EMILY’S CROWNING GLORY
Solihull’s Emily Kernick realised most young bowler’s dreams when recently scooping the English Indoor Bowling Association’s national Under 25 singles title. The 23-year-old was in tremendous form in the final at Spalding IBC, where she swept aside St Neots’ Rebecca Moorbey 13-1, 10-4 in the final.
Dedicating her victory to her nan, Maureen, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, Emily highlighted the incentive to win in front of her as an ‘extra drive’ this year.
“It was a bit surreal,” said Emily.
“It wasn’t a triumphant last bowl or anything like that because Rebecca needed to get a four. I just couldn’t believe it – even now it doesn’t seem real. It made me really proud of myself to beat these top players on the way.
“To originally only playing indoors as a way to play competitive bowls during the winter to becoming a national champion just a few years later feels incredible.
“My nan has had a difficult year undergoing treatment for cancer so for her to be there watching me at the finals weekend gave me an extra drive as I really wanted to win it for her.”
A crown green bowler since the age of six, Emily only started bowling indoors with her family six years ago as a winter activity.
“I started playing in a few leagues, but I felt that by playing crown I picked indoors up quite quickly but still felt I had a lot to learn in terms of tactics. Once we got quite good indoors, we started entering more competitions and nationals.
“We still play crown in the summer – last year was the first time that I have played crown and flat outdoors at the same time. It was quite hard trying to do both together.”
Emily, from a family of crown green bowlers, is often joined on the indoor carpet by mum Michelle and dad James, with younger sister Shannon, 22, also a talented crown greener, winning the ladies all-England champion of champions title last summer – defeating Emily in the quarter-finals.
“She won’t touch indoors, unfortunately,” said Emily.
“When we first started playing indoors, she was told off by some of the members for things she wasn’t allowed to do or say, and where she should stand for example and it immediately put her off.
“She’s never played another match indoors since.
“She would be as good as if not better than me at indoors, so it’s really sad – and I’d have had a great partner for pairs competitions too!”
Emily reached the final stages of the Under 25 singles in Lincolnshire after coming through a tough qualifying day at Erewash IBC, which included victories over the youthful but strong Leicestershire due of Kat Bowman and Ellie Hamblett.
At Spalding, she was then faced with an encounter with three times singles finalist and 2018-19 Under 25 singles champion Devon Cooper.
“When the draw came out and I saw that I was against Devon, who I believe is one of the best Under 25 bowlers in the country, I was turning up knowing that I needed to play well to beat her and if I got through that then anything could happen.
“I was really focused on that one game,” added Emily.
“I definitely felt like I was the underdog and that’s probably why I started so well against her because I had nothing to lose,” Emily said.
Winning the first set 10-4, Devon fought back in the second set to take the match to a tiebreak where it went all the way to the third and final end.
“My first three bowls that end were all at least two yards away, they were nowhere near at all and Devon had three bowls all about a foot away from the jack.
“It feels like I have a record of always losing in tiebreaks to the better girls,” said Emily.
”I told myself to not strike as much or play through the head and relax a bit more and trust a drawing bowl.
“Anyone who has seen me play previously would have probably expected me to play a running bowl to try to ditch the jack.
“My arm was shaking when I stood on the mat, but I drew the shot bowl.
“Fortunately for me, Devon didn’t get the shot with her final bowl, but I think that’s the most nervous that I’ve ever been when delivering a bowl.”
The win put Emily through to the second day against Dolphin’s Rebecca Cresswell, in a rematch of their last 16 clash 12 months previously, with Cresswell reaching that stage following a notable triumph over Rachel Tremlett, representing St Neots..
“Every other year that we’ve been, we haven’t booked accommodation,” recalled Emily.
“I wanted us to book to stay overnight this year as previously it’s been in the back of my head that if I won on the first day I had nowhere to stay that night.
“I wanted to get through to the Sunday to make it worthwhile!”
“I didn’t realise until afterwards that I played Rebecca last year at the national finals too and I had beaten her quite comfortably, but this year I really struggled,” Emily said.
“I think this might have been because I’d gone from being the underdog to having more expectation on me after beating Devon. She played really well, and I didn’t settle at all – I didn’t play anywhere near as well as the day before.
“When we got to the tiebreak my first two bowls were pretty much a front toucher and a back toucher, so almost immediately she was the one needing to do the chasing that end.
“On reflection, I felt I was quite fortunate to win that game and I think she will have also thought it was a good opportunity to have beaten me.”
The win put Emily through to the final to face Rebecca Moorbey, who was looking to replicate her Under 25 singles triumph of last summer where she picked up the outdoor equivalent title, in addition to the national singles in Royal Leamington Spa at the Bowls England national finals.
“I played her a few years ago and she absolutely battered me, so my mentality going into the final was totally different than the semi-final.
“I had nothing to lose and during the final I felt really relaxed.
“I just felt so relaxed and confident – I just seemed to drop onto the weight straight away. I won the first set 13-1, so immediately I was so comfortable and just seemed to be able to draw everything in front of me.
“With the way the toss worked, I kept the jack at the start of the second set so could just keep into the routine of how the first set had been going.
“You always know that when you’ve won the first set you’ve got a comfort blanket in a way as you’re guaranteed a tiebreak.
“I have felt previously that if I win the first set I am probably too defensive and rather than trying to win that set I just look at drawing it. Once I’d gone behind in the second set, I had to play some good ends to get back into it.
“With two ends to go I was two shots up and Becca had a close bowl. With my last bowl I managed to draw a front toucher which instead of being one shot up going into the last end I was three shots up and she then needed to get a four.”
As a result of her success in the Under 25 singles, Emily will now represent England at the British Isles Indoor Championships this month, as well as the Junior World Bowls Championships next season.
“I didn’t realise until we were lining up to play the final when it was mentioned that there was places up for grabs at the British Isles and world events,” said Emily.
“I hadn’t even thought about it, despite only recently seeing all the posts on social media about Harry [Goodwin] and Ruby [Hill] competing at the event together.
“I think because I’d gone into the weekend with the main aim to start with of just beating Devon in the first game, I’d never given any consideration to the other things that happened if I was to win the whole thing.
“Now that I’ve achieved that and will be competing with Harry at the next event is one of the reasons why I love this sport so much and the main reasons I’ve grown into it because of these opportunities that you don’t get in crown.”
“The all England, the Waterloo, and the champion of champions are the big crown green events, which I have come close to winning quite a few times, but nothing comes close to the feeling of winning a national title indoors.
“One of the main things that I like about indoors is being able to represent your country and play against other countries. You can aspire to not only get recognition within your own country, but wider afield too.”
Emily made her international debut earlier in the season as part of England’s successful Under 25 team who defended their title at West Denton IBC.
“Two years ago a lot of the girls wouldn’t have known who I was at all, particularly when I don’t play much flat green in the summer you don’t see people for six months,” she said.
“The first series I played in September had so much encouragement across rinks. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the series being a new player and the added unknown element to it.
”I didn’t know what to expect but it was probably the most exciting event I’ve ever been a part of.
“I love crown and there’s so much that it offers that is different to indoors. – a shorter version of the game with lots of atmosphere versus a longer, more intense tactical game indoors. I wouldn’t be the indoor bowler I am without my experiences playing crown.”
In addition to her recent success in the Under 25 singles, Emily has also reached the final stages of the national mixed fours alongside her mum, Mark Burdett and Ben Harris – also prominent figures on the crown green circuit.
“There are a lot of crown green bowlers at Solihull indoors now,” Emily explained.
“We were one of the first groups to join there, but more and more of the crowners have joined as a way to play competitive bowls during the winter.
“Up in Yorkshire, they still play crown during the winter on greens even when they’re iced over, but in the Birmingham area we don’t do any crown from about September to April.
“They’re mad up there [in Yorkshire] – you see lots of photographs on Facebook of them playing in snow, but we totally stop crown green down here during the winter months.”
Coming from a crown green background, Emily’s experience has predominantly been in the singles format, aiding her comfortability when alone on the rink.
“Basically, all we play is singles in crown green – the main league on a Saturday afternoon is 12-a-side, which is all singles matches, but you are still part of the overall team.
“Occasionally, there are doubles competitions, but we don’t play triples or fours at all.
“I’m used to being out there on a rink on my own and not needing to rely on other people. I think anyone that plays flat after coming from crown is likely to be a good singles player. I enjoy playing singles and I am comfortable playing that format.
“The more I’ve played, the more I’ve developed tactically indoors. Crown greeners tend to be more aggressive – in crown the most you can drop on an end is two shots, so playing through the head carries less risk.
“The longer I’ve played, I feel like I have adapted and slowed myself down and I’m perhaps not as attacking when I’m not holding the shot.
With different sized bowls used, Emily accepts that it is challenging at times to play both crown green and flat green simultaneously.
“Last summer was my first season playing both flat and crown at the same time. I’d be playing flat on the Friday, crown on the Saturday and then back to flat on the Sunday.
“The bowls are different and I hold them with a slightly different grip, so I really went into the outdoor national finals at Leamington with no expectations at all and just seeing what the experience was like.
“I surprised myself by doing so well at Leamington and was really gutted when I lost.
“This has made me want to continue and do better next year. I had been there to watch the Commonwealth Games and thoroughly enjoyed that atmosphere and would dream to one day play at that level.”
Bowls International is the world’s most respected bowling magazine, available monthly in both digital and print formats.
- SUBSCRIBE to Bowls International
- Buy a PRINT COPY of Bowls International
- Buy a DIGITAL COPY of Bowls International
A six-month print subscription to Bowls International is priced at just £19.90, or a 12-month subscription is £35.99 – that’s less than £3 per month and includes FREE POSTAGE.