A good measure of confidence, a wealth of experience and plenty of bowling talent has earned Pakuranga's Linda Ralph the national club championships women's singles title at Waverley Bowling Club today.
Leading throughout the two days, Ralph secured her success in a final round match against Black Jacks development squad bowler Kaaren Guilford (Johnsonville).
Shadowed by defending champion Wynette McLachlan (Clinton, South Otago) going into the final match, a close loss to Hawkes Bay's Natarsha Grimshaw (Kia Toa), 24-25, left the champion in second place and gave Ralph the chance to make a break for the winner's circle.
Having faced the same worth adversary from Kia Toa in the morning game, and won by an equally slim margin (25-24), the experienced player redoubled her efforts to return from 9-2 behind and defeat Guilford 25-16.
"I felt quite confident in this tournament, so that helped. I've been playing for a number of years and I love singles," Ralph said.
"I was 9-2 down against Kaaren and so I changed the game a bit by adjusting my length. The most difficult game was against Wynette - and the second-to-last game [against Natarsha]. She played well and I couldn't let up. She almost won," the 55-year-old medical receptionist said with a shaky smile.
"It's the biggest thing I've won, most definitely. It's a real thrill and I'm probably not thinking straight just yet."
Introduced to the sport by her mother, who was a South African bowls representative for many years, Ralph quickly got a taste for the game when in her second year she won an important regional South African fours tournament alongside her sister and mother.
This proved the catalyst for a 20-year bowling career, 16 of those played competitively.
But her mother did more than just introduce her to the sport.
Ralph has won two centre titles with her, and the 82-year-old was overjoyed to hear the news of her daughter's success.
Singles has always been her forte, however, as the class bowler admits she revels in the self-reliance.
"You can just do your own thing, not worry about anyone else. I've won a number of singles championships at Pakuranga and Howick. I've also played in PBA and the World Indoor Champs in Wales. I play PBA every winter, which helps with singles and playing indoors."
The pairs competition at the national club championships begins tomorrow (monday), followed by triples on Wednesday, and then fours on Friday. The final day of the event will be Saturday.
Women's results: Winner: Linda Ralph (Pakuranga, Auckland)
Second: Wynette McLachlan (Clinton, South Otago)
Third: Natarsha Grimshaw (Kia Toa, Hawke's Bay)
Round 4: Kaaren Guilford (Johnsonville) bt. Adele Greenfield (Beckenham), 25-18; Wynette McLachlan (Clinton) bt. Margaret Henderson (Paeroa), 25-20; Linda Ralph (Pakuranga) bt. Natarsha Grimshaw (Kia Toa), 22-21.
Round 5: Linda Ralph (Pakuranga) bt. Kaaren Guilford (Johnsonville), 25-16; Natarsha Grimshaw (Kia Toa) bt. Wynette McLachlan (Clinton), 25-24; Margaret Henderson (Paeroa) & Adele Greenfield (Beckenham) did not play.