Mark Royal and Katherine Rednall are Suffolk’s hopes at World Indoorb Bowls Championships
- Credit: Archant
This is the month when the world comes to the windswept Norfolk coast, and the best lawn bowlers on the planet slug it out for no fewer than four world titles – and, in particular, dream of becoming the World Professional Singles champion.
Overseas hopefuls began arriving at the five-star Potters Resort in Hopton-on-Sea last weekend, and have been rolling up on the six-rink green in the Bowlers’ Bar in readiness for tomorrow’s round-robin play-offs for places in the big event.
Local hopes rest once again on the capable shoulders of the 2014 World Ladies’ Matchplay champion Katherine Rednall and fellow Stowmarket-based player Mark Royal, the world number 13, who begins his World Professional Singles campaign, against a yet-to-be decided qualifier, on Tuesday.
Rednall, who is 20 tomorrow, faces Ireland’s Cliodhna Eadie at the quarter-finals stage and could face the player she conquered two years ago in the final, Norfolk’s Bex Field, in the last four.
Rednall, a former Stowmarket High School pupil, and daughter of England international John, also goes in the Mixed Pairs, teaming up with Scotland’s Darren Burnett against his compatriot, David Gourlay and England’s Janice Gower.
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Rednall begins her Ladies’ Matchplay campaign at 7.30pm on January 16, a day after playing her quarter-final clash in the Mixed Pairs.
As for Royal, the 2008 Welsh International Open champion, is yet to discover the identity of his opponent in the singles, next Tuesday, but will partner Scottish legend, Andy Thomson MBE in the pairs when they go up against the winners of the tie between Jason Greenslade and John Price and Mark Harding and Philip Rowland.
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Royal, 40, said he is excited to be heading back to Potters and is confident he can have a good run in the competition.
“I have been playing well this season and I am far more healthier that last year,” said Royal, who had recently recovered from a pancreatic cyst before the 2015 tournament.
“I am pleased with the draw and I am very confident having won a few tournaments.
“The competition will be as strong as ever and the usual contenders – Alex Marshall, Paul Foster, Nick Brett and Greg Harlow will be there or thereabouts, but there are also some good players to have qualified, including Jamie Chestney, who is from Norfolk.”
Royal is no stranger to Potters and has been a regular competitor at the Norfolk resort over the years. He is as excited as ever this year at the prospect of going back.
“You definitely get a buzz walking into the place (Potters),” explained Royal, who owns a bowls shop in Stowmarket.
“I am going to be staying there more this year so I can get plenty of practice in.”
He added: “It’s a portable rink (at Potters) and I played on it in Scotland, so I am used to it.
“Every venue is slightly different and some people struggle to get used to playing in front of a big crowd and the TV cameras because, as players, that doesn’t happen regularly.
“But I love it and being local, I always get plenty of support.
“I visit a lot of clubs in the Eastern Counties region for work and I get to know people there.
“They will usually support me unless they are cheering on one of their own.”
Over in Norfolk, world champion Mervyn King, who plays at the Gallow club in Fakenham, and 2013 women’s world champion, the aforementioned Field, from the Norfolk club in Norwich, will be going for glory.
King has three chances of striking gold, because he is involved in the singles, the pairs and the mixed pairs events, and there will be an early chance to see him in action when he lines up the with Scottish legend David Gourlay on Friday evening.
If King and Gourlay can get past the Scottish PBA qualifiers Ronnie Duncan and Colin Walker, from Midlothian, they will face defending champions Simon Skelton and Robert Paxton on Saturday afternoon for a place in the semi-finals.
Field has been drawn to play the 2011 champion Alison Merrien, from Guernsey, in the quarter-finals of the women’s singles event, and will team up with top Scot Paul Foster against Laura Daniels and King in the mixed pairs quarter finals.
This year sees the welcome return of Norfolk-born Jamie Chestney, inset, who used to play for Pentney and Downham Market, but who moved from to Devon three years ago to be near his girlfriend Natalie Melmore, who won the Commonwealth Games women’s singles title in 2010.
“I hadn’t entered the PBA play-offs for a few years,” Chestney said. “So I was thrilled to qualify for the Scottish International Open in Perth, and for the world championship at Potters – and it’s a great feeling to be coming ‘back home’ to bid for the world title.