One of the biggest events of the Bowls Taranaki season, the open singles, will be contested this weekend.
The season is still in its infancy, and after last weekend's weather, there may be a few surprises.
Section play of the Auto City-sponsored event takes place on Saturday and Sunday morning, with competitors playing four matches and marking two. Three wins are required to advance to the post-section rounds on Sunday afternoon, with the finals scheduled for Monday at Paritutu.
The men's field of 84, an increase of 12 from last year, includes last year's winner Gerry O'Sullivan (Inglewood), runner-up Conrad Jagusch, and beaten semifinalists Darren Goodin (Paritutu) and Dean Elgar (Vogeltown).
The West End club has again excelled, with 27 entries. Past winners such as Gary Lilley, Craig Johns, David Bennett and Dennis Osborne, who has transferred from Lepperton, should test last season's semifinalists.
O'Sullivan and Lilley are scheduled to meet in what should be one of the feature matches in section play.
There will also be some interest in the performance of Lilley's son, Daryl, the former Taranaki fullback, who as a first-year player has already worked his way into the West End triples final.
The powerful Alton club, though, has no representatives, with the strongest challengers from the south likely to come from Nolantown's Scott Roberts and Russell Hardy.
The women's field is down to 48 players, as opposed to 54 last year. Defending champion Marlene Barrowman (Paritutu), returns as does runner-up Liz Johnstone (New Plymouth).
Barrowman's qualifying opponents include Fitzroy's Janice Ropitini and and Port View's Leeanne Halls. Val McEldowney, the winner two seasons ago and third-equal last time, will be among the favourites again, as will Paritutu's Cathy Andrews.
Making a return to the fold after a season off is Opunake's Bev Robinson, who is in a tricky third section, which also includes the finalists from the champion-of-champions singles in April, Girl Reweti (Stratford-Avon) and Gale Fache (Vogeltown).
Entries from the southern women are also poor, with just three players from the Hawera township involved.
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