Darby and Joan play Oasis
Guy Hodgson in Preston at the World Indoor Bowls Championships
Monday 26 February 1996
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
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Eden Hazard exclusive interview - All is rosy in the garden of Eden
Arsenal vs Monaco: Theo Walcott 'involved in spat' with fans after Champions League defeat
It's time to stop the 'small club' jibes after Chelsea signed £200m Yokohama deal
Robbie Savage avoids driving ban - because he would get 'accosted' too much if he had to use public transport
Liverpool vs Manchester City: Brendan Rodgers and his fading Liverpool may have reached breaking point
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 Prince Harry leaving the armed forced to pursue conservation projects in Africa
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...
salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...