Sam Cooley and Rebekah Martin were crowned 2019 NSW Open champions over the weekend at Tenpin City, Lidcombe.
This year marked the 38th running of the prestigious event which boasts an attractive prize money purse and the lure of additional prizes such as entry fees into both the 2020 USBC Queens and Masters events. All perks that make the NSW Open a must attend event year in, year out.
Two days, two divisions, two champions.
“I’m still in shock to be honest!” a stunned Rebekah Martin stated after claiming her first 2019 rankings title by winning the NSW Open female division over the weekend.
It’s been quite the wait between titles for Martin after winning her last ranked event in 2017 at the Queensland Ladies Classic. It may have been a break between titles but her improvement in consistency last and this year has been the real highlight, closing the gap between her best and worst.
A 2019 ranked event resume including a second place at the Fishing & Outdoor World Ladies Classic, a fourth place at the Vic150 and a seventh at the Queensland ladies classic , is a sold year on the lanes for the Victorian. A string of strong performances has solidified her second spot on the ladies rankings table, not far from good friend and point’s leader, Bec Whiting.
“I have felt confident in my bowling this year and the experiences overseas have helped greatly with this” stated Martin. “I spent a bit of time with the Motiv rep Nathan Bohr the last couple of trips who has helped immensely with my knowledge of lane play and ball motion. I train hard with Adam Hayes with all aspects of the game and working a lot on getting the “hit” out of my release. Paramount in today’s game. So going into this weekend I knew if it all clicked I had as much chance as anyone else out there to take the win”.
Returning from the World Women’s Championship on Monday, Martin felt some of the natural side effects that a busy schedule delivers.
“I felt going into this weekend a tad exhausted to say the least. I struggled to keep focused by game 7/8 Saturday purely out of fatigue. This is where I drew on the experiences I have gained and took a little extra time to refocus before every shot. Bowling on the lanes with the guys is quite a task let alone on such a small volume of oil which made matching up crucial” explained Martin.
The ladies division would involve ten qualifying games on the Saturday, providing the top eight qualifiers who would progress straight to the matchplay final on Sunday.
Two Australian World Women’s Championship bowlers in Bree Macpherson and Rebekah Martin would appear as two key contenders at the conclusion of Saturdays qualifying. Macpherson continued her hot form by qualifying on top with an average of 204.4. Macpherson made her move in the 4th game starting a three game series of 805 (244, 228, 223), stating her claim for the weekend.
In a growing trend, Logan based Minhee Kim put her hand up to be a key player in a ranked event sitting 22 pins behind Macpherson in second place averaging 202.2 in the qualifying stage. Australian Youth bowler Emma Stephens joined Martin in third place with both bowling 2,017 over the 10 games.
Youth National Training Squad member Emily Johnston sat in 5th, two pins ahead of Northern Territory superstar Rebecca Voukolos. Western Australian Siarn Ottaviano and Queenslander Bianca Flanagan rounded out the top eight. Defending champion Bec Whiting struggled to get going and missed out on the top eight, finishing in 11th place, ending her 2019 NSW Open.
With 20 pins awarded to the winner and 10 for a tie, Sunday saw the matchplay finals begin with 7 games ahead for the bowlers.
Minhee Kim struggled out of the blocks with a 164 in the first game and couldn’t get a good run on again. Kim slid down and finished in sixth place ahead of Flanagan and Ottaviano. In the end, Kim would still find a way to ultimately impact the finishing standings.
After bowling 192 and 180 for the first two games, Voukolos bowled five consecutive 200+ games collecting three wins (60 pins) on her way to third place.
Heading into the last game, Macpherson remained on top albeit only 10 pins ahead of Stephens and 34 pins ahead of Martin. It would all come down to the final games of matchplay to determine the winners. The key matchups being Martin Vs Stephens and Macpherson Vs Kim. Stephens had a game to forget with Martin the victor 213-150 and collecting a further 20 pins.
“Emma Stephens was in contention all weekend and was bowling fantastically. Definitely put the pressure on. We qualified 3rd on same pinfall and I knew she wasn’t going to give up either. Keeping the top few very close. Bree can also get in and swing it giving her an advantage to get away from the track most of us were getting stuck in. Then you throw in the ever dangerous Bec Voukolos to keep an eye on, there were plenty great bowlers in contention and it made the end a nail biter”.
Winning six of seven matchups, Martin would collect a bonus of 120 pins in the matchplay section. Still, Martin had to wait for the Macpherson V Kim outcome to understand her destiny.
“I don’t normally score watch but having the screens up with the scores at Lidcombe, it’s hard not to! So I found myself having to embrace it. It’s also hard knowing your fate is in someone else’s hands” explained Martin.
After entering matchplay as the leading qualifier and being the front runner for the first 6 games, Macpherson was matched up against Kim for the last game. The game went to the wire in the 10th frame. With the last ball in the frame, Kim struck, forcing a tie in their matchplay to knock Macpherson off the top and Martin to be named the 2019 champion by 8 pins.
“I sat there with my head in my hands in tears for what felt like an eternity with everyone going nuts around me. Something I will never forget!” described a relieved Martin. “Of course I feel incredibly saddened for Bree who had bowled amazing too and it’s such a hard situation for it to come down to one ball”.
It’s been a whirlwind few months for Martin after returning from her first World Championship in Vegas.
“The last few months have been very hectic. Queens, Women’s Champs in May, Worlds last month, ranked events at home, broke my toe just before QLD ladies, sick the week before Worlds, working multiple jobs, juggling three young boys and trying to fit in training where possible hasn’t been easy but it’s all worth it when it all means so much to you. I want to be a role model for my children that hard work pays off” a proud Martin said.
The last ranked event for the year in the ladies division will be the Australian Masters at Zone Bowling Rooty Hill during the 2019 Australian Adult Championships.
Sam Cooley has become a two time NSW Open champion after winning the 2019 male division at Tenpin City over the weekend. Cooley joins an illustrious group of ten bowlers who has won the Open multiple times.
Multiple Winners of NSW Open
- Jason Belmonte (4 times)
- Ann-Maree Putney (4 times)
- Bec Whiting (4 times)
- Andrew Frawley (3 times)
- Mark Ramsay (3 times)
- George Frilingos (3 times)
- Jeanette Baker (2 times)
- Sue Cassell (2 times)
- Carol Gianotti (2 times)
- Cheryl Munson (2 times)
Champion in 2017, Cooley explained how it felt and the difference winning this time around “It feels good to win the NSW Open again. This year’s edition was much more of a mental grind and a big emphasis on shot making. There was a lot of struggling day one and I realised my patience wore thin too soon so I had to find ways to reset to give myself any chance”.
A total of 67 bowlers entered this year’s men’s division meaning the format would differ from the ladies. Following the ten qualifying games on Saturday, the men would return on Sunday morning for two additional stages of four games each to provide the top eight matchplay bowlers.
Action kicked off on Saturday where the ten games of qualifying was first on the agenda. For the men, Victorian Adam Hayes led the way. Averaging 221.2 over 10, Hayes sat comfortably on top, 38 pins ahead of next best Matthew Krinis (SA) and 100 pins ahead of third place James Shewring (NSW). At the conclusion of day one, Sam Cooley sat in 10th place, 174 pins behind top qualifier Hayes.
The top 32 men returned Sunday to commence the additional stages of qualifying. The morning session saw a big jump from this year’s Gold Coast Cup champion Chris Castle. After qualifying in 27th place, Castle jumped up to 11th in stage 1 before pushing up to 5th in stage two.
At 17 years old, 2018 saw Jordan Dinham became the youngest champion of the event last year. Dinham qualified 11th highest then jumped up to 6th at the end of stage 1 before scraping into matchplay finishing 8th.
Cooley moved up five spots to 5th, bowling a 279 in his third game of stage 1. Cooley continued to climb up the leader board in stage two averaging 237 in the four games to perfectly position himself in second place heading to matchplay.
Hayes continued to hold his position on top with an average of 237.5 over the second stage highlighted by a 288 in the second game. Consistent bowling from Hayes provided a handy lead of 86 pins over Cooley heading into matchplay.
Castle continued his hot form on day two by bursting out of the gates in game one and two of matchplay with two wins and games of 232 and 225. Castle would eventually finish in sixth place, a big jump from his 27th placing after the conclusion of day one.
After bowling an event high game of 296 in stage two, Queenslander Aaron Midgley continued to make a name for himself winning 4 matchups throughout the finals and finishing in fifth place. Ahead of Midgley was James Shewring who maintained a consistent performance over the weekend averaging 206.3 in fourth place. Defending champion Dinham would make a last ditch effort in defending his title and managed to climb up from 8th to 3rdplace, winning 80 bonus pins in the matchplay with a fourth game of 275 a highpoint.
Rock solid all weekend, and in possession of a nice lead, Adam Hayes second game of 138 in matchplay began an unkind run of four sub 200 games. The cruel stretch provided enough of an opportunity for Cooley to sweep in and take the Open by 37 pins over Hayes.
“I was playing catch-up for a majority of the tournament up until the matchplay portion began” explained Cooley. “Some pairs were funky and some were decent. I managed to win 5/7 matches to edge out Adam after he hit a couple of the bad pairs. Jordan made a good run once matchplay began and he bowled very well to jump into 3rd place”.
The NSW Open win follows a trip to the states where Cooley bowled the PBA Summer Swing. A string of events where he experienced the ups and downs the sport often provides “The summer swing was a mixed bag – first few events were horrid. However I made a small change with grip and I was able to figure out ways to perform better and be satisfied with them” said Cooley. Satisfaction coming from an improvement in results from previous attempts – Finishing 8th in Coldwater/Ohio, 10th place at the Wolf Open and making the matchplay cut at the Illinois Open.
Spending time with your significant other can be hard at times in the life of a professional athlete. Cooley got the rare chance to bowl alongside girlfriend Emma Stephens this weekend who finished 4th place in the ladies division.
“It’s not very often we get to spend time together, both with the amount I travel and her busy work schedule so being able to bowl with Emma all weekend somewhat close to home was time well spent. She bowled very well all weekend and I’m very proud of what she’s accomplished and looking forward to be able to share future accomplishments”.
Winner of the 2019 Australian Open and second place at the Melbourne Tenpin Cup, the NSW Open victory will further push Cooley up the rankings table. The Australian Masters will conclude the 2019 Open Ranked event calendar at Zone Bowling Rooty Hill during this year’s Australian Adult Championships.