Colin Kelly Wins Top UK Title
Marown favourite Colin Kelly put the icing on the cake of a great season on Saturday winning the Champion of Champions at the Waterloo Hotel in Blackpool to write his name into Manx and UK bowls history.
This season Kelly has won five singles titles, the Manx Championship, Association Cup, Manx Masters, Peel Town Cup and the opening competition of the season the Marown Floodlit, not forgetting winning the individual merit in division one.
Kelly was representing the Isle of Man and qualified for the Champion of Champions courtesy of his Manx Championship win in May when he defeated Onchan man Jordan Cain in the final 21-11. He was in the mix with 15 other County Merit winners, whilst the rest of the field was made up by those who had won some of the games biggest competitions that are played throughout the season or through winning the Junior or Senior BCGBA merit.
At the start of play in a field of 32 players Kelly was priced at 40-1 by the bookies and was by no means the favourite with some of the games biggest names taking part in Callum Wraight, Graeme Wilson, Ryan Prosser and John Bailey to name a few.
In the first round Colin was drawn against Lancashire merit winner Damian Morrison and managed to build up a comfortable lead early on playing a fairly long straight peg around the crown. Kelly led 13-3 and managed to maintain his lead after Morrison started to work his way back into the game before Kelly finished the game off to win 21-13.
In the second round Kelly faced the Greater Manchester Merit winner Jack Hargreaves, who had disposed of Craig Gant, a player well known on the Island. Kelly went for a longer length mark in this game, with Hargreaves preferring to play the edges and short round pegs and playing them really well. Kelly led well on the longer marks in difficult conditions. Kelly battled well to take a hard earned 21-17 victory.
In the quarter finals Kelly was up against South Yorkshire merit winner James Higgins with Kelly trailing 6-13, Higgins was leading well over 35 yards playing sweeping round pegs across the crown. Once again this forced Kelly to go for a longer length and in doing so not giving his opponent much room with Higgins generally short or pushing too far through as the heavy rain started in the latter stages. Higgins had previously put out the 2018 winner John Bailey with a convincing win, however Kelly claimed a 21-19 win to progress.
With Kelly having reached the semi-finals he had now matched the best performance by a Manxman achieved by John Kennish in 2015. This time he was up against the Shropshire Merit winner Spencer Clarke, who was in truth the best player on the green up until this point having taken three good scalps to reach the semi-finals including a 21-6 win over 2019 BCGBA Senior merit winner Ryan Prosser. With conditions worsening the green started to puddle and ‘cobbing’ was required to be able to reach, which is an art in itself in being able to control your bowls. Kelly took full advantage of the conditions to take a 21-11 win with the result more comfortable than expected.
Having reached the final Kelly was not letting a once in a lifetime opportunity pass him by and was simply brilliant. Kelly was up against Scott Simpson (Wrockwardine Wood winner) who had earlier in the day disposed of one of the games greatest ever players in Graeme Wilson, therefore Kelly knew he what he was up against and recognised that Simpson had no trouble reaching the longer marks, the game plan changed to shorter marks over the crown which he executed brilliantly to take a 8-3 lead, building on this further still to lead 16-7. Kelly then conceded his only double of the game before responding with two quick fire doubles to lead 20-9 with his ability to make two making a big difference having scored seven doubles throughout the game. Simpson then scored a single, only to throw the jack off when heading into the corner. Kelly set the mark and made his first bowl count forcing Simpson to reach with his second bowl, however he missed resulting in Kelly taking a superb 21-10 victory to claim a first ever win for a Manxman in the games biggest competition.
This is a popular win amongst the bowling community with Colin putting the time in for a number of years now to give something back to the game having become involved in the Manx Youth Games as a coach in 2013, whilst also coaching Juniors on a weekly basis at his club. In addition to this Colin also helps with the maintenance of the Marown bowling green and you couldn’t meet a nicer guy, who has now fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning a top UK competition. All that is left to say is what a bowler, what a season, what a man!