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2017 Australian Open - Gold Coast
The following is a report provided by Billy Johnson on his recent participation in the 2017 Australian Open on the Gold Coast.
The fortnight I spent up at the Gold Coast for the 2017 Australian Open was undoubtedly one of the greatest experiences I have had as a bowler. Never before have I seen so many of the world’s best bowlers gathered in the one place, with the likes of Marshall, Foster, Sherriff and Baker all vying for AO glory. If these players participating in the tournament didn’t make it hard enough for the rest of us to win, then the torrential rain and cyclonic winds we experienced in the first week made sure that we were all going to be tested.
I was fortunate enough to play my singles sectional rounds on the undercover carpet at Paradise Point, protecting me from the deluge outside. This didn’t, however, make my draw any easier, as I had to face up against Steve Glasson. In what was a great game, I was able to snatch a 21-20 victory over the great man, and win my next two games to advance through my section. I have to mention the overwhelming support I was given by Warren ‘Millsie’ Mills and Adam Taylor, both former Belrose Bulls themselves who now reside at Paradise Point. It was great to catch up with both of them, even though Millsie insisted on talking about all the games at Belrose in which he beat me!
The remaining sectional games I had in the pairs and fours were at times played in conditions that could only be described as horrendous. If it were any other tournament, organisers would not have hesitated to call the day off, but being the AO, they were determined to see matches through, and I commend the greenkeepers and officials across all fifteen participating clubs for allowing play to continue. Three victories in the pairs at Musgrave Hill saw myself and my partner Corey Wedlock make it through to post-sectional, however the same couldn’t be said for the fours. Our side suffered a convincing defeat at the hands of four experienced players, all of whom have represented at a national level and all of whom are well under the age of 30. As disappointing as it was, that’s bowls and as they say, you can’t win them all!
My singles campaign also came to a screeching halt, losing my first knockout round 21-20. It was then left to the pairs to see how far Corey and myself could progress, and we were able to win three straight knockout games to make it into the Round of 16 against Paul Foster and Alex Marshall of Scotland, both Commonwealth Games gold medallists and arguably the best pairs team in the world. Facing an uphill battle, both Corey and I dug deep and were able to grind out a narrow win, one which I will not forget any time soon. The celebrations were short-lived, however, as we quickly found ourselves on the end of a 13-12 loss the very next round to current Jackaroos Wayne Ruediger and Scott Thulborn. Nonetheless, to make the quarter finals in such a quality field is something that I am proud of.
Regardless of what my results were, the AO was a fantastic experience, not only for the bowls but for the social side. In the two weeks I was there I met and talked to so many bowlers from so many different walks of life that had so many stories to tell. Hopefully I will be back again next year and I encourage any bowlers to do the same. You won’t regret it.