Bowls ace Stone all set for top clash

Acle bowls ace Tim Stone is hoping to roll away the five-time world champion next week.

ON Tuesday, January 11, the wild card player produced a major upset in the second day of first round action in the Potters Holidays World Indoor Singles Championship, when he overturned Scotland’s former world champion David Gourlay to reach the last 16 of the premier World Bowls Tour event in Norfolk for the first time.

Tim Stone only made it to the Potters Holidays World Indoor Bowls Championships this year after being awarded a wild card place by Potters.

“We chose Tim Stone to receive one of the two wild card places because he is becoming a firm favourite with our local audience,” explained John Potter, the managing director of Potters Leisure Resort, which has sponsored the World Indoor Bowls Championship for 13 years.

“Last year, Tim had a fantastic season and qualified for each of the big international competitions on the World Bowls Tour. He even raced to Potters to compete in his first round match against Graham Smith only hours after his wife had had their first child; now that’s commitment!

“Tim was knocked out in the second round by the then World number one Alex Marshall but we wanted to give him a chance to compete on the Potters stage again to see if he can go further in the competition.”

“I’m really grateful to Potters for giving me the chance to play in what is, without doubt, the most important competition in indoor bowls,” said Stone.

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“The qualifiers didn’t go as well as I’d hoped last September so to get a second chance to compete for rankings points was fantastic. The great thing about bowls is that it’s a sport where, on the day, anyone can win.”

Despite falling 8-0 down after the first four ends in his first match, Stone rallied back to within a shot of tying the first set — and, at 6-7 behind in the second with only two ends to go, played a stunning bowl to convert a single to four shots after removing Gourlay’s bowl.

The 32-year-old went on to win the set, then clinched the match with a deadly delivery in the final tie-break end to win 8-9, 10-8, 2-1.

“That’s the hardest shot to play on the portable rink,” said a devastated Gourlay, the 13th seed from Glasgow, in describing Stone’s crucial ‘full-house’ delivery at the end of the second set. “He played massive bowls and got maximum results.”

It was a year ago that Stone reached the event at Potters Leisure Resort as a qualifier — and arrived for his opening match within hours of the birth of his first child Harry.

“I was a lot more relaxed this time than last year — and it was good to have Harry watching me today for the first time,” said the jubilant Acle club player who was cheered on by more than 100 supporters from his nearby club. “I’m chuffed to bits — it’s third time lucky for me now that I’ve finally made the last 16.

“The crowd were absolutely fantastic — they were worth a couple of shots! I am very grateful to the event sponsors Potters for giving me a wild card into the event — my success now will give me valuable ranking points.”

Stone’s next opponent will be five-time champion Alex Marshall. It was Scot Marshall who ended Stone’s run in 2010.

Marshall continued his love affair with Potters — in which he has won a record five world singles titles — when he beat English qualifier Glenn Skipp, from Cleveland, 9-4, 11-3 on Wednesday, January 12.

It was a confident performance by the 43-year-old from East Lothian who has already partnered fellow countryman Paul Foster through to next week’s World Pairs final for the first time. “Potters has always been a good venue for me — I just seem to play well here,” said Marshall.

“It would be good to win a WBT event somewhere else, but I’m certainly happy with the five world titles I have won here in Hopton. But the competition is very different now from what it used to be — today’s UK qualifiers are capable of beating anybody.”