Bowls: California dreaming more than possible for Marshall

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Robert MARSHALL is set to export his exciting range of outdoor skills to California with the 47-year old veteran of 15 international bowls campaigns jetting out to Los Angeles yesterday to represent Scotland in the Michael Ashton Philips invitation event.

It is Marshall’s first visit to the high-profile international challenge that involves single and pairs and his partner is fellow internationalist Jim Meikle of Lesmahagow who has been a Scotland regular since 1999 and has 12 club championships and two Lanarkshire Singles titles to his name.

Marshall is also a great exponent of singles play having captured the championship title at Slateford on a record 17 occasions and he just recently won the Tait Trophy (Champion of Champions) for a fourth time.

This is Marshall’s first visit to the well-established American tournament so he is greatly looking forward to an experience that as far as he knows hasn’t been enjoyed by his famous younger brother Alex.

“I am thrilled to bits at the prospect of making my debut on USA soil but I haven’t a clue what to expect in terms of pace and quality of surface so I hope that Jim and I will do ourselves justice by putting up a strong show,” he said.

Scotland have a fantastic recent record in the Pairs –seen as the main event – having captured the title on the last three occasions via Darren Burnett & Willie Wood (2008); Iain McLean & Thomas Mann (2009); and Martyn Rice & Robert Grant (2010).

The singles are being played from this Sunday through to Tuesday followed by the pairs action from the Thursday to Saturday. One downside to his American adventure is that Marshall misses this weekend’s national league match for Bainfield against Cumbernauld at the Hutchison Crossway stadium. Marshall has just signed off his outdoor season with Slateford by winning the club’s national qualifying Triples title having skipped Dougie Martin and Bill Herd to a narrow win over the Ramsay brothers, Ronnie Gordon and Andrew, in the final.

Meanwhile Portobello’s aim to bounce straight back up to Division 1 status in the national league system got off to a tremendous start when they travelled to Allander and demolished the home side 106-62 in the opening match of Division 2B. Wins on all four rinks – skipped by Andrew Caldwell, Stuart Betts, Ian Fleming, and Willie McDonald – made it an encouraging performance from a team nurturing emerging talent in the shape of 15-year-old Ross Thomson and 16-year-old Josh Spalding.

Team selector Robert Wood gifted the captaincy for the first time to 25-year-old Andrew Caldwell. “I am mightily pleased that Andrew got this campaign off to such a great start,” he commented.

Away carpets at the start of the season can be a testing challenge but Portobello hit the ground running and blazed a 46-15 trail over the first seven-end phase then stamped their authority further by capturing the second 32-20.

Their 43-shot match lead created a safe comfort zone and although the foot came off the accelerator the visitors still did enough to edge the third phase 28-27 to win by 44 shots.

Caldwell was on fire to skip Jamie Reid, Andrew Davie and George Johnston into an 18-2 then on to a 30-10 victory. Betts won 26-14 and Fleming 22-14 and McDonald 28-24.