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History maker Aon claims Phuket Open Bowls Singles title

History maker Aon claims Phuket Open Bowls Singles title

BOWLS: Competition history was made on Monday (Mar 6) as Aon Sampert became both the first female player and first ever Thai competitor to be crowned Phuket Singles Open Champion.

By Robert Knight

Thursday 9 March 2023, 03:46PM

The “Blue Riband” Phuket Open Singles Championship is one of the most prestigious, popular and keenly-contested competitions hosted at the club, evident this year with a record-breaking 28 bowlers representing nine countries turning out.

With such a large number of entries this year it was always going to be a challenging day for all, not least of all the organisers. A full eight rounds of games were needed to be played out in the searing heat, with the winner required to play and win five matches before declared the champion. In order to progress into the final round of 16, a total of 24 players had to negotiate a tricky preliminary round, with only four players getting byes into the last 16.

With last year’s champion and serial winner “The Special Ron” Blackwood having decamped elsewhere and the competition so tight and experienced, the ability to predict the winner was almost impossible. Not one person in the field could be considered a rookie player and everyone would have to be on their mettle to avoid elimination. There were even several competitors sporting their winners shirts from previous years in the hope of grabbing another this time around.

With such a tight time frame and so many rounds to complete it was debatable whether this year there would be space for the “plate” competition for first round losers. Thankfully, with all the players respecting the time frame, all the major games were completed in sufficient time for the plate competition to ultimately take place.

In the preliminary round and last 16, with such a finely balanced field it was no surprise that many games were only decided on the final end, whilst four of the games needed an extra end to decide the winners.

Managing to successfully navigate their passage to the quarter-finals were Duncan Kennedy, Dean Simmonds, Glenn Collins, Sammy “The President” Sampert, Nobby Dublin and Peter “Da Kaiser” Kuschel, while the final quarter-finals contest was to be an all-female affair between Dot Barker and Aon Sunnee Sampert.

All the matches were riveting, nail-biting contests that went right down to the wire with Dean, Sammy, Aon and Nobby all winning their games to advance to the semi-finals.

Nerves could have played a part as both Nobby and Sammy were making their first ever semi-finals appearance, but, given how close the contests generally had been all day, it was perhaps somewhat surprising that Dean and Aon made such light work of their games to progress to the final.

Both Dean and Aon had tasted success and gained invaluable experience previously in pairs finals, with Aon winning the 12th Phuket Open Pairs Championship only last month, but this was the first time that either of them were in a singes final.

The early stages of the final were extremely close with Dean bowling some great deliveries and often holding 2 or 3 shots, only to be thwarted as Aon produced some stunning deliveries herself; one in particular was a world class bowl, drawing gasps of disbelief from the watching crowd.

After five of the 10 ends, and helped by a pivotal score of 3 on end 5, Aon had stretched her lead to 7-1. It was a scoreline which did not necessarily reflect the quality of bowls that Dean was producing, which would usually have been sufficient to win any contest. However, Aon was in a league of her own, delivering some stunning bowls that left the onlooking crowd aghast in admiration.

An uphill but not impossible task now faced Dean and the pressure and fatigue soon started to show as his length started to suffer, leaving Aon chance to capitalise and claim the title with a comprehensive victory.

Not only did Aon make history on two counts, but it was also fitting that a female competitor won the tournament during the week when International Women’s Day was celebrated.

Dean’s consolation in defeat was the award of the “Canadian” medal to mark his role as the tournament’s most consistent bowler.

In the “plate” final for those who were kocked out in the first round, Carl Mesham picked up his second plate of the year when he beat the recently returned Rupert Maunder 9-5.

Overall it was a truly fantastic tournament played in the greatest of spirits by all, with extra kudos to Aon for triumphing in the biggest turn out of players ever witnessed at the club!

Kamala Lawn Bowls Club is open six days a week. All equipment is provided and large parties can be gladly catered for. For further information please contact the club on 0948987476 or 0991307255.

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