The 2017 women’s bowler of the year awards were announced on Saturday at the Bowls England Annual Dinner.
The junior award went to Kirsty Richards, who, having been beaten in the last 16 of the junior singles, came out fighting in the senior event, defeating England skip Wendy King 21-0 before taking the scalps of Sophie Tolchard and Morgan Merryweather, both to 15.
The final, which saw Kirsty pitted against two time winner Natalie Chestney, made for fascinating viewing.
Kirsty trailed 6-10 before edging back to 12-11, then dropped an agonising three the following end.
Kirsty caused quite the discussion around the greens on account of struggling to get her bowls away due to suffering with the yips, but to her credit, she battled on, picking up eight shots to take her to 20-14.
Ever the fighter, Chestney equalled that score and it went down to the last bowl, a perfect delivery from Kirsty, giving Warwickshire their first success in this event since 1968.
The 23-year-old junior and senior international from Warwickshire finished her national championships by coming runner up in the junior pairs with partner Michaela Sabin.
Also commended were Emma Cooper, who has enjoyed much success in the under 25 pairs, having won the event four times- three out of Sussex with Lorraine Kuhler and this year teaming up with Berkshire’s Morgan Merryweather for a record fourth title.
Morgan also reached the semi final of the national singles where she lost to eventual winner Kirsty Richards.
Katherine Rednall, who will compete in her first Commonwealth Games next year, lifted her first outdoor title by winning the women’s junior singles.
In the junior internationals Katherine stood out, showing a mature attitude today deep in the game against Scotland to score six shots over the last few ends to narrow the deficit.
She also played some big bowls at skip in the last game against Ireland, with her rink picking up counts of seven, six and five.
Harriet Stevens, winner of the junior pairs title last year, was runner up to Katherine. She was part of the winning Amy Rose team for Devon and lost in the quarter final of the mixed pairs.
Harriet was also instrumental in the junior international series win, commanding her rink well throughout the event.
Against Scotland in particular, her rink only dropped two shots from the tenth end onwards which gave the whole team a huge boost.
Kent’s Imogen Jenner, who will play in the senior internationals for the first time next year, bowled very well in the junior series and was lead in Kent’s John’s Trophy winning team and Walker Runner Up team.
The senior award went to Ellen Falkner, the only woman at the championships to achieve two titles, winning the women’s pairs with her mother Sue Alexander.
They had to put a late rally in during the semi final, securing on six successive ends to take a 23-19 victory against Emma Thurston and Pat Reynolds then beating Wiltshire comfortably in the final.
Ellen also made up for her disappointment of losing the fours semi final, when, later in the day she had a single shot win in the semi final of the champion of champions against Nicole Rogers before taking the title against Kirsty Hembrow.
Ellen is an experienced international and performed well in this years’s senior international series where England took the Eve Trophy.
Ellen has recently been selected as one of the five women who will travel to the Gold Coast to represent England- it will be her fifth Games and she is a holder of three gold medals in different disciplines.
In another strong field, also congratulated on the night were Natalie Chestney and Sophie Tolchard who achieved a double in the British Isles individual championships, winning the pairs and teaming up with Lorraine Hackett to win the triples also.
The pairs win was even sweeter considering they had been trailing 0-12 after seven ends in their pairs semi-final encounter with Ireland, before eventually getting over the line by one shot.
England’s success in Wales continued in the fours with Surrey’s Doreen Hankin, Glenda Dexter, Norma Beales and Pauline Clark from Egham turning in an impressive 22-10 victory over Wales then hanging on to defeat Jersey in a close final.
Carol Watson, Sue Willmott, Margaret Atkins and Shirley Foxwell from Lindfield BC in Sussex won the senior fours discipline.
Natalie’s form continued at Leamington where she again reached the national singles final, losing out on a third title by a single shot.
She was also instrumental in Devon’s Amy Rose victory, wracking up big scores against Warwickshire, Surrey and Somerset respectively.
Jamie Lea Winch won the 2 wood singles, defeating Sophie Tolchard in the final and then went on win a Gold Medal in the Womens Pairs event at the European Championships in Jersey in September, where the duo topped the table ahead of Ireland on shots difference to claim the title.
Amy Walters reached the quarter final of the women’s pairs and successfully defended her mixed pairs title alongside husband Andy.
Stef Branfield put in a number of strong performances at Leamington, reaching the semi final of the national singles where she lost out to Natalie Chestney and skipping a Somerset rink to the final of the Amy Rose, in which they were beaten by Devon.
Stef was also one of the skips in the Walker Cup final in which Somerset narrowly defeated Kent to claim the county’s fifth inter-county double rink title.
Somerset colleague Kirsty Hembrow was the other Walker Cup and Amy Rose skip. Kirsty turned in a key 15 shot win in the semi final of the Walker against Leicestershire.
She also reached the final of the champion of champions event.
Cumbria enjoyed a successful championships- Wigton’s Penny Peille and Carol Baxter were losing semi finalists in the pairs and with Jeanette Bell, also reached the semi final of the triples.
Jeanette and Carol were joined by aunt and niece combo Abbie and Nicola Bowe to reach the quarter final of the fours.
Jeanette, Carol, Penny and Nicola were all in the Walker Cup squad who lost in the semi final to Kent.
Kent, who won the John’s Trophy and were runners up in the Walker Cup, also featured in the quarter final of both the triples and the fours and reached the semi final of the Amy Rose.
Donna Knight recently won a bronze medal at the Champion of Champions held in Australia.