Win or lose – for Linlithgow’s Bellsburn Bowling Club tomorrow’s final day’s play in The Co-operative Funeralcare Inter County Top Ten Tournament is the biggest occasion of the club’s short history.
The Inter County version of the Top Ten is in its 34th year and the major club championship in Scotland with 25 County champions taking part.
Eddlewood BC in Hamilton is the destination for a Bellsburn challenge headed by Scott Middlemisss in the Singles and supported by Sam Gray and Craig Yeaman (Pairs), Stuart Mackay, Jack and Alan Murphy (Triples), Gordon Snedden, Dave McQueen, Eddie Caulfield and Simon Lamb (Fours).
Founded in 1982 and built on the site of a former explosive works the club is young in relation to its distinguished nneighbour Linlithgow BC who this year celebrate a 150th anniversary.
Present day Top Ten stars Sam Gray, aged 72, and Eddie Caulfield, 63, are original members of the club whilst the youngest player in this weekend’s line up is 18-year old Gordon Snedden.
Bellsburn represent the West Lothian banner as the county’s 2014 champions and, having reeled off a hat-trick of wins in the national event, are just two more triumphs away from being crowned The Champions of Scotland.
They qualified for the tournament by beating record four times national champions Kirkliston in last year’s County final in a major upset.
“We were dynamite against in the final and our hope is that we can deliver two more explosive performances this weekend,” said spokesman Eddie Caulfield. “Capturing the scalp of a star-studded Kirkliston was akin to us slaying a giant of the Top Ten and it was the first high prestige title to come our way,” he added.
Minnows at national level perhaps but there is plenty of competitive experience within the ranks including spearhead figure Scott Middlemiss, 44, and Caulfield who reached the national semi-final of the Scottish Fours in 1993.
Craig Yeaman, 40, is a District Junior Singles champion and Simon Lamb, 36, gives Bellsburn its strongest individual stamp as the 1998 WLBA Champion of Champions and finalist in the 2003 West Lothian Masters. But in terms of starring in big occasions how about 63-year-old Dave McQueen who, in 1978, scored the winning Junior Cup Final goal for Bonnyrigg Rose.
Bellsburn, who are captained by Caulfield, were handed a tough debut at national level being drawn away to their Wigtownshire counterparts – and four times qualifiers – Stranraer West End in the prelim round. However, enthusiasm wiped out the fatigue of a long journey south west and the travellers turned in a strong performance to win 6-2 then, albeit with home advantage, were considered to be the underdogs against Castle Douglas of The Stewartry.
Castle Douglas reached the final in 1998 and have been semi-finalists on three other occasions. But Bellsburn rose to the occasion and delivered a magnificent 7-1 victory.
The Kintyre peninsula beckoned next and a long trip to experienced Top Ten campaigners Campbeltown BC of Argyll & Bute, but the early risers coped with all challenges and swept into the semi-finals with a well deserved 6-2 victory.
The challenge tomorrow is another a tough one in the shape of four times Lanarkshire champions Burnbank who are from Hamilton so will feel at home on their neighbour’s green. The other semi-final features three times Fife champions Strathmiglo – who lost the 2011 final to Kirkliston – and three times Dumfriesshire champions Kirkconnel who have reached the last four for a second time.
The team bus travelling to Eddlewood will have a very distinguished passenger on it in Gary Clelland but the moment he alights at the venue the Bellsburn member has to become neutral in his role of President of The Scottish Inter County Top Ten Association.
Clelland was the inaugural Disabled Singles Champion of Scotland last year while, in 1984, he was the youngest umpire at World Bowls Aberdeen.