Linlithgow ace Gary Smith came close to turning up trumps in the 16th Masters, sponsored by Scotmid Co-operative, but the 2010 Master had to settle for the runners-up spot he also occupied in 2011.
“I enjoyed my share of the breaks en route to the final and was always giving it my best shot however I came off second best which is a disappointment but the most consistent man won on the day and that’s bowls” reflected Smith
But it was Brian Craig, of Deans Bowling Club, who is the 2014 Scotmid Co-operative sponsored West Lothian Master, having played his way into the history of the high profile event with a magnificent seven wins to capture the £1000 title and the signature Green Jacket.
Craig enjoyed a memorable magic carpet ride to the 16th title of the WLM having captured the scalp of three past masters, 2003 champion Peter Lynch of Glenmavis in round 2, Grant Logan the holder, No1 seed, and record four times winner from Kirkliston in the section final, then Gary Smith the 2010 king pin and No3 seed from Linlithgow, in the final.
Craig is an unknown in WL circles so it was a question of Brian Who as the 46 year-old painter emerged from the 210 strong pack to capture the imagination of the Master followers with his progressive sequence of top class performances.
Given what the banking was witnessing it came as no big surprise when the information filtered out that Craig had arrived this season from Alloa Co-operative with a CV that included four club championship titles, and District triumphs in the Junior Singles, Singles, and Triples.
Etching his name on the coveted Masters Trophy, winning ownership of the Green Jacket, and pocketing the £1000 prize came as an overwhelming experience for the dark-horse challenger having his first ever tilt at Masters glory.
“I had no knowledge of the WLM whatsoever and only entered on the advice and encouragement of my partner Lorraine Malloy who also became my chauffeur to reach places like Bankton Mains, Ratho, Queensferry, Bellsburn, and Harrysmuir”, said Craig.
“My main aim was just to win my first game, not knowing that my opponent was an ex –Master, then with the momentum gathering force and beating Grant Logan 21-10 I began to be attracted to the Green Jacket as I am a Golfer at heart and liked the West Lothian title of the WLM having romance of it”.
The final brought Craig face to face with a Scotland/England legend in the shape of 55- year-old Gary Smith and a dramatic first end saw the Deans surprise package holding a good cluster of three shots – until the No3 seed checked the jack through the head for a two shot conversion.
Craig was undaunted by this early setback and promptly carded a three-shot cluster on end two that might have been four but for being a bit shy with his last bowl.
Smith won a measure for two at the third but was unable to break up the consistency of good weight and length being shown by Craig who continued to set the pace to lead 12-8 after 11-ends.
Craig resisted growing pressure at 12-10 with successive doubles to 16 then a piece of bad fortune for Smith at 16-12 saw his opponent benefit from a sliced jack to card a telling three to 19.
Smith continued to probe Craig’s defences with a cracking double to 14 on end 18 then held two more on a long jack at the next – but a wayward ditch weight runner from Craig promoted a short bowl into the head, onto the jack and pushing it a couple of yards.
There was astonishment on the banking, a look of disbelief on Smith’s face followed by an outstretched hand to signify that Craig was now holding two shots for the game.
Section Finals – B Craig (Deans) 21 G Logan (No1 Kirkliston) 10; K Broadley (Kirkliston) 21 D Paterson (Newbridge) 13; Ross Agnew (Mid Calder) 21 David Lamb (Uphall Station) 15; Connor McKendrick (No13 Middleton Hall) 21 Ronnie Erskine (Winchburgh) 16; Gary Smith (No3 Linlithgow) 21 Rab Hilson (Blackburn) 10; Jamie Edwards (Broxburn) 21 Mark Bonnar (Glenmavis) 15; Richard Mark (Uphall Station) 21 Ewan Snedden (Bellsburn) 11); Cameron Greer (No2 Bathgate) 21 Steven Fleming (No15 Linlithgow) 17.
Quarter-final results: B Craig 21 K Broadley 5; R Agnew 21 C McKendrick 17; Gary Smith 21 Jamie Edwards 15; Richard Mark 21 Cameron Greer 19.
Semi-finals: Craig 21 Agnew 12; Smith 21 Mark 11.