Bowls: National titles are on the line as top bowlers gather

Slateford kingpin Robert Marshall and Hillside ace Gary Muir carry the hopes of the Capital in the Singles discipline of the Bowls Scotland National Championships that are being staged at Ayr Northfield from today through to Sunday.

Edinburgh also have a leading exponent of Singles play contesting the Ladies championship in the shape of Shona Johnstone of Tipperlinn whose title successes include The 
Edinburgh Open, East of Scotland, and Steel Trophy Champion of Champions.

Marshall carries the District 12 banner for an eighth time and his best effort to date was as recent as 2010 when the now 48-year-old, 17-times club champion, suffered an agonising defeat from Jonathan Ross of Priorscroft in the final.

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Muir of District 11 featured on the same bill in 2010 having battled his way through to the final of the Junior Singles where alas he came a cropper against a fabulously impressive Kevin Anderson of Dumbarton.

The draw will allow the 
Edinburgh support to cheer both their District champions with Marshall opening against Alex Higgins of Stranraer 
tomorrow at 9.30am while Muir tackles Derek Murray of Rosehearty at 11.30am.

Midlothian hopes rest in the capable hands of Ronnie Duncan of Bonnyrigg who has drawn a hot potato in the shape of high-octane Lanarkshire star Alex Kelly of Eddlewood. Ewan Shearer of Bo’ness represents West Lothian and the 39-year-old internationalist brings the WL Masters and four Champion of Champions titles to the table when he opens against James Fernie of Cupar.

Ronnie Branley is a stalwart figure in his native East 
Lothian and the Cockenzie & Port Seton star launches his bid for national glory against Aaron Hazel of Polmaise.

The 32-strong field includes more prominent figures in the shape of Alistair White (Kelso), John Simpson (Dalzell), and Kevin Anderson of Dumbarton who will be as solid as a rock if repeating his title form of two seasons ago.

Shona Johnstone is joined by other former Edinburgh Open (Balgreen) champions in the shape of Angie Uttley (Blackburn) and Dot Low (Polton) in a highly competitive 
ladies singles field that includes 
Lorna Smith, Lynn Stein, Kathy Houston, Jean Sykes and Anne Dunwoodie.

Johnstone opens against Christine McLellan of Lesmahagow while her Edinburgh colleague Jean Tough of Leith goes head to head with 2007 Pairs champion Angie Uttley who is famed for reaching six finals in a row at Balgreen and winning four of them.

World stage star Lorna Smith is the centre of a controversy at the moment with Bowls Scotland astonishingly failing to select the former South African star in the team to play in the World Championships at 
Adelaide later this year.

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Smith will be fired up to hit the heights at Ayr and won’t lack support however her first match has a testing look about it with Midlothian star Dot Low in the opposite corner.

Junior cap Calum Logan of Kirkliston and West Lothian is experienced well beyond his 23-years and is a leading hope for the often hotly contested Under 25 title while East Lothian speak highly of Grant Thomson from East Linton.

Edinburgh players Josh Spalding and Gary Muir reached the last two finals setting the standard for 2012 campaigners Nicky Brown of Leith and Dean Fleming of Currie.

Jamie Hanlan of Bonnyrigg lines up for Midlothian while a challenger of added interested is former Slateford whiz kid 
Allan Ramsay now of Abbeyview in Dunfermline.

Kirkliston field a strong Four in Hamilton Trophy stars Steven Forrest, Greg Logan, Mark Allison and Neil Speirs while Craig Valentine, Gordon Baillie, Steven Morgan and Derek Oliver of Cockenzie & Port 
Seton also excite..

Alex Marshall skips David Sked for Gifford in the Pairs while Chris Steven and Darren McKenny of Pilrig are no strangers to performing on the national stage.