Cool half dozen for the Iceman
The first title of the 2017 QLD State Championships has been won by Melissa Larcombe and Kurt Brown in the Mixed Pairs. Pictures and story by Naomi Cescotto
Kurt Brown and Melissa Larcombe were relentless and flawless in pursuit of their goal, the 2017 Queensland State Championships Mixed Pairs title.
It’s the King of the State Mixed Pairs sixth title in nine years, starting in 2009-10 with Gail Crompton, 2012 with Emma Brown (on their honeymoon), 2014 with Ester Regan, and the inaugural State Mixed Pairs title at a State Championships in 2016, again with Emma Brown, a win they dedicated to Kurt’s grandma.
Kurt and Emma had a torrid time in last year’s final against a first-time Broadbeach pairing of Melissa Larcombe and Scottish international Kevin Anderson, only one shot separating the gold and silver medals.
This year, with Kevin Anderson thinking about teaming up with Cass Millerick, Mel found herself at a loose end and she and Kurt got to talking…
King Kurt (gold medal 2016) teamed up with Princess Mel (silver medal 2016) and they wrote their own success story on the greens at Tweed Heads today.
“There is so much history for me in this event, winning with Gail back in 2009 was the start of my career in bowls; I met Emma through the State Mixed Pairs and we’ve won it together twice; I won with Ester, that was amazing; and now with Mel at her last tournament in QLD,” King Kurt said.
“I belted her in last year’s final so I thought I’d better play with her this year…!”
“Belted me – by one shot!!!” Mel recalled last year’s final a little differently.
Mel’s not sure now whether she’s coming or going…
“I tried for years and years to win the State Pairs in Victoria and finally Victoria Kelly and I won in 2014, just a few weeks before I came to QLD,” Mel said.
“Now it’s taken me all this time to finally win a state title in QLD and now I’m going back to Victoria in a few weeks.
“Maybe I’ll have to come back quickly..?”
“It’s been a thrill and honour to play with Kurt, he’s held me together when I’ve lost the plot, I have never enjoyed playing a series so much as I’ve enjoyed playing this one with Kurt. Hasta la vista, I hope to see you all again soon.”
The final score was Brown 28 – 8 Johnson.
Jules started well, 3-0, 2 ends, but Kurt got multiple drops on the 5th, 6th and 9th ends to take the favourites to 17-3 and it was never going to be an easy road back for the challengers, even with 12 ends left to play.
The second half of the game was even, both sides scoring in mostly singles and winning the same number of shots, five shots each, from ends 10 – 17, but that meant Kurt maintaining his 14 shot margin, 22-8.
Scot and Jules wanted to play it out, and why not, they wanted to enjoy playing a state final, but a drop of five shots to Mel and Kurt on the 18th in cold drizzly conditions prompted a change of heart, with the score sitting at 27 – 8, 18 ends.
They played one more end for the fun of it, Kurt won again, and the game was declared two ends shy, Brown 28 – 8 Johnson, 19 ends.
Mel and Kurt have won the first of 11 titles to be decided at the 2017 Queensland State Championships over two weeks (May 8 – 21).
TRIPLES will start tomorrow (Thursday May 11) and conclude on Friday May 12 (2 titles)
FOURS starting Saturday May 13, finals on Monday May 15 (2 titles
PAIRS to be played Tuesday May 16 – Thursday may 18 (4 titles, including Over 60s) and
SINGLES starting Friday May 19, concluding Sunday May 21.
Silver medalists – Scot MacDonald & Jules Johnson
This year’s proud silver medalists are Toombul’s Scot MacDonald and Emerald’s Jules Johnson.
“I love bowls, I just love it, I used to drive 10 hours from Rollaston (where I live) to play Pennant for Norman Park, now I’ve moved to Toombul and I’ll do the same again,” MacDonald said.
“It’s just such a thrill to play at the state championships, I love it, it gives us “average Joe” club bowlers a chance to play against the biggest names in the sport, have a beer, and just enjoy ourselves, I love it.
“Playing the State Mixed Pairs final with Jules was fantastic, she’s just chilled and laid back and I’m high energy and high maintenance, so I reckon we were a pretty good combination.
“And to play against Kurt Brown in the final, he’s won this event 100 times, mate, you are a superstar of the sport, it’s been an honour and a privilege, to play both you and Mel, you shone all carnival, congratulations on your win.”
Skip Jules Johnson said she was ecstatic to make the semi final and very proud to make the final.
“I wish we could have given you a better game but we’ve done very well to get here, it’s been an amazing experience,” Johnson said.
Semi Final – Mel Larcombe & Kurt Brown V Paul Staggard jnr & Gail Waitai
Paul Staggard jnr and Gail Waitai played brilliantly throughout a tough draw to well deserve their semi final spot against Mel Larcombe and Kurt Brown.
With Brown ahead 7-0, Waiti caught up in one fell swoop, 7-7 on the fourth end.
By the middle of the game, it was still anyone’s game, 12-12 on the 9th, but there Gail stayed for the next four ends, Kurt creeping the game up shot by shot, 16-12 on the 13th.
The real game changer came in the 15th end when Waitai dropped five; it’s pretty hard to come back against Kurt Brown when the deficit is 21-13.
It was still pretty dire with two ends to go, Waitai still down, 18-23 and Mel and Kurt not in a mood to give away shots.
But she did it, Gail Waitai came up with the goods and ensured an exciting finish for the state semi final, taking two shots at just the right time to bring the score up to 21-23 against Brown, with one end to play.
Could they do it? Could Paul and Gail make two on the 21st end to force a bonus end, or even three for a win?
Instead it was Mel and Kurt who created a decisive finish, three shots, for a 26-21 win.
But Waitai was far from disappointed, given she ALMOST got the two she needed to force the extra end, and in a state finals series against Kurt Brown in his specialty event.
“It was really lovely to play with Paul, we went extremely well, after we dropped five we were just chasing too many shots, but I felt confident all game and it was a pleasure to play and do as well as we did,” Gail Waitai said.
Kurt was pleased to win the semi against a warrior like Waitai and thinks it’s a funny twist that he and Mel ended up playing the state final this year, given they were playing against each other in the state final last year.
“I’ve been going 10 days straight now, the test against England, District Sides for four days, a Champion of Club Champions fours final back at Coolum Beach (we were runners up) and now three days of State Mixed Pairs,” Kurt Brown said. “But I’m looking forward to the final, Jules Johnson has been playing really well.”
It was Paul Staggard jnr’s first time in a state semi and he was impressed to play with a legend like Gail Waitai and against a player like Kurt Brown.
“He’s so cool and calm out on the green, he’s the Iceman!” Staggard said,
“It was Gail and my first time together, she’s great skip, bloody oath, I’d play with her any time!”
“I’m disappointed I couldn’t find someone to play Triples with tomorrow but I’m playing Pairs and Singles – and would you believe it, I’m up against Kurt in my first round of Singles!”
Semi Final – Scot MacDonald & Jules Johnson V Steve and Chris Baxter
Jules and Scot were a chance pair up and they rocked the competition, both playing great bowls and deserving their place in the state semi final, the first time for both of them.
“Well, I was in a state junior final 19 years ago.. playing with Mark Casey in the pairs.. we lost,” said Scot.
(A bit of a thrill for MacDonald, Hammer following his progress on BQ Facebook today, commenting ‘silk’ on Scot’s smooth delivery style…)
The Baxters were also thrilled to make the semi, given the husband and wife combo just wanted to play together, without expectation of a win.
“We didn’t play as well as we can, that was annoying, but it was still fantastic to get this far,” skip Christine said.
“You still were red hot on plenty of ends!” said Scot MacDonald, in praise of the Baxter’s performance in the semis.
The score was even-Stephens for the first half of the game, Baxter slightly ahead, 11- 9, 14 ends.
However the Baxters dropped six shots on the 15th, and it’s hard to come back from that in a state semi final, the Baxters now down 11-15 and Jules Johnson didn’t give them a second chance.
On the 18th, Jules was up 19-12, and while the Baxters managed to peg back the lead, the margin was too hard to close, the score finalising at 20-17.