Sitting in third place after the 10-game preliminary round last Wednesday, Jeff Watts knew he had to win his first “stepladder” match on Saturday afternoon at the annual provincial Open championships held in Azilda (Sudbury) to guarantee himself a medal.
He also knew a trip to the national roll-offs awaited him if he could run the table.
Watts did just that. After beating Dan Taylor (Thunder Bay) 291-188, the Fort Frances bowler knocked off second-place qualifier Wesley Swoluk (Thunder Bay) 328-264 to advance to face Alain Paquette (Gold Belt) in the final.
Because Paquette had qualified in first place, Watts had to beat him twice to claim the gold medal.
In the end, it was no contest. Watts first topped Paquette 277-209 before dumping him 353-267 to earn the right to represent Northern Ontario in the men's singles division at nationals in Gatineau, Que. at the end of May.
Watts wound up averaging 312.25 over the four games to nab top spot.
He had averaged 272.5 in the 10-game preliminary roll-off to make the “stepladder” round.
Tim Gadd and Justin Gallaway, both of Dryden, were the other two Sunset Country men who had qualified for the singles portion of the tournament.
Gadd wound up seventh out of the 18-bowler field (three from each of the six zones) by averaging 261.3 over the 10 games while Gallaway came 16th with a 235 average.
Watts, meanwhile, added a second medal to his haul by helping Sunset Country win bronze in the men's team division.
The squad, which featured fellow Fort Frances bowler Mike Behan, Kyle Hamilton and Chris Rollins (both of Balmertown), and Gadd and Gallaway, along with coach Terry DeLaronde (Dryden), finished in third place with 62 points overall after the 15-game round-robin portion of the tournament wrapped up Friday night.
That booked them into the “stepladder” round Saturday morning, where they faced Nickel District (56.5 points) in the 3 vs. 4 match.
In a tight battle that went down to the last bowlers for each side in the 10th frame, Sunset Country pulled out a 1,174-1,158 victory to win five points to three and advance to face Cambrian North, which had finished second in the division (68 points).
Sunset Country's run ended there, though, as Cambrian North prevailed 1,228-1,108 to win the match 6.5 points to 1.5 and advance to face first-place Thunder Bay in the final.
Thunder Bay successfully defended its provincial crown, topping Cambrian North 1,207 -1,159 to win that match six points to two.
They now will represent Northern Ontario in the men's division at Gatineau.
In the women's team division, Sunset Country failed to advance to the “stepladder” round after finishing the 15-game round-robin in fifth place with 37 points overall.
The team included Toni Benning and Kathy Bois of Fort Frances, along with Jackie Miner, Charlotte Hazlewood, and Sam Alberts (Dryden), and Jessica Scott (Kenora).
John MacDougall of Dryden was their coach.
Host Nickle District claimed the ladies' gold medal after downing Thunder Bay 1,192-1,164 to win the “stepladder” final five points to three and advance to represent Northern Ontario in Gatineau.
Thunder Bay, which had finished second behind Nickle District in the round-robin, forced a second-and-deciding match after taking the first one 1,210-1,155 for a 6-2 win.
In the ladies' singles event, Miner, Hazlewood, and Scott were the Sunset Country reps who had qualified.
Scott wound up in 16th place overall with a 210 average in the 10-game preliminary roll-off, followed by Miner (199.8) and Hazlewood (197.60).
Renee Laframboise (Nickel District) will represent Northern Ontario in the women's singles division at Gatineau.
Qualifying first in the preliminary round with a 270.1 average, she edged Jess Lavigne 257-255 in the “stepladder” final to advance.
Sunset Country also failed to make the “stepladder” round in the mixed team division, finishing the 15-game round-robin in sixth place with 42 points overall.
The squad featured Dryden bowlers Chris Gadd, Scott Miner, Andrew Misner, Lisa Sanders, and Trisha Lundstrom, along with Terri Hamilton of Balmertown.
Their coach was Norm Sanders of Dryden while Kayla Gadd of Dryden served as the contingent manager.
Host Nickle District claimed the gold medal after edging Thunder Bay 1,156-1,119 to win the “stepladder” final six points to two and advance to represent Northern Ontario in Gatineau.
In a mirror of what happened in the ladies' division, Thunder Bay also had forced a second-and-deciding match after taking the first one 1,070-1,007 for a 6-2 win.
Watts also claimed a third medal in Azilda by making the men's all-star team—finishing in fifth place overall with a combined average of 262.21.
Swoluk led the way with a 284.86 combined average, with the rest of the all-star squad featuring Greg DeGrazia of Thunder Bay (279.87), Paquette (264.51), and former Fort Frances resident John Wilcott of Thunder Bay (264.14).
The women's all-star team included Alyssa Bonnie of Thunder Bay (264.88), Laframboise (255.04), Sam Sitar of Thunder Bay (250.52), Ashley Tremblay of Nickle District (249.08), and Devan Hook of Thunder Bay (246.67).
Sunset Country wound up tied for fourth place with Cambrian North in the Aggregate standings, with both zones garnering 26 points.
Nickle District captured the banner with 47 points, followed by Thunder Bay (43) and Gold Belt (32).
Gateway rounded out the standings with 17 points.