Darby and Joan play Oasis
Guy Hodgson in Preston at the World Indoor Bowls Championships
There is a breeze of change rippling through bowls, and not just in the juxtaposition of old and new in the senior citizen-dominated crowd. The Churchill Insurance World Indoor Championships have marked the beginning of a new age in the sport.
That was apparent on the rink where Hugh Duff (32) and David Gourlay Jnr (29) hardly fitted the preconception of the average player. You expected to find middle-aged men in cardigans; instead the two contestants in the final of the singles were more likely to draw crowds of girl worshippers than a pension. Youth has grabbed hold of the jack and is unlikely to let go.
Behind the scenes at the Guild Hall, Preston a revolution has also occurred as the participants have wrested control, albeit with the blessing of the two governing bodies. The Professional Bowlers' Association was formed two weeks ago with the mandate for change. A world tour is planned and, inevitably, more television exposure.
To that end yesterday's five-set match fitted the bill. Two photogenic finalists that Wimbledon would die for met head to head with enough undercurrents for a soap opera. The two men had local pride at stake for a start, being born 12 miles apart in Ayrshire, while Gourlay was attempting to become the first non-seed to triumph.
It was Duff, though, who added the spice. A self-confessed bon viveur - "I enjoy socialising and I was easily led" - great things were expected of him when he won this title in 1988 just five years after he took up the game seriously. But he imbibed too deeply from the alternative pleasures that his success brought.
The nadir occurred at last year's Home Internationals at Llanelli when he was dismissed from the Scottish team in disgrace after breaking a curfew to go on a late-night drinking session. Rather than plumb further depths, however, Duff enlisted the aid of a psychologist and won the International Open in September.
A world title would have crowned his rehabilitation but that ambition was probably lost in the third set. Duff, the fifth seed, led 4-0 and 6-2 but with Gourlay rolling bowl after bowl within fractions of the jack the set was lost 7-6. That was the psychological turning point, the younger man winning 2-7, 7-5, 7-6, 3-7 7-1.
"The way I started, Duff said, "I thought 'I'm going to win this easy'. I couldn't have played better. If I'd met anyone but David in that form I'd have won, but the third set was crucial. It gave him confidence."
As for Gourlay, he was almost too breathless to speak. "It's a boyhood dream come true," he said. "I used to watch this event on television and wish I was here."
In the crowd a hundred grand-motherly smiles were beaming, while the BBC punctuated a television interview with the finalists with a track from Oasis. Bowls is changing.
Latest in Sport
The spread betting firms are very slow about pricing up this game and you can understand why. All th...
by Gareth Purnell
20 June 2013 02:01 AM
The Prince of Wales Stakes today is regarded by many as the No1 race of the Royal Ascot meeting and ...
by Gareth Purnell
19 June 2013 02:01 AM
Today’s St James Palace looks a cracker and there has been sustained money for Dawn Approach since t...
by Gareth Purnell
18 June 2013 02:01 AM
Jamie Carragher can see why Luis Suarez wants move to Real Madrid
ACT Brumbies v British and Irish Lions - player ratings
Mike Ashley wants blood after last season's trauma at Newcastle - and it won't stop with Derek Llambias
Exclusive: Newcastle's star talent-spotter on brink as Joe Kinnear sparks walkout
Exclusive: Cristiano Ronaldo advised to stay at Real Madrid for further 18 months before making possible switch to Manchester United
- 4 Exclusive: Newcastle's star talent-spotter on brink as Joe Kinnear sparks walkout
- 5 Vast methane 'plumes' seen in Arctic ocean as sea ice retreats
£550 - £600 per day: Orgtel: C++ Python Developer - Banking - London - Up to £...
£5520 - £31200 per annum: Randstad Education London: If you are then please ap...
MPS + OLA: Randstad Education London: Randstad Education are working with a Cl...
£42000 - £46000 per annum + depending on experience: Randstad Education London...