Lorna Smith’s reputation as the towering strength of women’s lawn bowling in Scotland was further enhanced at Ayr Northfield yesterday.
The West Lothian spearhead from Linlithgow BC won the National Singles title for a record-making third time in a row.
Smith finished her five-match campaign at the Bowls Scotland Championships with a terrific display of precision bowling, in atrocious conditions, to beat Kathy Houston of Caledonia (Paisley), who has 51 caps, 21-4 in 14 ends.
Houston was bidding for a repeat of her 2006 title triumph, but the former British Isles champion laboured to master the challenges of the persistent rainfall as Smith exploited her opponent’s weakness on long jacks to devastating effect.
It must have been a miserable experience for the runner-up, but she accepted her heavy defeat with good grace.
Smith made the most encouraging start to lead 5-1 but it looked like game on when Houston closed to 6-4. However the defending champion embarked on a scintillating run of 1, 3, 4, 2, 3, 2 and hit 21 to loud roars of acclaim and appreciation from an admiring banking.
“Kathy has achieved great success in a long career and I respected that as a danger to me. I kept my powers of focus and concentration at high levels, although I did come to realise that she wasn’t playing at her best in the prevailing weather conditions,” said Smith, who had opened at Ayr with a 21-13 win over Commonwealth Games internationalist Clair Johnston of Auchinleck. She then beat Jeanette Weedon of Fenwick, 21-16; internationalist Marie Todd of Newton St Boswells, 21-17, and Marion Crighton of Gourock Park 21-16.
“I am thrilled at winning the Scottish Crown three times in a row,” said the former South African No. 1, who arrived in Scotland as a world stage star but was ignored by Bowls Scotland and Sportscotland for Glasgow 2014 selection.
The “chosen five” failed to win a medal – South Africa won two gold and two bronze – so there was no shortage of murmurs and puzzlement being expressed by the large grassroots section of the sport at Ayr Northfield and nationwide.
More history was made by a West Lothian bowler when 56-year-old Gary Clelland of Bellsburn (Linlithgow) became the first Scottish Para Singles Champion under the banner of Bowls Scotland who took ownership of the event for the first time.
Clelland was pipped for Commonwealth Games selection as lead in the triples by Billy Allan of Cowdenbeath so was not short of extra incentive when the two clashed in yesterday’s final played alongside the mainstream.
Paul Foster was on the next door rink and that helped to swell a crowd that enjoyed the skills shown by both Clelland and Allan and it was all to play for as peels were called at 13-13 after 15 ends.
Clelland – who suffered a mild heart attack just four weeks ago – played throughout the persistent drizzle without rainproof protection and that sheer determination was rewarded by a 2, (1), 2, 2, (3), 2 finish to win a 21-17 thriller in 21 ends.
Bonnyrigg were first-time finalists in the men’s fours but the Midlothian champion rink of Neil Linton, John Tod, Drew Pearson and Tam Russell were denied the title glory by a 17-15 defeat by Pollockshaws.
Russell and Co failed to get to grips with their opposition in the early stages and faced an uphill battle at 15-6 down after 13 ends but they managed to stir their support on the banking with a 4, 3 fightback to 13 with two ends to play.
Bonnyrigg had reached the final with an 18-13 win over Jamie Gordon, Gordon Baillie, Steven Thomson and Craig Valentine of Cockenzie and Port Seton in the morning semi-final having carded a seven at end seven to lead 13-6.
The title dream of Danderhall brothers Billy and David Peacock were dashed by a dramatic 17-16 defeat in the semi-finals having conceded a double at the last to Colin Howie and Paul Foster of Troon Portland.
Foster and Howie failed to land the pairs title, however, as they slipped from 10-10 to a 17-10 defeat by underdogs Johnnie McLean and James Anderson of Campbeltown.