In a thrilling weekend of junior bowling, the Queensland Junior Cup crowned its newest champions, Emily Hart and Seth Gray.
The ninth running of the QJC took place at Coolangatta Tweed Tenpin for the second consecutive year running and welcomed 92 future stars to the popular holiday destination at the border of New South Wales and Queensland.
The task for the talented field was to bowl their highest 12-game score for qualifying before the top 12 would advance to stage two for five more games to provide the final six bowlers to battle it out for the title in the matchplay finals.
Blake Walsh, bowling for his third consecutive QJC title, didn’t waste any time giving others the target to chase. Bursting out of the gates, Walsh secured the highest qualifying score of 2,614 to lead the top 12 bowlers to stage two.
Sitting 111 pins behind the leader was Victorian 17-year-old Seth Gray.
Following impressive performances in 2022 and events for older divisions this year, such as the Australian Tenpin Bowling Open (5th), and the Wyncity Youth Cup (2nd), Gray would be one of several bowlers competing on the weekend that earned selection into Tenpin Bowling Australia’s 2023 National Training Squads.
“It’s definitely been a big week, and I was super excited to find out I was in NTS as I have wanted this for a while, but I knew I had to be at my best to be able to make it” explained Gray. “I’ve worked on things that I wasn’t happy with, and I couldn’t wait to tell my New Era family and the whole of Zone Bowling Frankston”.
After an impressive qualification stage, Gray would encounter his first stumble in stage two bowling games of 173 and 198 to begin a slide down the leaderboard. Showing an ability to compose and regather, Gray provided two 200-plus games in his last three of the stage to cling on and avoid the cut entering match play as the sixth and final bowler.
Showcasing composure beyond his years and with his grandparents watching him bowl for the first time, Gray turned it on when it mattered most in the match play finals on his way to securing the first ranked event title of his short career.
“I didn’t really have a strategy going into the QJC as I was unsure of how things would go due to the twister pins being a bit tricky, but I was able to find a strategy going into match play and just stayed calm and got through my routine,” explained Gray.
A rare perfect performance in the matchplay finals saw Gray capture all five wins from his matchups, collecting a 150 bonus to help leapfrog the field to victory.
“It definitely doesn’t feel real at the moment, but I am over the moon to be able to win such a big ranked event for the juniors and finally say I have won something,” said Gray.
“I have been bowling since I was five years old and began bowling ranked events for only two years before winning this first ranked event.
“Everyone around me has played a part in helping me, but the special thanks go to Adam Hayes, Bec Whiting, and Bec Martin for always being by my side with everything”, added Gray.
Winning all but the battle against Seth, Blake Walsh finished runners up, 119 pins behind Gray, and rounding out the podium was fellow Victorian Nicholas Rajkovic.
In the female division, talented South Australian Emily Hart led after all stages were completed to begin her 2023 season with a title. Following a superb year in 2022 where the junior NTS bowler finished as the highest-ranked junior bowler in the country, Hart was excited to commence her defense of her status as Australia’s top junior female bowler.
“It feels amazing to return to the junior event season, and winning this tournament was a goal after coming second the last two years,’ explained Hart. “I’ve worked hard to get to this stage as I had a goal to win, and I have now achieved that”.
Leading at all stages over the weekend, Hart returned to her dominating best to kick off the new junior season. Averaging 196.6 over her first qualifying games, she led the field into stage two for an additional five games. The South Australian star would maintain her top spot leading into the match play finals.
After recently being selected for the National Training Squad 18 team, New South Wales representative Jessica Chi applied pressure on Hart throughout the event. Chi would sit 55 pins behind Hart after the qualifying stage, 44 pins behind after stage two, and 37 pins behind at the end of the match play finals.
Both Hart and Chi would win four of their five-match play games for 120 bonus pins to claim the top two spots on the podium. Hart managed to fend off Jessica and other challengers throughout the event, trying everything she could to go one better this year and claim the title.
“I tried everything in my control,” explained Hart. “I even tried essential oils and did my best not to look at everyone’s scores”.
Winning three games in matchplay to claim the third spot was North Queensland product Emily Hinspeter. Like the first two bowlers, Hinspeter did not budge from the third spot all weekend and maintained the focus to claim the last place on the podium.
Incredibly, Emily Hart is still only 16 years old, and even after all her success as a junior, she still has one year left in the division in 2024.
“I still have next year as a junior which is good as I can plan/bowl in tournaments, and no matter how I do, I can always improve next year,” explained Hart.
The future is bright with these stars coming through the ranks.
In other news, Cameron Stein won the Queensland Youth Cup (unranked) at the event by defeating fellow NTS 21 team member Tamika Pettigrew in the two-game final 464-335.
Also, the event had a graded Junior division which was won by Ella Hoffman (QLD). After qualifying, the top 5 graded bowlers competed in a five-person stepladder and Ella ran the ladder from 4th to take the win.
Other award winners from the event included:
- Fletcher Family Trophy – Shanae Key (Vic)
- BPD Bowling Australia Rising Star Award – Ella Hoffman (QLD) and Hayden Miller (QLD)
The above award winners received a bowling ball courtesy of BPD Bowling Australia.
The next junior-ranked event for 2023 is the Junior Sydney Cup which will be held at Sydney BowlFest at Tenpin City in New South Wales. Click here to view the information released for this event.
- Total pinfall: 4,678 (4,828 with bonus pins)
- Average: 212.64 (22 games)
- High Game: 262 (Matchplay finals game two)
- Tournament Game Scores
- Qualifying Stage 1 – 211, 201, 204, 212, 198, 188, 199, 201, 254, 246, 184, 205 – 2,503
- Stage 2 – 173, 198, 223, 203, 182 – 979
- Matchplay Finals – 258 +30, 262 +30, 218 +30, 259 +30, 199 +30
- Total pinfall: 4,227 (4,347 with bonus pins)
- Average: 192.14 (22 games)
- High Game: 266 (Qualifying game two)
- Tournament Game Scores
- Qualifying Stage 1 – 130, 266, 180, 205, 162, 179, 228, 221, 225, 185, 181, 197
- Stage 2 – 182, 160, 180, 181, 236
- Matchplay Finals – 198 +30, 199 +30, 168 +30, 189 +30, 175
High Game – 289 – Justin Dinham
Top performances for each day/stage:
- Qualifying (12 games)- Blake Walsh 2,614 / 217.8 avg and Emily Hart 2,359 / 196.6 avg
- Stage 2 – Nicholas Rajkovic 1,063 (274, 185, 222, 195, 187) and Jessica Chi 950 (171, 191, 205, 241, 142)
- Matchplay Finals (best scratch scores)– Seth Gray 1,196 ( 258, 262, 218, 259, 199) 5 from 5 wins and 150 bonus pins and Emily Hinspeter: 958 (198, 178, 173, 201, 208) 3 from 5 wins and 90 bonus pins
Top 10 QJC Females (positions after six did not compete in the matchplay finals)
- Emily Hart – 4,347
- Jessica Chi – 4,310
- Emily Hinspeter – 4,253
- Kayla Piffero – 4,093
- Jasmine Walker – 4,057
- Shanae Key – 4,016
- Emma Blunden – 3,094
- Vanessa Hannigan – 3,053
- Sophie Jones – 3,050
- Lily Loats – 3,044
Top 10 QJC Males (positions after six did not compete in the matchplay finals)
- Seth Gray – 4,828
- Blake Walsh – 4,709
- Nicholas Rajkovic – 4,612
- Blayde Hamilton-Christensen – 4,518
- Sam Coombs – 4,418
- Liam Cochrane – 4,332
- Justin Dinham – 3,439
- Brock Gordon – 3,416
- Sean Lam – 3,294
- William Zaccaria – 3,281