Gary Lawson, with considerable help from his lead Russell Meyer, confirmed himself among New Zealand's lawn bowls greats by winning the world pairs title at Christchurch's Burwood club yesterday.
Lawson and Meyer overcame a horror start when they dropped a five on the first end to beat Scotland's Darren Burnet and Billy Mellors after an epic 225-minute battle 18-13, to each secure his first major international title.
For Lawson it was an emotion-charged occasion. Not only had he achieved the biggest title in his career, but his wife Judy, a former top jockey who was seriously injured in a race accident more than a year ago, and 5-year-old daughter Gemma were his chief supporters among many in the crowd.
"Jude's making progress but it's been a tough year so it was awesome to be able to put a smile on her face," he said.
Lawson was also chuffed that Peter Belliss was among the spectators. Belliss and Rowan Brassey were the last New Zealanders to win a world pairs title, at Henderson in 1988.
"I played a lot with Pete and Rowan and they are two of our best of all time. We're not quite up with them yet but it's awesome to have won the same title as them."
Lawson perhaps was being modest. For with his brilliant all-round play yesterday he showed that he now ranks among an elite of New Zealand bowls history which includes Belliss and Brassey and one or two others such as Phil Skoglund and the late Bob McDonald.
Meyer made a notable contribution to the victory, for he had to match an outstanding Scotland lead in Mellors, who with his accurate draw play was chiefly responsible for the Scots team jumping to a 5-0 lead.
While neither Burnett nor Mellors, in contrast to the slim New Zealanders, looked as if they had ever been on any fitness programmes, their generous girths were never a handicap to their bowling skills.
New Zealand quickly recovered to be ahead 7-5 by the fifth end, but the Scots made them fight until the last end, when Burnett, with some furious drives in an attempt to kill the end, had New Zealand nerves on edge.
"They're a good side and both attacking players so credit to Russell for sticking to his guns for Billy was on fire," Lawson said. "But if we were going to drop a five it was as well to do it on the first end."
The match had several crucial turning points as fortunes constantly fluctuated. But the key was probably the 12th end when Scotland, with the jack in the ditch, held another five shots which could have taken them to a 14-9 lead, only for Lawson to draw his last bowl to the very edge of the ditch.
Agreeing that the win was the highlight of his career, Lawson said he would have probably exchanged all of the nine national titles he has won for just the one world gold medal.
Meyer modestly downplayed his part in the win.
"Gazza has been awesome all week and I just had to put a few in there to help him," he said.
New Zealand interests will now be on the women's singles final, with Val Smith bidding for gold. Scotland, with 69-year old Willie Wood in the middle, will be in another final, the men's triple against Fiji.
AUSSIE FOUR CARRY ALL BEFORE THEM
One of the fresh new faces of women's bowls, 24-year-old Lindsay Armitage, was part of an outstanding Australian four which won the world championship at Christchurch's Burnside club yesterday.
The Karen Murphy-skipped four which also had Claire Duke at two and Julie Keegan at three ruthlessly crushed the Ansen Butten-skipped Wales combination 26-6 after 16 of the scheduled 18 ends.
"My mum and dad started me off on bowls when I was only 11 so it was awesome to win a world title and to have them both here and on my Dad's birthday," she said.
Based on Queensland's Gold Coast, Armitage was born in Leeds, England, migrating aged 6 with her parents to Australia.
At 43 Keegan, who is a former state netballer and top golfer, was the only relative "oldie" in the Australian team, with Murphy, 33, and Duke, 24.
Their athleticism, allied to their bowling skills, was testimony to the thorough, professional approach Australia in particular applies to bowls, and to the preparation they have had to this tournament.
Murphy said the Australian team had been in Christchurch at least seven times in the past year to help adjust to the greens and each member was on fitness programmes which included regular gym work.
"You can't expect to perform in world championships if you don't put in the preparation," she said. "We see ourselves as athletes.