Young and old set for Ipswich Open Singles tournament this weekend

Ellie Last

Ellie Last - Credit: Archant

Teenager Ellie Last will make history this weekend when she becomes the youngest-ever player to feature at the Ipswich Open Singles tournament.

The 13-year-old is making her debut on the Drakes Pride Open Singles Circuit – a six-month long national tournament that culminates in the Grand Final, featuring the top-48 ranked players over the season.

East Bergholt High School pupil Ellie, who plays for the Ipswich Bowls Club, faces Sudbury’s Graham Rowland in the first round, and will be joined by her father and team-mate, Philip, who is 35th in the current rankings, at the Rushmere Road tournament.

“Ellie is a keen netball player and plays for the school and Christchurch Netball Club, and does admit she would prefer netball over bowls if ever there was a clash,” said Phil, who reached the semi-final in the first edition of the tournament in 2013.

“She has been playing bowls since she was six-years old, starting off at the indoor club’s junior section on a Saturday morning.

“She is looking forward to the tournament and would love to progress further than her father!”

As for Phil, he has been handed probably the toughest first round draw possible, having been pitted against Wales’ Robert Chisholm, who won a tour card to all three World Bowls Tour events this season.

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City of Ely’s Ed Elmore (eighth) is the highest-ranked player to be at Ipswich this weekend and will be looking to make inroads into the top-six.

At the end of the season, the players ranked between 17th and 48th (their top seven scores over the season are counted) will play off against each other in the Grand Final in Northampton. Those that win their respective matches will then go on to play one of the top 16-ranked players, until the final two are whittled down to play for the title.

Elmore’s City of Ely team-mate, Andy Ware, will be the highest-ranked winner at the event, while there is an intriguing match-up in store between last year’s runner-up in Ipswich, Martin Heitzmann (Ipswich) and his team-mate, Dominic Warren.

Dan Seabourne, an England Under-25 international from Norfolk, will also be playing at Ipswich, as will young James Rippey who qualified for Potters this year.

Ipswich Bowls Club manager, Lee Rowland, who is also playing in the tournament, said: “It’s quite an open competition this year with a few of the top players missing, so there will be several players, including myself, who, if they can get on a good run of form, will think they have got a chance of winning.”

The tournament, which is open for anyone to go and watch, starts on Saturday from 2.30pm and finishes on Sunday evening, with the final taking place at around 7pm.

The winner collects £1,000, the runner-up £400, semi-finalists £200 and quarter-finalists £100.

Last year’s Grand Final winner was Louis Ridout.

See www.opensinglescircuit.com/ipswich-draw.html for the full draw.

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