I Glover, Sunday, 12 July 2015

THE Zone open singles, considered by many to be the premier event on the local bowling calendar, saw a changing of the guard when 20-year-old Billy Johnson recorded a convincing 14 shot win over Steve Rawlings in the all Belrose final.

The singles discipline seldom fails to produce upset wins somewhere along the way, however Billy's win certainly doesn't slot into this category as anyone who has followed his bowling career, which commenced around 10 years ago, would attest to.

His very formidable junior record which covers all State events, and his inclusion as skip in the the New South Wales side. This was followed by the  Australian junior side's successful New Zealand tour, as part of the Trans-Tasman series. 

This has obviously involved a huge amount of dedication to practice and playing in countless competitions, both junior and open. To his credit, he has always maintained that very delicate balance between sport and school/university obligations.

Consequently with this solid grounding, it was only a matter of time before he would put his stamp on the more prestigious events, which became very obvious in his semi final against the current title holder, Norths' Jamen Lewis.

Many in the large crowd of spectators considered this to be the game of the series, as it produced a wonderful display of draw bowling on what appeared to be an unforgiving tift green, which had been soaked by overnight rain, followed by an extremely heavy dew. With no wind and a humidity reading of a most unusual 100 degrees at 8 a.m., it was never going to dry out, consequently it was lucky if it ran a  tick either way of 13 seconds and showed no signs of improving.

Regardless of this, there were numerous occasions when both bowlers would play superb weight, which would be sufficient to just turn the the opposition bowl out for shot.  

However, while Jamen gave the impression he wasn't comfortable with his game, due to falling short at critical times, he jagged a three which took him to 30, leaving the front runner Billy on 28.  With the demeanour of a seasoned bowler, Billy on one of the few occasions, wisely selected the drive from his extensive armoury of shots and sank the jack into the ditch.

Regardless of the superb standard of bowls there has to be an eventual winner, and this very well calculated decision put Billy into the the final. 

Fresh from that rather long game and ready to roll, Billy jumped out to lead 15-3 as opposed to Rawlo (a dual winner and runner-up in this event) who had to kill a considerable amount of time after beating genial Sam Owen (Norths') in their their semi final.  

Obviously on a different rink, Rawlo initially appeared to struggle with weight, this coupled with his bowl's refusing to turn, then when tightened, would run across the face of the head, really compounded the problem.

Post game, an obviously disappointed and frustrated Rawlo commented that a wider drawing bowl would have been his preferred choice, while indicating Crawford Linton's set of Aero "Space", on an adjoining rink, was an example. 

This coming from a player of Rawlo's calibre, whose name is liberally sprinkled through all the zone honour's events, is gold for bowlers who may be contemplating buying a new set and are tempted by the "skinny" bowls on offer.