Elaine Amery has made plenty of trips to the National Finals since 1996 among which being part of a victorious 2017 Somerset Walker Cup team managed by her close friend the much-missed Hilary May is a stand-out memory.
However, Thursday 1st September 2022 will now always be a red-letter day for Elaine who ended a quarter-century wait for her first individual National title by lifting the Women’s Senior Pairs trophy in the company of Lynn Williams.
In the immediate aftermath of their success the pair’s sense of elation was apparent. But in Elaine’s case it soon became clear that emotion also played a big part in fuelling her journey.
“In 2019 Lynn contacted me and asked if I wanted to enter the Senior Pairs. We got to Leamington that year but despite playing our best game we lost in our first game,” Elaine remembers.
“Covid then happened and in 2021 I had to drop out of all bowls after my husband Roger became ill with a second outbreak of liver cancer which sadly he was unable to beat.
“This year was our next opportunity and after we won our local rounds in Somerset, we reached the regionals in Ilminster.
“When we arrived some background music was playing around the green and the song as we walked on was ‘Simply the Best’ by Tina Turner.
“That was the song Roger had chosen to play at his funeral so it felt like a good omen even though I was a bit emotional for a minute or two until we got through the trial ends.
“Although Ilminster is on our doorstep it isn’t a green either of us have bowled on very much. We beat Cornwall in the first game, then Dorset to reach Victoria Park.
“We then played Surrey in the quarter-final which we knew would be a toughie but we both played reasonably well and managed to finish it in 17 ends. Unbelievably we then did the same thing against Yorkshire in the semi-final.
“It was an amazing feeling going into the final as I was obviously excited but also very calm and telling myself: ‘This is just another game.’ Roger never saw me win an individual title and I was also thinking beforehand ‘this one is for you.’
“We were six ahead going into the last end and at that point I knew we were likely to do it – and when it then happened it was incredible.”
Elaine is a member at Williton BC in Somerset, a club which hits its centenary this year, and has about 50 members (14 ladies). She says entering the Nationals each year helps to provide a competitive angle to her bowling.
“I’m from a very small club with not many competitive bowlers,” she says. “We haven’t always had enough numbers to enter team competitions which is why I have played mainly singles and it has been thoroughly enjoyable meeting so many bowlers from across the country through the National competitions.
“I have been to Leamington quite a few times since first qualifying in the singles in 1996 when I lost to one of the England internationals.
“I then had a bit of a break while I was studying, but since around 2002 I have qualified fairly regularly in a range of competitions – two and four-wood singles, champion of champions and pairs.
“I love going to Leamington – it is what we all play bowls and enter competitions to do. My message to all club bowlers is ‘have a go’ as you gain experience every time you play and you might just surprise yourself with what you achieve.
“I have met lots of lovely people across the country through bowls and when you go back to Leamington you often see them again.
“For instance, I first played Amy Pharaoh years ago and got to know her and her Mum. Somerset is a million miles from Lincolnshire so we never would have met and become friends, a friendship that will last forever as bowling friendships often do.”