The exciting challenge of ranked events was back for juniors to experience and enjoy on the weekend at the 7th running of the Queensland Junior Cup at Caboolture Bowl. A pair of young future stars from New South Wales would capture the first national titles on offer for the junior division in 2021.
A staggering 575 days had passed since the last running of a junior national ranked event (Sydney Cup – October 4th, 2019). Juniors were jumping out of their skin to compete and enjoy the experience that a ranked event provides, with a total of 63 entries received for this year’s event.
The weekend was a showcase of junior talent that proved the future of the sport is bright. Several performances impressed the many interested spectators in attendance and provided a glimpse of the emerging talent coming up through the sport.
“I was amazed at some of the quality games and averages shot by our boys and girls, showing some real quality shot-making across the board”, explained TBA High-Performance manager Mike Griffith who was in attendance. “I truly believe I was looking at some of the future stars and champions in our sport, and successful Australian representatives not just as a junior, but well into our future”.
Also attending was Junior National Training Squad (NTS) head coach Shane Bernhardt. Following a year that involved little opportunity for face to face interaction, the weekend reminded Shane why he is involved in the elite junior program.
“It was fantastic to see our Junior NTS athletes back out on the lanes again competing in a TBA ranked event”, explained Shane. “After 14 months of Zoom calls, the opportunity to catch up with many of the athletes at a face-to-face training session on Friday afternoon, and then watch them bowl in the Queensland Junior Cup over the weekend reminded me of how special it is to work with these great young people”.
The event format would see bowlers complete 12 games in two separate blocks with the ability for re-entries. The aim for bowlers was to finish in the top eight to progress to the finals stage. All squads were greeted with a special video message from recently announced TBA ambassador Jason Belmonte – welcoming juniors back to tournament bowling and wishing them luck for the event.
The handicap division would form from the four highest bowlers that did not qualify for the open division. Finals would involve a ‘football finals’ style bracket with competitors bowling two games per matchup with the highest total combined pinfall progressing to the next stage.
Bowling in her last year on the junior circuit, the just-turned 18-year-old, Emily Meehan, would provide consistent bowling throughout the three days on her way to collecting her second national title.
Claiming her first title in 2018 when she won the Junior Sydney Cup, the bowler from Terrace Strikezone in NSW has learnt from experience to keep a sharp focus on what she can and cannot control throughout tournaments.
“This weekend, I really tried to focus less on the scores and more on my game. For most of the tournament, I was not watching mine or anyone else’s scores. I would bowl and see where it took me,” explained Emily.
After the qualifying squads, Queenslander Hannah Clark would lead the field as the top qualifier for the female division. One of many NTS athletes in attendance, Hannah averaged 207.6 over the 12 games finishing on 2,491 pins and a high score of 277.
South Australian Emily Hart finished in second place, posting an impressive 2,444 over 12 games. In third place was defending champion Jess Canfield, with a qualifying score of 2,351, which sat just above eventual champion Emily Meehan who finished as the fourth-highest qualifier. Consistently shooting solid games and avoiding any huge disasters, Emily would post 2,334 with an average of 194.5.
“I was struggling a little bit in qualifying, but I figured as long as I was closing my frames, it was going pretty well”, explained Emily. “The lanes were a little bit tough, but we all got through it in the end”.
Entering the finals as the fourth seed, Emily Meehan would gain the opportunity to compete against number one seed Hannah Clark in the qualifying final. The winners would be determined by total pinfall over two games. The winner of the first final received an express pass to the semi-final while the loser would continue in an elimination matchup.
In the first game against Clark, Meehan fell short 167-160 before rectifying the result in the second game, winning 181-157, a total score of 341-324 in Meehan’s favour. The win advancing Meehan to the semi-final and rewarding her with a rest in round two of the finals.
After losing her first match against Emily Hart in the other qualifying final, defending champion, Jessica Canfield would become Meehan’s next opponent. Again, Meehan would concentrate on only what she could control.
“The semi-finals against Jess were tough”, explained Emily. “I had a shaky start but pulled myself together and didn’t let anything get to me and just played my game. I was not actually watching the scores throughout the entire finals, so I was unsure of where I stood in the last frame. All I knew is that I needed a strong finish because I knew it would be close after the first game”.
In that first game, Canfield would win 188-185. True to her mentality for the event, Meehan did not let game ones result bother her the slightest. In the second game, Meehan would reverse her fortune, winning 216-211. A nail-biting total score of 401-399 in Meehan’s favour would also book her spot in the grand finale.
Her opponent would be number two seed, Emily Hart. Like Meehan, Hart would have a faultless final run with victories over Jess Canfield and Samantha Clifton. The grand final would showcase two competitors named Emily.
Unlike her first two final appearances, Meehan would come out the victor in game one, winning 222-179 before winning game two 167-156 and cementing the title. The final score of 389-335 in Meehan’s favour would see her claim her second national title.
“I feel pretty great!” explained Meehan. “Obviously, I wasn’t really expecting this would happen coming into the weekend – I just thought, I’m here to bowl, let’s see where it takes me”.
“She saved some of her better bowling for the finals”, explained Mike Griffith. “A solid performer with a great attitude, Emily will no doubt achieve a lot more in the future. A win she can be proud of”.
If you have not heard of Blake Walsh yet, you soon will. The 15-year-old two-hander from Ballina, NSW, would dominate the field by leading over all three days.
His parents own a bowl. He started at 2-3 years old, picking the ball up and delivering with two hands by necessity. Sound familiar?
“My parents own the Bowling Centre in Ballina and have done so since I was 2”, explained Blake. “I am practically there every day, so it was only a matter of time before I started bowling. I have been bowling since I was 3, basically when I could pick a ball up in both hands”.
At the 2021 Kegel QLD Open, an open age division event, Blake would well and truly announce himself as one to watch with a second-place finish against his older opponents. With deep bloodlines within the sport, the presence and competition of family motivate Blake to challenge himself and improve as a bowler.
“I compete against adults daily at home, and I make it a personal challenge to beat my Uncle regularly,” Blake said with a laugh. “Growing up in a bowling family where my Mum, Dad, and Uncle have all successfully represented Australia makes me want to strive to be like them. I learn a lot from bowling with the adults, particularly in competition – it only makes me want to be a better bowler”.
The potential would be all out on show over the weekend, with Blake finishing as the top qualifier for the division. An incredible 230.3 average over the 12 games, posting a total of 2,764. The score, 154 pins over the next best, second positioned Jordan Harrold, who finished with 2,610 pins. In the third position was Jack Colmer with 2,576.
For Blake, his second block of qualifying was a real highlight. Scores of 246, 237, 204, 256, 257, and 248 would provide an incredible average of 241.3 for the second block. The result even surpassing the high standard that Blake sets for himself.
“I was hoping to average around 220 – that’s my usual tournament average, then when I got an average of 240 for one of my blocks, I was stoked. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face; I was just speechless. It was a great achievement”.
The smile would remain on Blake’s face throughout an incredible final’s performance. The finals run would see victories against Liam George, Jack Colmer and Jordan Harrold on his way to being crowned champion. The finals run would see him shoot scores of 280, 255, 249, 237, 247, and 246 – a finals average of 252.3. The title and performance, a result gained from hard work in preparation for the event.
“Everything that I have been training for over the last few months, both in my physical and mental game, finally came together, and I spared really well, which helped,” said Blake.
As much as it may appear so, success does not just happen overnight. The recent impressive results come from years of attempts that have all played a part in building the experience required to advance to the next step. Winning the Junior National Restricted Cup in 2015 as at just nine years old, the 2021 QJC event would be Blake’s fourth time bowling in the event. His debut in 2017 at just 11 years old.
“I have finished 2nd in this tournament twice now, as well as third in 2020, so taking the win this year made it that much sweeter,” said Blake. “It feels amazing. This year, I was just lucky enough that I got the carry and pins fell over. I’m very grateful for what’s happened”.
High-Performance Mike Griffith provided a glowing endorsement for the male champion.
“As a two-handed delivery, Blake already has a very solid game, as demonstrated, which will only get better”, explained Mike. “This coupled with a grounded attitude and ability to focus. He has the makings of a true champion in the future”.
Six of the eight finalists for each division stemmed from the Junior NTS program. The result thrilling coach Shane Bernhardt.
“I was delighted with the commitment and quality of bowling from our NTS athletes. Emily Meehan and Blake Walsh were exceptional during the finals and well deserved QJC champions,” said Shane. “I was also pleasantly surprised by the depth of talent from those athletes outside our Junior NTS and am excited with what the future holds for our elite junior program”.
- Congratulations to Caboolture Bowl based Dean Linsdell, who won the handicap division, defeating another bowler from Ballina in Sam Coombs 459-436 in the final.
- Congratulations to Caboolture Bowls Katy Melton, who claimed the Future Star Award – qualifying in 7th position and winning one final.
- Congratulations to Jake Sayer, who won the Fletcher Family Trophy Sportsmanship Award – yet another bowler from Ballina!
The next junior ranked event is Tenpin SA Junior Cup (run at the same time as the Tenpin SA Youth Cup) on June 26-27 at Zone Bowling Noarlunga, South Australia. Entry form should not be too far away, and all information will be updated when received on this page HERE. Ranking points will be updated and released shortly.
I would also like to acknowledge the brilliant support provided by Nathan Stein and the TBAQ Junior Committee, as well as Dylan Lucas and the staff at Caboolture Bowl who not only delivered a high quality event but ensured that the Junior NTS had everything we needed for our training session last Friday.Shane Bernhardt – Junior NTS head coach
Thank you to the wonderful Lyn Fletcher who supplied the photos! As always, the quality is fantastic, and we appreciate your support! Visit the Living and Loving Photography Facebook page for more pictures!Tenpin Bowling Australia