Local bowlers will be flying the flag for Westbury after qualifying for the Short Mat Bowls National Finals.
In total, ten national final places are taken up by Westbury bowlers including three in the under 18s finals, two in singles event, two in pairs as well as one place in the triples, fours and mixed fours.
The town’s bowls clubs came out on top in the recent Wiltshire Short Mat Bowls county competitions which means many of its players will now head to Church Gresley, Derby in March and April for the national finals.
Westbury Blue Circle Club will be represented in five out of the six disciplines while two players from the Westbury White Horse Short Mat Bowls (SMBC) Club will also represent the county.
Bowler Gill Willis said, “This is an exceptionally good result for the Westbury short mat bowlers. Wiltshire’s allocation of places for the national finals totals 10 and Westbury bowlers have qualified for all but 2 of the available places.”
First to qualify were both Aidan Wicks and Chris Willis (Westbury Blue Circle SMBC) in the Singles held at Christie Miller, Melksham. Chris bowled well all day and qualified to represent the county at the national finals on Thursday 9th April, despite losing out to former ‘Blue Circle’ colleague, Dane Rose, in the last end of their match at the quarter-final stage.
Aidan also won all his matches until succumbing to Dane’s exceptional bowling ability in the final but also qualified. Dane won the competition for the second year in succession.
Aidan qualified again, together with Greg Smith and Harry Illsley from Westbury White Horse SMBC, when he won the Wiltshire Under 18s Championship which was held in Seend.
The next county competition and national finals qualifier was the Triples. Fresh from his win the previous day Aidan was joined by Chris (playing lead) and skip Gill Willis. With all three players in fine form they did not lose a match throughout the day and went on to win the championship and also qualify for the national finals on Sunday 12th April.
The County Fours then took place, while the Westbury Blue Circle four of Ann Hart, Chris Willis, Aidan Wicks and Gill Willis won all their games in the round robin they were beaten in the knockout stage by Dane Rose and his team from Seend.
While ‘Blue Circle failed to either win the cup or obtain a national final qualification the club’s other team (Pat Gardner, Sue Walker, Anthony Rawlins and Andy Walker) did win the consolation competition for the shield.
Aidan and Gill enjoyed much success at the County Pairs until being knocked out in the later stages while ‘Blue Circle team mates Ann Hart and Chris Willis proceeded to the final where they came second. However, Ann and Chris added to the already impressive tally of national final qualifiers from Westbury and will compete on Friday 10th April.
Finally the County Mixed Fours which took place on Sunday 11th January. Once again the Westbury Blue Circle team (Ann Hart, Chris Willis, Aidan Wicks and Gill Willis) sailed through the round robin and knockout stages.
After a close call in the semi-final they went on to win the championship and qualify for the national finals to be held on Saturday 28th March. The Westbury White Horse team also enjoyed a successful day to get through to the consolation plate final.
Gill added, “Should you regard short mat bowling as a sport for the ‘oldies’ then think again. While the sport is excellent for people of all ages from 8 to 108 and all abilities (it can facilitate wheelchairs) it is highly competitive and great fun. It is also affordable and many of the Wiltshire clubs are able to lend or provide bowls for beginners, as well as offer free coaching and tuition.”
Wiltshire Short Mat Bowls Association has its own website sites.google.com/site/wiltshireshortmatbowls where information on the 40 Wiltshire short mat bowls clubs, including details of practice sessions and contacts, can be found together with all the latest news of competitions, press releases and the county team.