A familiar face, but a foreign name, is the latest addition to next year’s Australian Open field.
Earlier this month, Weston Creek’s Kate Brayne, playing alongside Maureen Wilkie and Carol Rowe, qualified in the nation’s capital for the $120,000 event, paving the way for one of the sport’s great comeback stories.
More than a decade ago, the former Queenslander lined up for her home state in the women’s singles at the inaugural Australian Junior Championships for girls, capturing gold in the blue-ribbon event.
On that occasion, however, she was better knows as Kate McGilp, a trail blazing teenager who had the bowls world at her mercy.
A year later, McGilp returned to the Australian Junior Championships to defend her title and came perilously close, finishing narrowly behind Victoria’s Stacey Collier, who went onto capture the world under-25 crown.
Despite her stunning rise to prominence, McGilp quit the sport for the best part of a decade, joining the navy, marrying her husband and settling in the ACT, before coming out of retirement earlier this year and qualifying for the nation’s biggest event.
With the next installment of the Australian Junior Championships poised to erupt at Halekulani next week, Brayne took a stroll down memory lane earlier today, while also keeping one eye on the future.
“We really didn’t know what to expect (in 1998),” Brayne said from her home in the ACT.
“We turned up to Warilla and it’s the first time the girls had played, the boys had been running for quite sometime, and most of the states had some good players.
“I don’t remember too many, but Victoria had Stacey Collier and I think Carmen McClusky and Yvonne Lovelock won the pairs. In fact, Queensland might have won all the girls and boys titles that year*.
“I came back the following year but after that I quit for 10 years.
“I was one of the few young players coming through at that time and by the end of it I had just had enough.”
Despite her blue-chip credentials, Brayne stayed true to her word, forging another life in the navy before the idea of returning to the green started to fester at the end of last year.
As time passed, Brayne’s desire to return to the game eventually got the better of her, with the former champion enjoying a roll up at Weston Creek.
She is now enjoying her return to the sport, informally coaching a handful of juniors at her adopted club, while her return to the big time playing circuit will be complete next year when she lines up at the Australian Open in Shepparton.
“I guess I’m playing a bit of a mentor role (at Weston Creek),” Brayne said.
“I had a couple of great people support me when I was first starting up and I guess you want to pay it back.
“I’m really enjoying it, though.”
When pressed on what advice she’d provide this year’s luminaries with, the straight shooter fired from the hip.
“Just to have fun,” Bryane said.
“But to also learn as much from your losses as you do from your wins.”
The Australian Junior Championships will be held at the Halekulani Bowling Club from September 28 to October 1, while the Australian Open will run from February 14 to 20, 2010.
Click here for more information on the 2009 Australian Junior Championships.
Click here for more information on the 2010 Australian Open.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS