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Bowls half-century for veteran

PUBLISHED: 10:41 27 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:58 16 September 2010

Chris Ward will reach a potentially unique sporting milestone this weekend when he plays in his 50th consecutive Great Yarmouth Bowls Festival.

The North Walsham bowler is among 1,700 entries for the 65th staging of what has grown into a three-week celebration of all that is best in the sport.

Chris Ward will reach a potentially unique sporting milestone this weekend when he plays in his 50th consecutive Great Yarmouth Bowls Festival.

The North Walsham bowler is among 1,700 entries for the 65th staging of what has grown into a three-week celebration of all that is best in the sport.

Over his half-century of participation, former England international Ward has accumulated 16 titles across almost everything category he's qualified to play in.

When he won his first singles crown his prize was £12 and a ton of coal from the sponsors. This year's men's singles winner will collect a cheque for £1,500 - part of an overall prize fund of £12,000.

The Festival, which has a civic opening on the Britannia Pier on Sunday morning, sees several more of its most familiar figures looking for landmarks this year.

Jake Willgress will be bidding to complete the first-ever hat-trick in the history of the under-25 singles. And also going for a treble will be Acle's Tony Dunton and Geraldine Reeve in the mixed pairs.

But the most spectacular streak of all is that of Elaine Cole, David Cole and Paul Webb from Great Plumstead, who have won the mixed triples for four successive years and are back to bid for a nap hand.

Mark Royal will be back seeking a record fifth in nine years.

The England international from Stowmarket, ranked third in the world at the indoor game, will start favourite but will remember too painfully his first-round exit to Ken Dunn last year - a result which will provide hope for all of the rank outsiders who find themselves paired with one of the stars of the game.

Royal is one of six previous winners in this year's singles field, among them Derek Shorter of County Arts, who is seeking his third title after successes in 1998 and 2000.

North Walsham's Liz Shorter, meanwhile, will be defending her crown in the ladies' singles, which starts on Sunday morning alongside the men's fours and U25 singles.

She is also bidding to win the title for the third time, as is one of her main rivals, Chris Wadlow of St Lawrence.

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