Scottish bowlers dominated the recent inaugural World Bowls Indoor Championships in Bristol, having provided three out of four protagonists in the mixed pairs final and three in the men’s and women’s singles gold medal play-offs.
The all-Scottish men’s singles final featured Blantyre’s Stewart Anderson and Elgin’s Mike Stepney, while Hong Kong’s Gloria Ha, a 20-year-old student, took on Teviotdale’s legendary 52-year-old Julie Forrest, looked very much at home on the Bristol carpet.
It turned out to be a Scottish double, Stepney beating Anderson, 10-5 5-12 1-0, and Forrest overwhelming Ha in straight sets, 9-4 10-2.
Anderson, who was slightly below his best, still managed to delight the crowd with some inch-perfect deliveries, but it was Stepney who came up trumps, winning a thrilling final with a magnificent escape shot when Anderson was holding what seemed to be an impregnable match lie.
‘That’s third time lucky for me,’ said Stepney. ‘I reached the final of the old World Indoor Bowls Council singles twice, but lost on both occasions, so it’s great to have that under my belt. I will certainly remember that winning shot as long as I live!’
Stepney won the first set at a canter, but Anderson stepped up a gear in the second set and deserved to set up a sudden death tiebreak. Putting his first bowl near the jack, Anderson placed his next three bowls tactically, seemingly blocking Stepney’s approach.
But a sensational bowl from Stepney found a gap, made contact with the shot bowl, and clinically dispatched it out of the count. It was the last bowl of the end, so a deflated Anderson had no right of reply.
The remarkable Forrest, who prevailed in the WIBC championships four times, was odds-on favourite to beat her inexperienced opponent, but Ha showed enough to suggest she could make a mark for herself on the world stage. As a 14-year-old Gloria represented Hong Kong in the 2016 world outdoor championships in Christchurch.
In the men’s semi finals, Stepney, a 41-year-old joiner, swept to a comfortable 9-3 11-1 win over South Africa’s Jason Evans, but Anderson, a prolific winner of titles, struggled to get the better of England left-hander Andy Walters, the Scot getting home on a tense tiebreak, 7-11 5-4 1-0.
Ha, who had toppled the favourite Alison Merrien, from Guernsey, in the quarter final, reached the final with a convincing 10-3 10-5 win over Ireland’s Sandra Bailie, while Forrest was pushed all the way by Welsh ace Amy Williams, before emerging a 9-4 8-7 winner.
Photo: Proud Scots Julie Forrest and Mike Stepney after their world championship wins.