BOWLS: Worthing Open is the first to become unified

THE Worthing Open Bowls Tournament has become the first in the country to become unified, which will mean men and women competing with and against each other in each of the events.

With the Women's Open now defunct, and the Men's Open under threat from lack of funding, tournament organisers, Tony and Tina Phillips, Worthing Borough Council and Continental Landscapes have been striving over the past few months to ensure an open tournament remained in Worthing.

Tournament regulars, Worthing Bowling Club's Brian Dunne and Chris Young, have also been successful in gaining funding support from several local clubs, and their own club has donated 500 '“ and they hope to reach a total of 1,200 donated from local clubs.

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The number of players competing over the past 10 years has dropped, but Tony Phillips hopes that the money donated, plus deals with local sponsors, will enable the tournament to significantly improve its prize money '“ therefore attracting entries from all over the country.

The tournament runs from August 24 to September 5, and Phillips said: "The unified approach is the only way to go. I'd like to think this tournament will be a template, and if it's successful it will catch on.

"We now live in a world where the gender of a competitor is of less importance than their individual ability to play the sport. Bowls isn't a physical game, it's one of skill and strategy, which offers men and women an equal chance of winning.

"We're hoping to get a grant from the National Lottery, and a local grant as well, so the community is, it appears, right behind the event."

The tournament is supported by Bowls England, the sports governing body, who are firmly behind the unified philosophy, and are on target to achieve full unification of every outdoor club by 2010.

Dunne added: "This will be the first tournament of its kind, with men playing women in all of the events. For example, a husband and wife from Newcastle can both enter the same competition now.

"It immediately follows the Nationals, and is a tournament which we want to keep in Worthing.

"Making the tournament unified will keep bowls here. Worthing's are the superior greens in the south of England, with the best greenkeepers.

"By increasing the prize fund, hopefully we'll bring in people from all over the country. We want to get the numbers up to what they were 10 years ago.

"We're also hoping all local clubs will have more entries in the competition this year. If each local club puts in eight-to-10 players, that's 80 players straight away."

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