Ester and Bester …by a whisker
Bester and Foster looked unassailable but Tate started piling on doubles and Regan didn’t want to be a bridesmaid. The men’s singles final rolled out not unexpectedly…
Clearly Carina’s Greg Tate was a good bowler, or he wouldn’t have ended up in a state champ of club champs singles final.
But up against the class of Australia’s No 3 ranked bowler (No 1 last year), Broadbeach bowls coordinator and Canadian international Ryan Bester, the part time bowler and full time commercial real estate agent, and dad of two, including a new born baby, couldn’t be expected to have his bowls tools as sharp.
There’s nothing Bester doesn’t know about top level bowls; he is intimidatinlgy fast and has all the shots, plus strategy, aggression, and a poker face.
(He also happens to be a reigning Commonwealth Games silver medallist, reigning Queensland State Singles Champ, and he just skipped his Broadbeach side to a 2015 Champion of Club Champions Fours title days earlier.)
Bester was at his best; he converted heads, drove with deadly accuracy, smacked his opponents’ bowls into oblivion, and plopped his own fat purples into pole position.
The score mounted to 18-6, 15 ends.
It was all a bit ho-hum but enjoyable enough; Greg Tate certainly wasn’t disgraced, but he wasn’t in the same class as the master blaster from Broadbeach. Not unexpectedly.
“I struggled early, and when I finally found my range, I was a long way back,” Tate said.
He didn’t find Bester’s air of impatience or rapid turnover of ends unsettling in the least.
“Nah, the quicker the better, I liked it, it didn’t throw me off at all, Ryan is a gentleman on the green,” Tate said.
Tate woke everyone up on the 16th end, and showed he too has all the shots.
The rounds of applause started up, as Tate’s green bowls started to pepper the jack.
He took two, 8-18, then two more on the 19th to make it to at least half of Bester’s score, 10-20.
But Bester being Bester, he shot back with a three on the 22nd end, 24-11.
It had been a nice rally from Tate, but with Bester on “match point”, would it be all over on the next end?
Tate put on a dazzling showcase, 13-24, 15-24, 17-24.
However it was a comeback too late against a bowler like Bester; on the 26th end, Bester got his single, 25-17.
The former Ipswich boy, supported by his mates from Swifts, Jeremy Gunders, Gary McCool and Steve Bell, was rapt to have made it a final worth watching.
“Did you all see it as exciting as I saw it out there?,” marker for the men’s final and BQ chairman John Dawson said.
“Yes!” the spectators chorused.
“It feels good to win a State Singles and State Champion of Champion Singles in the same year,” Bester said.
The 2014-2015 No 1 bowler in Australia (the tally period runs July 1 – June 30, culminating with the Australian Open) will get a good points boost from this title to help build his tally for the 2015-2016 honour board.
“These points will probably take me to No 1 in Australia for now, just in time for Bowls Australia’s annual awards night next week,” Bester said.
“Until today, Jeremy Henry was No 1, Scott Thulborn 2nd, and I was a tie-3rd with Kelvin Kerkow.”
Bester said he never takes anything for granted in a state final, not even if he is ahead 18-6.
“If someone makes it this far, winning 15 or 16 games in a row, you know they have to be a good player,” Bester said.
“I just keep trying to place my first bowl close, and I concentrate on small increments, getting to 15, then getting to 20, dropping one or two never bothers me.
“Greg has all the shots, a lot of people can draw, but not everyone can drive well, and you need both to play Singles.
“Greg can drive, he saved a couple of ends.”
Tate has made the State Champ of Club Champs before, in Fours and Pairs, but this was his first time in Singles, his group play off against Greg Rolls from New Farm (Greg was also at Club Helensvale, playing the Pairs for Group 2).
To go all the way to the final, and play so well against a legend like Bester, the 2015 State Champion of Club Champion Singles runner up drove himself home to Carina, pretty happy with himself.
Ester Regan was runner up at 2015 State Mixed Pairs earlier this month, and she didn’t want to be “the bridesmaid” again.
“Tracy was playing so well, I was putting it there, but she just did everything better, she’d trail the jack, drive, draw, whatever it took,” Regan said.
Foster was up 19-5 on the 14th end, “doing a Bester”.
(Bester was on a runaway score 18-6 two greens over, against Greg Tate.)
Foster 19, Regan 5.
Bester 18, Tate 6.
Nobody ever takes anything for granted in a state final, least of all two seasoned campaigners like Foster and Bester, and it was just as well.
Regan is a warrior on the green and she jumped to a new height at the same time as Tate mounted his comeback against Bester.
“Here it comes..” an enthralled crowd sat up straighter, some stood up.
From 19-5, Tracy Foster would get only two more shots, in the next 12 ends.
Regan got three on the 21st end, 16-20, and followed up with another three on the 22nd, tapping on Foster’s shoulder, 19-20.
Foster got a single, 21-19, but Regan took three on the next end, putting her in front for the first time, 22-21.
Regan peaked at exactly the right time.
“When I picked up that three, it gave me a boost and all my energy came back, I kept saying to myself, I don’t want to be a bridesmaid, I don’t want to be the bridesmaid!” Regan said.
A double took her to 24-21, with a single to finish, 25-21, 26 ends.
“The fat lady sang…” one incredulous spectator said, an idiom that recognises that it isn’t over until it’s over.
Tracy Foster was gutted, letting a sure thing slip away.
She too has been the bridesmaid, when it looked like she was going to win, in the State Singles final in 2013 against Marilyn Emerton.
“Disappointed…” Foster said.
“I can’t be unhappy about the way I played, I played well, it just wasn’t my time, again.”
Ester Regan was runner up at State Champion of Club Champion singles in 2005 to Sue Brady, and also runner up at State Champs singles, in 2005 to Marilyn Emerton and in 2008 to Julie Keegan.
Two loyal club supporters Marilyn Head and Dorothy Field were at Club Helensvale this week to cheer for their friend Ester, whose next major outing is State Pennant for Bramble Bay (Nov 28-29, Bribie Island.)
Ester works at Bramble Bay and Chermside Bowls Clubs (apart from singing at weddings in her spare time).