NOEL Kennedy erased seven years of bad memories when he won the prestigious Hong Kong International Classic Souza singles title yesterday at the Craigengower Cricket Club.
Kennedy beat Canadian Bill Boettger 25-20 in the final, which was the culmination of two gruelling days of bowls involving six 25-point matches.
But despite an aching back and the prospect of a morning at the office today, civil engineer Kennedy had enough energy left to celebrate with a few beers and talk about his loss to Australian Paul Richards in the 1987 final.
The 29-year-old Kennedy was leading Richards for most of the match but eventually lost 25-23.
'Obviously, I had that match in the back of my mind,' said Kennedy, who with Mark McMahon won the 1988 Classic Pairs tournament. 'And there was a time during the final when Bill started to come back a bit that I started to think about the 1987 game.
'But I eventually came through and it is a great feeling. My head is still in a spin a bit but I have to get myself down because there is a pairs tournament to come as well.' Kennedy will partner Alastair Carstairs for Hong Kong in the pairs event starting this afternoon at the Kowloon Bowling Green Club - and their first opponents are Canadians Boettger and Keith Roney.
'This has to be one of the highlights of my career,' added Kennedy. 'I compare it to Mark and I's pairs win in 1988.' In the semi-finals, Kennedy beat Scotland's Angus Blair 25-17 following a 25-8 quarter-final victory over Hong Kong player Oscar Adem.
But before that, he had a morale-boosting 25-17 win over Israel's Cecil Bransky, last year's runner-up.
'To beat Cecil, Angus and then Bill on the same day, for me, was a good feeling,' said Kennedy.
The victory would certainly enhance Kennedy's standing on the international singles scene, which until recently was dominated by Mark McMahon, and before him, George Souza.
Kennedy and Souza are the only Hong Kong players to have won the singles event, which this year is being held for the first time at CCC.
Boettger, who is more renown as a team player, said the tough playing proved his undoing.
He had a difficult 25-23 quarter-final win over Hong Kong's Willie Lai and then came from behind to snatch a thrilling 25-23 semi-final win over New Zealand's up-and-coming star Gary Lawson.
'I was quite tired because it is the first time I've had to play four games of 25 points in one day,' said Boettger.
Today's week-long pairs competition features 24 teams divided into two groups of 12.
The top four in each group, after a round-robin, advance to the quarter-finals.
Israel's Bransky and Jeff Rabkin are the defending pairs champions.