PLAYING on two artificial knees in 30 plus degree heat, trimmed down former Moe bowler Charlie Ward won the Yallourn Classic lawn bowls tournament with a show stopping clincher on Thursday.
Now flying the flag for Frankston Returned and Services League, Ward played one of the shots of the tournament to defeat Novocastrian Brendan Baker from Valentine 25 to 22.
With the final hanging in the balance at 24 to 22 in Ward’s favour, Baker was holding two shots on the end with one bowl left to come from the Victorian veteran.
Sixty-nine year-old Ward seized the moment, squeezing a perfect forehand draw past the leading bowls to gently trail the jack and claim a remarkable three-shot victory.
“I just had to trust myself; trust the right weight and the right delivery,” Ward said of the winning shot.
Baker could do nothing but tip his cap to the new champion as the shot came to rest against the kitty, and praised the performance of his senior opponent after the match.
“Charlie played excellent; I was a bit unlucky there and he just played too good for me,” he said.
“He absolutely played well all day and what can I say (about that last shot).”
Ward was granted a second lease on his bowling career in January last year when he surgically acquired two synthetic knees, and said the loss of about 60 kilograms in recent years has also contributed to the success of his comeback.
“It’s been fantastic (the new knees), it means I can bowl again because I was in a lot of pain before that,” he said.
Ward’s maiden Yallourn Classic win after several attempts came as a bolt from the blue, and he admitted that overcoming himself was the key to his unexpected run last week.
“I’m my own toughest opponent because I have to make myself concentrate, so if I can beat myself then I can beat my opponent,” he said.
“I was just trying to be competitive and the more games you win the better the players are, so I wasn’t really expecting to come away with the win… but things went my way.
“I’m not really focused on winning; if I bowl well enough I give myself a chance to win but it’s not the main focus.”
Baker earned favourite status for the final, after defeating former Australian representative Lee Schraner 25 to 19 in the semi-final, and had the momentum against Ward after scoring eight consecutive shots to take a 21 to 18 lead.
Not to be denied, Ward claimed three shots on the following end and held his nerve in the face of some fierce drives from Baker to reclaim the lead 22 to 21.
In just his second Yallourn Classic, Baker pulled one rabbit out of the hat when trailing 24 to 21 with a match-saving draw to get within two, but Ward’s brilliance on the next end relegated the New South Welshman to second place.
Ward won $2500 while Baker walked away with $1000 for runner-up.
The best of the local competitors was Ross Sizeland, who went down in the quarter finals to Frankston’s David Bloom.
School teacher Sizeland defeated his former student Lisa Phillips in the knock out phase before beating inaugural winner Neville Brown 25 to 13.
Sizeland led 18 to 1 at one stage in his clash with Brown but could not repeat the dose against Bloom, losing by three shots.