Two iconic names from Australian Tenpin Bowling history in Sue Cassell and Carl Bottomley rose above challengers once again by winning the Hammer Queensland Seniors Classic at Caboolture Bowl on the weekend.
The third-ranked event of the year for the Seniors Division welcomed 80+ participants to sunny Queensland. Two well-known and respected names would reign supreme over the field, with Sue Cassell defending her 2020 title whilst the male division welcomed back and crowned another familiar name– Carl Bottomley.
The format a straightforward one. Bowlers would complete 18 games over two appearances (10 & 8 game sessions), with the champions determined by who can knock the most pins over throughout the 18 games.
The event would see a raft of late withdrawals following the news out of Victoria that the state had activated circuit breaking restrictions. The development would see a handful of participants who arrived earlier in the week remain in contention, but a vast majority out due to the inability to travel.
After bowling all three events in the senior division in 2021, Sue Cassell continues to prove she is one of the top bowlers in the country on her way to claiming back-to-back HQSC titles.
Capturing the John Sullivan Senior Australian Open title in March and finishing 10th place at the SA Seniors Classic in April, the weekend’s victory at the ‘Hammer’ saw Cassell claim back-to-back titles at the event after winning in 2020. The 2021 title would also make her the number one ranked bowler in the Senior Division in the country.
“Absolutely Amazing! I wasn’t coming into the tournament with the best form or a lot of confidence, so I really dug deep,” explained Sue on how it felt to be the back-to-back champion of the event.
“I have been working on a couple of things with accredited coach Don Lindsay at Caboolture, and in conjunction with the coaching I receive from Paul Delany, I was lucky enough for it all to come together over the weekend”.
Sue would lead the field throughout the entire tournament. At the conclusion of session one, Cassell would hold a 10-pin advantage over her nearest challenger. In session two, Cassell would only extend her lead on her way to back-to-back HQSC titles.
The TBA Hall of Famer would finish the event with 3,742 pins over the 18 games with an average of 207.9. The result, 25 pins better than her return effort in 2020.
“Overall, I was quite happy with how I bowled. I was a bit slow sometimes at reading the lanes and making the appropriate changes required, but I guess that is just a learning thing,” said Cassell.
“I did miss a few easy spares, so I will be reflecting on that. As usual, I made some great shots and did not get a good result, and then you throw a shot that you think is “oh no”, and you get lucky! Guess it evens itself out in the long run”.
Rounding out the podium was a pair of previous champions who have also achieved consecutive titles at the event. In second place was Victorian Christine Clark. Winning the event in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Clark would be one of the few Victorians who arrived in QLD before the Victoria restrictions were activated. The Bendigo bowler produced 3,646 over the 18 games, 96 pins behind Cassell.
In third place was 2018/2019 back-to-back champion, Julie Harrison. After sitting second after the first session, the Queenslander’s second session would see her drop to third spot. Harrison would finish the event averaging 194.7 with 3,504 pins over the 18 games.
Q&A with The Champ
When it is a format like this – Talk about the mindset required for the duration of the event.
I concentrate on one or two main things that I need to focus on for every shot I bowl.
There are so many variables that come into play when you are competing, and you have to try and stay in your own little bubble and focus on what you need to do and not let any external circumstances come into play.
Do you enjoy formats like this where you bowl many games and where the winner is determined by who knocks the most pins down?
Bowling ten games in one day as a senior is not easy, let alone following up with another eight the following day. We are no spring chickens anymore, and we all have aches and pains that we must deal with.
I find that I not only have to be physically fit to reproduce the same shot repeatedly, but it also takes so much out of you mentally when you must stay focused for the duration of the event.
Participating in events where knocking over the most number of the pins over the weekend and then you are the winner- they don’t really put you under the same pressure as playing someone head-to-head or in a match-play final. Which is good for me atm because I really need to work on my mental game for those situations. LOL
I was also carrying a couple of injuries that have been seeking the assistance of fellow bowler Suz Wenzel in trying to get to a stage I can compete and not be in too much pain. This weekend was good, and I managed to get through, but today (Monday), I am feeling a tad sore.
The victory at the Hammer will see you ranked the number one bowler in the country for the senior division. What are you enjoying being back bowling nationally ranked tournaments? Is it about the results/competing/friendships?
Of course, I always love catching up with my friends from other states, but when I am on the lanes, it is all about challenging myself and just always trying to throw a shot that I can rate as an 8 or 9 out of 10 each time. I don’t focus on “winning an event” or “averaging a certain number” I focus on going out to make good shots and try and learn as much as I can while I am out there competing.
Talk briefly about being part of the Senior National Training Squad (NTS). It is a strange time in the world that limits the opportunities that bowlers have overseas but are you still enjoying being part of the NTS?
I am loving being part of the Senior National Training Squad. Being out of the game for so long means many things have changed, and there is so much more that I have to learn.
I especially love all the zoom meetings and just learning. You are never too old to learn new things. We may not be able to carry them out physically, but as long as we have the determination and mental ability, that is all we need.
What was in the bag this weekend?
Paul Delany at 3D lanes Wodonga is my ball driller and coach.
I actually only received a new ball on the Friday from Paul before the tournament, so I hadn’t had too much time to use it. It turned out to be a godsend and worked really well for me. I think it was a Brunswick Prism Warp– rolled fantastic, and then when that was reacting too hard, I made slight adjustments on the lanes with my feet and target. Once I realised that it was still too strong for the conditions, I changed back to my old faithful – Global“Dream On”.
I was actually still struggling a bit with my feet as I also had brand new bowling shoes as I had a blowout a couple of weeks before. I also had a blowout with my wrist guard, which I had to hold together with tape.
Carl Bottomley. The name provides great memories to those with a long history in the sport. A top Australian bowler, a fan favourite, and a role model for many within the bowling community.
A Tenpin Bowling Association of Queensland (TBAQ) Hall of Fame member, Carl was a six-time Australian representative collecting an incredible 13 medals in 5 FIQ events (9 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze) and finished 3rd in the 1996 Bowling World Cup. An eight-time QLD representative (6 President’s Shield and 2 Rachuig appearances), Carl has also won many major national titles along the way in his decorated career.
Carl’s last major event win came in 2010 at the Melbourne Tenpin Cup. His victory would see him become a multiple-time winner at the event (2003), but also helped with the decision to have a break from bowling.
“My last major win was the Melbourne Cup. I don’t recall what year, but I know that meant a lot as I felt my time at that level was pretty much at an end,” explained Carl.
Never say never.
Coerced by a good mate, Carl would make a return to the lanes in 2020 to bowl in a doubles league at his local Logan City Tenpin bowl.
“I just decided to have a bit of fun as long as the body held up”, explained Carl. “We bowled in 2020, and I enjoyed it but didn’t bowl all that well. Given I got through a year of league, it seemed a natural progression to try a couple of the ATBSO events”.
Still bowling in the doubles league with friend Graeme Morgan in 2021 and attempting some ATBSO events, Carl saw the Hammer as an excellent opportunity to compete at a ranked event once again.
“Given it is local and I truly admire how much Lawrie and Brian Bates do for bowling, it was a natural thing to support them when I could”, explained Carl.
Finishing in 4th place on the standings after the first session, Carl was within striking distance, finishing session one 95 pins from leader and Caboolture local Terry Bissell.
With eight games to go in the second session, Carl’s scores would start to increase, and at a consistent clip. In games 13-16, Carl would shoot 958 over the four games with 224, 238, 236 and 260. The session two performance cementing a dream return to the lanes and claiming the 2021 Hammer QLD Seniors Classic title.
“It is very nice to win a tournament so many other very good bowlers have won before me,” said Carl. “I feel for the Victorians who couldn’t make it due to the COVID situation but hopefully bowling can get back to a more normal setting soon”.
West Australian Mike Muir would finish in second place and 79 pins behind Bottomley with 3,860 and an average of 214.4. The second place for Muir would ensure he maintains his top spot on the rankings for the Male Senior Division for 2021. In third place was Rob Kaluci from Mt Warren Lanes in Queensland. Following a 14th at the SA Seniors, and a 5th place at the John Sullivan Seniors AO, Kaluci would finish with 3,830 over the 18 games.
For the champion Bottomley, the weekend was enjoyed but challenging throughout.
“It was a good but a challenging pattern. Finding the pocket was not too difficult but carry was very hard. I spared very well and really just hung around and didn’t make too many mistakes. I got a little lucky today watching some other people, and they gave me a look at where the lanes looked a little better, and I made the move, and it paid off”.
Q&A with the Champ
How did it feel to be back out there on the lanes competing in a national tournament?
I am still trying to get used to the bowling and being back out there.
To be honest, I am just enjoying whatever it gives me and don’t plan to take anything too seriously.
What was it like seeing some old friends?
This was easily the best bit of the weekend. Seeing some faces I have not seen for a long time and getting to talk was wonderful.
How does the body feel after 18 games and a return to Tournament bowling?
I feel perfectly fine. I am in relatively good shape and do exercise, so the games were never a worry. Concentrating for that long was a little new to do but I guess I did that well enough. My only fear was my back and that was good.
Your kids Emily and Matthew, now both bowl with Emily in the Youth NTS – did that play any role in returning to the lanes to remind them how good you are?
Not at all. Emily is certainly as dedicated to the game as I ever was, and Matt embarrasses me these days with how well he can throw the ball and what he can make pins do. I enjoy watching them both, but I guess I have always just enjoyed bowling, and when I felt up to it decided to enjoy it while I can.
What was in the bag this weekend?
I stuck with a Storm IQ Tour and a Roto Hustle PBR. They looked good, and when I didn’t get a good result, it was more user error than any equipment.
Any intentions to bowl more tournaments this year?
I am very much taking it a day at a time. Maybe I will travel a bit if the opportunity presents but as I have said this is for pure pleasure and nothing more. I have been so lucky to achieve a lot in the sport, so this time around is just to enjoy each moment.