2018 in review

2018 was a wonderful year for bowls, with medals won, records broken, and fun on and off the green.

The Commonwealth Games were an undoubted highlight and saw lawn bowls reach the big time with some big games, big performances, big drama and big rewards for our amazing athletes, coaches and support team.

The year began with the sad news of the passing of bowls legend Linda Brennan, whose love for and dedication to the game was remembered throughout 2018. We know she would have loved the successes enjoyed by everyone involved in lawn bowls in Scotland this year.

Before GC2018 kicked off on the Gold Coast in April, one bowler had already won a medal. Kay Moran took bronze in the World Bowls World Cup in Warilla in March after a great week on the greens, where she was joined by Kevin Anderson, who also represented Scotland.

Also in March, Ryan Burnett took home a silver medal from the World Youth Championships at the GC2018 venue of Broadbeach BC. Ryan teamed up with Norfolk Island's Shae Wilson to claim silver in the mixed pairs.

After meticulous preparation, the bowlers and para bowlers flew out to Australia to join their fellow Team Scotland athletes and begin their Commonwealth Games journey.

Alex Marshall and Paul Foster were nominated as Scotland's flag bearers for the opening ceremony, but it was hurdler Eilidh Doyle who won her team-mates' votes to lead not just the Scotland squad but all athletes out at the Carrara Stadium.

Then it was straight into the action at Broadbeach for the men's, women's and para squads. All progressed well through the early rounds, but it was the men's triples who grabbed the headlines on day four.

Darren Burnett, Ronnie Duncan and Derek Oliver got the gold, beating Australia 19-14 in a superb final. This was the first time Scotland had ever won gold in this discipline. This added to Darren's gold medal in singles from Glasgow 2014, and it was a first - but not the last - medal for CWG debutantes Ronnie and Derek.

In the men's pairs final, Alex and Paul had a battle with eventual gold medallists Wales, who won 12-10. 

Also on day five, the B6/B7/B8 open triples team of Garry Brown, Michael Nicoll and Michael Simpson were beaten 15-7 by South Africa in the semi-finals.

Day seven saw one of the most entertaining matches of the lawn bowls competition when Scotland took on Wales in the bronze medal tie of the the B2/B3 mixed pairs.

Irene Edgar and Robert Barr and directors David Thomas and Sarah Jane Ewing went toe-to-toe with their Welsh opponents, the match ebbing and flowing under the floodlights. Either team could have taken the medal, but it was the Welsh bowlers who just pipped Scotland to the post.

The last two days of the competition were jam-packed with action for the Team Scotland lawn bowlers.

There was disappointment for Darren Burnett as he missed out on the bronze medal in the men's singles.

Kay Moran, Stacey McDougall and Caroline Brown claimed silver in the women's triples. They were beaten 21-12 by Australia in the final, but had put in several terrific performances to get there, displaying brilliant team spirit and determination.

Claire Johnston and Lesley Doig also proved themselves determined and focussed athletes as they battled their way to the bronze medal match of the women's pairs.

They beat Canada 18-10 and it was an emotional moment for Claire, who had come so close to a medal at previous Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2014. For Lesley, who has a stellar junior bowling record, it was a great Games debut.

The final act for the Team Scotland lawn bowlers was a record-breaking one as the men's fours beat Australia 15-13 in a thrilling final to take gold.

It went right down to the last bowl amidst an electric atmosphere at Broadbeach but Scotland did it, meaning Derek Oliver and Ronnie Duncan took home two gold medals from their first-ever Games, Paul Foster claimed his fourth gold overall and Alex Marshall became Scotland's most successful Commonwealth Games athlete with five gold medals.

The bowlers, para bowlers, coaches and support team were a credit to themselves and their country in the wonderful way they represented Scotland and embraced the Games spirit. 

The excitement and pride lasted long after the Games had finished. Head coach David Gourlay was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, and was named high performance coach of the year at the sportscotland COV Awards.

Alex Marshall was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Team Scotland Awards, where the squad just missed out on team of the year, and Caroline Brown was nominated for Sportswoman of the Year at the SWiS Awards. Squad members were recognised regionally and locally for their efforts at GC2018.

As the season kicked off in Scotland in April, clubs had their opening days, held Try Bowls events and were active in their communities. 

All roads led to the National Championships in Ayr in July, and the National Centre for Bowling was once again host to six days of brilliant sport.

Despite the last day nearly being derailed by stormy weather, the Championships were a huge success again thanks to the volunteers and staff and, of course, the players who all brought their A-game to the greens.

Laura Welsh and Mark O'Hagan took the ladies' and gents' singles titles in just two of the many compelling finals. Catch up on the full results here.

Elsewhere over the summer, bowlers were busy at the BIBC and BIWBC Junior and Senior Internationals and Championships. 

Scotland finished second at the BIWBC International Series at Belmont BC in Belfast. The club also played host to the BIBC Junior International Series, which Scotland won again, successfully defending their 2017 title. They beat Wales 128-127 in a thrilling final.

In the BIWBC Championships at Belmont, Scotland's Dee Hoggan beat Wales' Judith Wason 21-19 to lift the singles crown. Scotland's senior fours of Helen Sinclair, Marion Davie, Fiona Malcolm and Moira Horburgh were beaten by Jersey in the final.

Victoria Park, Leamington Spa, hosted the BIBC Internationals and the BIWBC Junior Internationals. Although there was disappointment for the men, the young women were runners-up.

Back in Scotland, West Lothian won the Andrew Hamilton Trophy, and Torrance Purvis was won by Lanarkshire.

In November, Dee Hoggan and Martyn Rice competed at the World Singles Champion of Champions in Australia, and both made the play-offs, with Dee making the semi-finals.

It was a wonderful year for club volunteers, who took coaching courses, attended child protection workshops, and continued to build on their skills and knowledge of bowls to encourage and develop players in their own clubs.

Over 250 coaches attended Bowls Scotland coaching awards, 600 adults were introduced to the sport through Try Bowls, and nearly 2000 children and young people played bowls for the first time through club-school links.

Thank you to everyone who has made 2018 a year to remember.

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