Sunderland bowls star David Bolt today embarks on his journey to the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Over recent years, bowls in the city has had it fair share of setbacks, with the benefits that the sport brings, both physically and socially to all ages, lost on Sunderland Council.
However, last November the bowling fraternity saw Bolt rewarded with a place in the England team for the Commonwealth Games.
Today, after 28 years of hard work and commitment to the sport, the Wearsider, who competes indoors for South Shields, will start living the dream as he heads to the Gold Coast, on the east coast of Australia, for the multi-sport extravaganza.
As part of a five-man squad, Bolt will compete in either singles, pairs, triples or fours competitions, striving to bring back a medal.
When the Silksworth star steps onto the green for the first time on April 5, it will be a proud moment for the sport in Sunderland.
In the lead-up to the event, Bolt has been overwhelmed by the contributions and backing he has received from his outdoor club Silksworth, Bowls Durham, City of Sunderland IBC, South Shields IBC, Mel Milner, Michael Carr and Dave Parnaby.
Good luck David.
Bolt helped England retain the Hilton Trophy for a fourth consecutive year as they clinched a dramatic 38th Home International series title at Paisley last weekend.
Following their comfortable 55-shot win over Wales, a confident England squad eased past Ireland by 40 shots to set up the annual grand finale series decider against Scotland.
In a lively atmosphere, England got off to the perfect start and led 30-17 after five ends.
At the halfway mark, the lead had been cut to just six, but, by the 15th end, England were by 15.
The hosts were not going to go down without a fight, though, and, in the space of two ends, the English lead was dramatically down to just three shots.
Scotland only led once in the whole game - on the 20th end - as a 9-0 return across the green saw them go three shots up.
It was fitting however that the classic auld enemy encounter would be decided by the final two bowls of the match.
England’s Sam Tolchard lifted a bowl in to hold a match-winning two and, when Scotland’s talisman, Alex Marshall, missed, the title was England’s with a 120-119 win.
Bolt played third in Devon star Jamie Chestney rink, who recorded a win over Wales but suffered narrow losses in the other two games.
The first part of this year’s National Championships got underway at Melton Mowbray yesterday.
Over the competition’s 10 days, 13 national titles, male and female, will be decided.
The two-bowl singles opened the extravaganza. Having qualified in three events, Hartlepool’s Paul Hartley made his bow against Ipswich’s Martin Heitzman in the last 16, but succumbed to a 21-18 defeat in a close contest.
The fours get underway today.
Locally, all eyes will be focused on the South Shields quartet of Phil Dixon, Mal Peach, Gary Farquhar and Kris Storf, the latter replacing the unavailable David Bolt.
In the last 16, the Shields rink face a tough opener against Swale’s England international, Perry Martin.
In the ladies fours, Hartlepool’s Lauren Mosley will look to add to her recent national mixed pairs title.
Alongside Rachael Skinner, Janis Wilton and Bev Lynch, Mosley will face Adur’s Lorraine Kuhler.
The triples start on Monday, when Hartlepool’s Jonathon Forcer, Colin Boston and Paul Mosley face a last-16 tie against Thanet’s Kieran Moss.
Paul Hartley returns to action on Wednesday in the pairs, partnering Carl Higgins as the Hartlepool duo face Swale’s Josh Pound.
Hartley’s third title assault is in the coveted singles on Friday, with Lincoln’s Kevin Rands providing the opposition.
Talented West Denton youngster George Rogan saw his hopes of lifting the Under-18 singles title at Church Gresley dashed last weekend.
He suffered a last-16 loss to Mote Park’s Josh Austin. The eventual winner was Kingsthorpe’s Conor Bryan.
Houghton are in Top Ten action this afternoon as they host Ferryhill.
A Houghton victory could see them leapfrog today’s opponents into third place.
Latest standings: Durham 54, Darlington 38, Ferryhill 28, Houghton 22, Stanley 8
There is Inter-County League action tomorrow, when South Shields should take another step towards promotion in Division Two.
Shields, unbeaten and having only dropped four rink points out of 40, face Ferryhill in their penultimate match.
Shields team – at Shields: P Hart, R Gibb, K Thompson, S Hubbard; M Baker, E Weightman, D Wilson, D Paterson; At Ferryhill: I McDonald, K Taylor, T Giles, A Harrison; W Upsall, M Carr, R Cragg, P Brickle
Both Houghton squads have rearranged First Division fixtures on April 8.
Kepier, on the brink of relegation, end their campaign against title-chasing Gateshead B, who need a 9-1 win to take the championship.
After losing vital points, Houghton Gilpin also need a result against Durham.
Latest standings, First Division: Gateshead B played 5 pts 41, Hartlepool 4-29½, Durham A 4-27, Houghton Kepier 5-16½, The Parks 4-15, Houghton Gilpin 4-14, Darlington 4-7
Second Division: South Shields 4-36, Great Aycliffe 5-35, Stanley 4-25, Gateshead A 4-21, Ferryhill 5-18, Dunelm 4-14, Shildon 4-1
There was good news for the region as the Hartlepool indoor club has been selected to host this year’s WIBC world singles and mixed pairs championships.
Players from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Netherlands, Canada, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man will take part in the four event from April 10-13.
Spectator tickets are available on the door, costing £3 per day or £10 for all four days.
The new outdoor season is looming large on the horizon, with the first league games only five weeks away.
Most of the outdoor greens open on April 21.
The draw for the Sunderland & District 3-2-1 Knockout Triples has been made.
Last season, Barnes West End matched Usworth’s 1990s feat of three consecutive titles and they will look for a record-breaking fourth straight success this year.
The holders have been drawn away to Washington Glebe in the first round, while last year’s beaten finalists, Silksworth, travel to Grindon Mill. The ties are to be played by June 16.
The other ties see Roker Park hosting Dawdon, Houghton Town visiting Seaham Town and North Biddick at home to Ryhope, while Sunderland, Usworth and Roker Marine all received byes into the second round.
The draw for Bowls England Double Fours sees plenty of local interest.
Silksworth A have a tough trip to Leadgate, while Houghton Dairy Lane B travel to Spennymoor. Houghton Dairy Lane A are also away, to Barnes Park, while Roker Marine visit Silksworth B.
In the Top Club competition, Houghton Dairy Lane host Stockton, while Silksworth will be looking to avenge last season’s 3-2 loss to Barnes Park as the two meet again.