That’s the answer we will have when the final ends some time on Sunday afternoon and the young Commonwealth gold medallist will have created history.
The women’s title has been won three times before, but never in succession. In fact, four times in the case of the great Lorna Trigwell – now Smith, and a Scottish player – in 1996, 2000, 2001 and the most recent in 2008. The other three-time winner is Colleen Webb (now Piketh) who won in 2002, 2004, and 2006 and was runner-up to Botha in Pretoria last year.
But now the tournament returns to the coast to be played at a seaside venue for the first time since the Somerset West tournament in 1999 – if you can allow Somerset West as a coastal venue. How she will fare in a major event at the coast is the question. Her wins in 2010 and 2011 were in the rarefied air of the Gauteng highlands in Pretoria where the event had been held since 2006 and before that for seven years at Edenvale in Eastern Gauteng.
So the sometimes difficult, slow greens at Port Elizabeth Club and its immediate neighbour Park Drive, could prove the undoing of the young lassie from the north.
With four greens available at the main club and two and a bit at Park Drive there is no shortage of green space – doubts about the ability of the Eastern Province district to host the event should be over – and it will be refreshing to see a resurgence of form from the various coastal based competitors.
But don’t write off the reigning champion. She is an indomitable fighter.
I wonder if they will give her the floating trophy as a permanent fixture in her home if she wins?
In the men’s event its a case of who beats Baker wins the title. Gerry Baker, the No 1 player in the country, defends his title again this year. He has done that four times before and only once was he successful in winning two in a row.
At the end of the 1997 tournament at Edenvale, Baker must have wondered if was to be the bowls version of the eternal bridesmaid after losing three finals in a row – to Ashley van Winkel in 1995, to Shaun Addinall in 1996 and to Neil Burkett in 1997. And he then had to wait another two years before he finally won at the first Edenvale tournament when he had that memorable win over the great Australian Steve Glasson.
Then came another hiatus and it wasn’t until 2002 that he won again; then two in a row (2005 and 2006) and the most recent last year in Pretoria. In between, he picked up two more runner-up medals – in 2008 and 2010 – both times bowing out to Wayne Perry.
If Baker wins again next week he will better the record of the great Doug Watson, who despite winning four times in a row, from 1973 to 1976, only won once more (in 1978) before claiming a silver medal in 1981.
In my book the one player who can stall Baker’s run to a record six wins is Bobby Donnelly, runner-up last year. Donnelly, when, at his best and on song, is the quintessential singles player.
NEXT month the focus is on the Inter-District tournaments, the Open in Johannesburg, the B in Southern Cape and the Seniors at Sables. Then there is a gap of a month before the Nationals on May 18-27.
So why no national bowls events in April? There have been some disasters weather-wise with national championships held in May, and particularly at the coast as the men’s event is this year in Port Elizabeth.
Questions, questions. So I went to Bowls SA with the query. Turns out the players want it that way. Now that’s a bit of a generalisation if you ask me who “the players” are?
The “players” felt a national in April was too close to the Inter-Districts in March so they opted for a month’s break.
But what that has done is extend the Black White and Spar (Gauteng versions) to June and into the middle of winter. Ouch.
Touching on the Inter-Districts makes me wonder whether those who make the decisions have got any further with doing something about reorganising the event to obviate a lot of expense and the burden it places on players requiring leave from their jobs for Masters, Inter-Districts and Nationals all in the space of three months.
Okay, so we know not everyone plays in all the tournaments, but some feel they must to preserve their records and keep themselves in the eyes and minds of the selectors. What they need to be doing in splitting the country in to four zones with five districts in each and holding play-offs in those zones – it will only take two days (four matches) and the winners go to the semifinals and final (one day) at a centralised venue.
Another thought: cut the obsequious B, expand the Open to 10 players. Play fours, triples, pairs and singles. Four sections of five teams. Four games in four days, semifinal and final.