‘Mystery Man’ Brian Craig is new West Lothian Master

Gary Smith, left, with 2014 West Lothian Masters champion Brian Craig
Gary Smith, left, with 2014 West Lothian Masters champion Brian Craig
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Brian Craig of the Deans club in Livingston emerged from the 210-strong pack to capture the Scotmid Co-operative 2014 West Lothian Masters title.

He inished his campaign with three brilliant performances in the final day’s play at Harrysmuir BC.

Craig, a 46-year-old painter, brushed aside the challenges of 18-year-old Kyle Broadley of Kirkliston in the quarter-finals, 49-year-old Ross Agnew of Mid Calder in the semis then 55-year-old Gary Smith, the No. 3 seed from Linlithgow in the final.

After capturing the £1000 prize and ownership of the signature green jacket, Craig said: “This is my first season at the Deans having just transferred from the Alloa Co-operative club this year and, having no knowledge of the Masters, I only entered on the advice of my partner Lorraine Malloy.

“It has been an out-of-this-world experience for me and the greatest bowls week of my life and when Harrysmuir asked me to draw the raffle it made me feel like I was a real celebrity.”

It came as no surprise to the onlookers on learning that Craig turned out to have a history that included four club championship wins, a district singles, district junior singles, and district triples titles to his name.

His path through to the last eight had signalled the strength of his challenge as it included an opening win over Peter Lynch, the 2003 Master from Glenmavis, and a section final upset over holder and No. 1 seed Grant Logan.

“My first aim was just to win my first game, not knowing that Peter was an ex–Master, then with the momentum gathering force and beating Grant Logan 21-10 I began to be attracted to the green jacket as I am a golfer at heart and liked the romance of it,” said Craig.

His 21-5 win in 16 ends over Kyle Broadley in the quarters reflected the consistency of his performance but did no justice to the teenager who played lots of good stuff. His 21-12 win over Ross Agnew took 23 ends with the significant highlight coming on end 14 when, with three shots against, he killed the menace with a yard on runner that pushed the jack through the head for a single shot conversion to 13-7.

The final brought Craig face-to-face with a Scotland/England legend in the shape of Gary Smith and a dramatic first end saw Craig holding a good cluster of three shots – until the No. 3 seed checked the jack through the head for a two-shot conversion.

Craig was undaunted by this early setback and promptly carded a three-shot cluster on end two that might have been four but for being a bit shy with his last bowl.

Smith won a measure for two at the third but was unable to break up the consistency of good weight and length being shown by Craig who continued to set the pace to lead 12-8 after 11 ends. Craig resisted growing pressure at 12-10 with successive doubles to 16 then a piece of bad fortune for Smith at 16-12 saw his opponent benefit from a sliced jack to card a telling three to 19.

Smith continued to probe Craig’s defences with a cracking double to 14 on end 18 then held two more on a long jack at the next – but a wayward ditch weight runner from Craig fluked a short bowl into the head, on to the jack and pushed it a couple of yards.

Craig was now holding two shots for the game and the mystery man was suddenly in the limelight as the Masters champion.

Quarter-final results: Brian Craig 21, Kyle Broadley 5; Ross Agnew 21, Connor McKendrick 17; Gary Smith 21, Jamie Edwards 15; Richard Mark 21, Cameron Greer 19.

Semi-finals: Brian Craig 21, Ross Agnew 12; Gary Smith 21, Richard Mark 11.