HONG KONG—Top Hong Kong bowler Stanley Lai won his first ever National Knock-out Singles title on the hottest day of the year on Saturday, Feb 13. This is in big contrast with the women’s event two weeks ago when the ladies played in the coldest weather in nearly six decades in Hong Kong.
The men’s event was originally scheduled for January 8 but was postponed due to heavy rain. As a result, the number of entries dropped to 125, a slight decrease from last year’s 142.
The matches were played at five greens around Causeway Bay and Tsimshitsui areas under largely cloudy skies but with occasional spontaneous sunshine. In fact the Observatory recorded a temperatures of 25.9 degrees Celsius on the day, the warmest in 2016.
Lai, a two time National Singles winner and a silver medalist at the World Singles Champion of Champions in 2012, played all his matches at the Police Sports Recreation Club. In the first five rounds he defeated Hong Kong international Lui Chin Hong, Raymond Ho and the newly crowned Asia Bowls pairs champion Tony Cheung.
In the semi-finals Lai faced his Craigengower Cricket Club teammate Robin Chok and won the game convincingly at 17:5. He faced another CCC teammate Jordi Lo, the reigning champion of the Hong Kong International Bowls Classic, in the final.
Lo came from behind to defeat Terence Tam from the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association for the Physically Disabled in a tightly competed semi-finals.
In the final both sides displayed a high level of drawing skill and in most of the ends the results was decided by inches of distance.
Lo maintained an upper hand from the commencement, opened up a lead of four shots after just two ends. Lai gradually crawled back and drew level in the seventh end.
In the eleventh end when Lo was still leading by a shot, disaster struck. He suffered a muscle cramps in the leg when delivered a firing shot to rescue a two-down situation. The match was stopped for a few minutes so that he could have medical attention.
From then on, Lo did not recover his form and Lai took the next five ends to kill the game 17:10.
Lai admitted that the green is a main reason for his win, “The pace and draw of the green fit nicely with my playing style. It helps me to maintain my consistency in drawing and the execution of some tactical shots throughout.
“Lo also played well but I am glad that I won this final,” said Lai.
Lo did not want to blame the cramps for his defeat, “Despite the fact that I lost some concentration after it, I think Stanley won because he maintained consistency throughout the game. I am happy with the result because getting to the final is a big achievement already.”
The National Knock-out Singles has a tradition of playing all games on the same day, representing a tough test on physical fitness and mental toughness and stamina of the competitors.
This week in Lawn Bowls
The Triples League continues on Saturday Feb 20 starting at 2:30pm and on Sunday Feb 21, Round 4 of the National Pairs will be played. Men play at 10:00am and Women play at 3:00pm.
Claudius Lam is an officer of the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association.