berkshire.

Both fours are more than capable of putting together an extensive run at Worthing. All eight players have Worthing experience and will look forward to the championships.

The holders of the fours title are through again. David Holt's four were worthy winners last year.

Well known outfits are skipped by Kirk Smith, Steven Farish, Ian Bond and Grant Burgess.

Stan Lant of Northumberland who recently became the British Isles triples champion with his partners has again qualified, while the ever-present Robert and Mike Newman again make a strong challenge.

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