By Matt Stevens
March 19, 2020

The John Sullivan Senior Australian Open crowned four champions on the weekend at ZONE BOWLING Keon Park, Victoria. Andrew Lloyd and Christine Clark, the victors for the senior divisions, whilst a familiar winning duo in Jeanette Baker and Jim Bakirtzidis took out the grand senior divisions.

The weekend’s event saw the 14th running of the Senior Australian Open take place. 2020 would be the first year that a familiar name was added to the title of the event.

John Sullivan.

John Sullivan was inducted into the TBA hall of fame in 1989. Considered one of the top bowlers in the 1970’s and 80’s, the addition of the name was driven from community wide respect for the bowler.

“John was a great supporter of our association and this tournament” said A.T.B.S.O.V Tournament Director Sue Raphael. “We wanted to honour a great Australian bowler who was accepted and well-liked by all bowlers”.

John Sullivan – John Sullivan with Brian Looby at the 13th Asian Championships in Sydney after winning Gold in the Doubles event

Honour the name, the bowlers would.

A total of 107 bowlers would lace up the shoes for this year’s event by providing a great display of bowling; high scores that would make John Sullivan proud.

A total of four divisions would be in play – Men’s, Ladies, Grand Senior Male, and Grand Senior Female. The format a straight forward one. Bowlers would bowl 16 games in two squads over two days on Saturday and Sunday.

In a nice touch by organisers and the Sullivan family, son Charlie was on hand to present the winning trophies to all division champions.

Male Division

Relatively new to the senior division at 51 years old, Andrew Lloyd is fast becoming one of the elite bowlers in the senior ranks. The league bowler from Bowlarama – Wetherill Park and Windsor Tenpin, NSW, arrived in Melbourne on the weekend to bowl in his first Senior Australian Open.

A total of 44 bowlers would compete in the male division for 2020. A pair of local Victorian bowlers, Mick Talevski and Brett Smith, would state their claim early. Talevski would shoot +232 for the first day whilst Smith would lead the pack at the conclusion of day one. Smith would shoot +245 over the first 8 games. Andrew Lloyd would close his first day on +204 sitting in third place.

Ironically for Lloyd, he would be picked up from the airport and looked after by friend Brett Smith on the weekend. Brett would not only provide hospitality for Andrew, but he would become his key opponent heading into the last day.

Lloyd would provide a dominating performance as he shot +307 for the day. A pinfall of 947 in the first 4 games, Lloyd would continue his climb up the leader board. His rise would provide a tense finish between himself and his mate who looked after him on the weekend. Leading into the last two game block, Smith had the edge 3,212 to 3,182. An edge that brought out the best from Lloyd.

“I knew Brett was about 40-50 in front. I thought I am close enough if good enough” explained Lloyd. “It was about shot execution and committing to the shot—I threw the last 8 in game 15 to get in front of Brett and in the last game I trusted my pre shot routine and threw the last 8 again to secure the win. It’s always a great feeling to perform under pressure”.

Andrew Lloyd at the 2020 Hammer QLD Senior Classic

Perform under pressure he did. Lloyd would bowl games of 269 and 260 to cement his title. A total of 3,711 pinfall with the impressive average of 231.9. The high quality of bowling in this year’s event evident when comparing pinfall from the previous year. In 2019, Ralph Harford would win the title with a pinfall of 3,539. An increase in 2020 of 172 pins.

“I feel honoured and proud to win Australia’s premier senior’s major tournament” explained Lloyd.

The addition of the John Sullivan name to the event title made the win for Lloyd even more special. 

“I didn’t know John personally, but was well aware of his exploits on the lanes” said Lloyd. “When you talk to other hall of famers, Johns name always comes up as one of their toughest competitors”.

In his victory, Andrew Lloyd would average an impressive 231.9 over the 16 games. When asked what the key to success was, the reply centred on simplicity drawn from experience.

“I have won over 20 ranked events since 1997, state and national. The oil pattern and average is irrelevant, finishing in front is always the goal”.

Nicknamed ‘Webber’, after famous composer Andrew Webber Lloyd, the bowler from NSW has experienced quite the year on the lanes. Finishing third in the Hammer QLD Senior Classic, now a Senior Australian Open champion, Lloyd is now ranked the number one senior bowler in the country.

“I feel the end of year rankings is a by-product of consistent performances throughout the year” said Lloyd.

Competing in a 5 man team travel league at various centres, coupled with competitive practice sessions with a group of friends, is what prepares the bowler for tournaments.

“There is nothing more satisfying than bragging rights over your mates”.

Andrew Lloyd receiving the John Sullivan Senior Australian Open trophy from Charlie Sullivan

Confidence was gained and maintained when Andrew won the 2019 TBA Seniors Cup at the Adult Nationals. For every tournament he competes in, a consistent strategy is implemented.

“Focus, execution, commitment” explained Lloyd.

Focus on your own game- outside noises and peoples comments only create confusion. Execute shots that you know will hold up under pressure – at the back end of tournaments when you have to throw strikes to win you need to know your shot execution will hold up. Commit to the shot – be decisive on the approach, half-hearted commitment will provide a half-hearted result. No one wins without being fully committed”.

Starting his bowling journey in 1984, Lloyd has developed his game from many supporters in the industry. His most recent supporter having a big impact on his game.

“I have been working with Paul Delany for the last 2 years. Coaching, ball layouts, drilling advice. There aren’t many better around. Before that I worked with Chris Batson for 10 years. I also have a core group of friends that I trust that keep me grounded” explained Lloyd.

Female Division

A bowler that won the female 2019 TBA Senior Cup with Andrew was Cheryl Womack. The bowler from Queensland would be one of three that would be in contention throughout the weekend for the female division.

The Queenslander started with six games of 200+ before slowing down with 191 and 173 to close the session. Womack would finish the first block with 1,717 pinfall and in third place.

Sue Cassell, the 2020 Hammer Senior Classic champion and TBA Hall of Famer would reveal herself as a contender for another title. The Queenslander would post a score of 1,729 after the first 8 games to place her in second place heading to the last day.

The top performing bowler was the one that had won the event the previous year.

 Christine Clark would post an incredible 1,835 pinfall after the first 8 games averaging 229.38.

“Honestly I go into every tournament to bowl the best I can on the day” said Clark. “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. It worked out on Saturday, I must admit, I was like WOW!” said a surprised Clark on her first day performance.

The second day would see the top 3 again be the ones in contention for the title.

The high scores did start to decrease with Womack posting two +200 games of the eight compared to the six on day one. Womack would finish in third place with 1,555 for the day, a total of 3,272 and an average of 204.5 for the event.

The winner of the first ranked event of the year, Sue Cassell, would post 1,589 for the day, a total of 3,318 and an average of 207.4 for the event.

It was the 2019 champion of the event in Christine Clark that would prevail and win back to back titles.

Posting 1,579 for the day, a total of 3,414 and an average of 213.4.   Again proof that this year’s bowling had stepped up a notch was evident in comparisons of winning scores to the previous year. In 2019, the winning pinfall was 3,108, which compared to this year was 306 less pins.

“I must admit, it feels pretty good!” described Clark.  “I think this one was more special (compared to last year) because it was renamed after John Sullivan. They had a video going while we were bowling of him winning the 1983 Australian Open. He was a great bowler. To me, this year was definitely more special”.

Strategies differ for all bowlers competing in events. Some can be serious and meticulous. Some can be more relaxed. Clark adopts the relaxed approach.

“No strategy! Does that make me a bad bowler!?” joked Clark. “I don’t like to put that much pressure on myself. You can’t go in saying I am going to win because that’s just added pressure on yourself”.

It’s been a successful year for Clark so far. A 7th place in the Hammer Queensland Classic, now followed by back to back senior Australian open titles. The achievements see the Victorian second on the senior ranking points table. Ahead of her is TBA Hall of Famer, Sue Cassell.

“I do remember many, many years ago when I used to go the Vic 150 and she used to bowl it. I just used to go to watch her. She’s awesome, such a fantastic bowler and she will always be a threat”.

The 2020 success that Clark is having follows a successful previous year. A year that Clark had the privilege to represent Australia at the World Senior Championships in Las Vegas. Clark would win a silver medal in the team’s event and qualify for the master’s event.

“It was the most fantastic experience in bowling I’ve had. To bowl with the Americans and to bowl with people you have only seen on YouTube. It was unbelievable” explained Clark.

2019 Australian senior female silver medalists in the team event at the World Senior Championships

Based at the Bendigo Bowling centre in Victoria, Clark has been bowling for a long time in the region. With many years bowling, friendships have been formed and maintained. One of those friendships involve close friends – the Farquharson’s.

“I have to say David and Trace are my biggest bowling supporters” said Clark. “My family support me, my husband is not a bowler but he always supports me and never stops me going – without him I wouldn’t be able to go to the tournaments”.

David and Tracey Farquharson moved to the Bendigo area 20 something years ago. With the move, bowling began at Bendigo and friendships were formed. A support crew was assembled that carries on to this day.

“We have been bowling together for around 20 years when they moved to Bendigo” said Clark. “It was a little while till we got all in the same league but when we met that was it. Dave is like a brother from another mother for me!”.

Friendships are a main reason that Clark and many bowlers continue in the sport.

“To be honest it’s more about the people” explained Clark. “If it wasn’t for the friends that you meet through bowling, I don’t think you would keep going back. I do love the competitive side of it as well but when you go to these tournaments you look forward to seeing everyone. So it’s probably a combination of the two – competitive environment and most of all the friendships you develop”.

Grand Senior Female Division

A TBA Hall of Famer was the standout performer in the grand senior female division.

Victorian Jeanette Baker would post a total pinfall of 3,317 with an average of 207.3 on her way to adding yet another title to her collection. Bendigo bowler Tracey Farquharson would be runner up with a 2,951 pinfall and Western Australian Maxine Forrest finishing in third place with 2,908.

No one was a match for Jeanette Baker (JB). Bowling in her first event for the year, Baker would remind all of how good she is…still! The Victorian, multi Australian representative and TBA hall of famer has won the Senior Australian Open a staggering seven times whilst also winning the grand senior division 4 times. A remarkable resume in the history of the event.

Baker decided to retire after her commitments concluded last year. A year that involved being the number one ranked grand senior and having huge success at the World Senior Championships. Baker would go on to add three medals – bronze in doubles, silver in teams and a silver medal in the all events.

“The timing was deferred once seniors were finally accepted into the NTS, but now that my objectives have been achieved, the time is right to graciously depart. Time will be for travelling without bowling balls” said Baker last year.

The return to last week’s Senior Australian Open was much more than bowling and adding another title to her collection. Close friends to the Sullivan family, the renaming of the event got the legend out of retirement.

“Once the tournament was renamed to commemorate John Sullivan, his wife, Leanne, asked if I would come of retirement to participate in his honour” explained Baker. “How could I resist. So back on the track, I went in order to do both John and the family the distinction of securing a win in his honour”.

Jeanette receiving the John Sullivan Senior Australian Open Grand Senior trophy from Charlie Sullivan

Baker’s history with John Sullivan stretches back many years.

“For many years, like so many, I was in awe of ‘Mr Magic’ and his tournament performances both in Australia and overseas. As we grew older, I was pleased to call John a close friend” said Baker.

A tradition between Jeanette, John and their bowling group was adopted.

“We embraced the new tradition of a Peking Duck in honour of 300 games bowled amongst our group” said Baker.

The history between John and Jeanette covered multiple FIQ representations going back to 1975 in London. Baker was also proud to say that John was the male representative when she was fortunate enough to win her second AMF World Cup in Mexico. Most importantly to Baker, they share the platform as TBA Hall of Famers.

“The tournament meant a great deal more than just a win and money in the bank” explained Baker. “I hope that I was able to demonstrate how important a part John played in my competitive career, particularly with the transition into seniors”.

Grand Senior Male Division

A total of 40 bowlers would compete for the male grand senior title in this year’s event. A title that was closely contested, and ultimately decided by 10 pins from champion to third place.

Bendigo bowler David Farqharson would finish in third place with 3,422 pinfall.  TBA Hall of Famer, Terry Wenban would again find himself at the pointy end of the standings, finishing runner up with 3,424.

8 pins ahead of Wenban was the bowler from NSW, Jim Bakirtzidis.

A two time grand senior male champion of the event, Bakirtzidis bowled a total pinfall of 3,432, averaging 214.5 over the 16 games.

His last two grand senior titles occurred when Jeanette Baker also won the female divisions. History would repeat itself this year with both again taking out the grand senior division titles.

“I have known Jeanette Baker for many years dating back to the 80s, she is a fierce competitor” explained Bakirtzidis. “We have won this event together before and again this weekend. We joke about having the same initials and winning together”.

The male ‘JB’ would be the winner of the 40 man grand senior roster. A win that pleased the now three time grand senior champion of the event.

“It is always great to come out a winner after 16 games of competition against some of the best Grand Senior bowlers in Australia” explained Bakirtzidis. “However, this win is very special to me as it is the first John Sullivan dedicated tournament in his honour”.

The 2020 Senior Australian Open trophy

Like the female JB, Jim has an extensive history with John Sullivan which makes winning a tournament named after him more special.

“It is an honour to be the recipient of the John Sullivan trophy” described Bakirtzidis. “I knew John from the late 70’s and 80’s bowling against him in tournaments such as the Canberra Cup. John was a great sportsman and competitor”.

Runner up of the event in 2019 to Terry Wenban, Bakirtzidis would gain revenge by going one step further in 2020.

Bakirtzidis is an experienced bowler. Always positioning himself up with the contenders of each event. Experience provides simplistic advice in an event with this format.

“Stay focused on what you can control meaning executing your shot and don’t get distracted” said Bakirtzidis.

A great weekend of bowling at an event that has become even more special with the addition of the great John Sullivan name.

The next ranked event on the calendar was the South Australian Seniors Classic scheduled for 25th and 26th April. This event has now been postponed until further notice.

As is with all things in bowling and life, things are changing by the hour with the existence of COVID-19. TBA will continue to monitor the situation and re-evaluate the situation on an ongoing basis. Please keep an eye on the designated updates page located here.