Tournament chance to pay tribute to mentor

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New Zealand lawn bowls singles champion Andrew Kelly will pay tribute to his late mentor Russell “Rusty” MacDonald this weekend.

Born and bred in North Otago and now living in Christchurch, Kelly is teaming up with his father Bruce for the Rusty Mac Memorial Pairs invitational tournament, to be held at the Awamoa Bowling Club this weekend.

MacDonald, a keen fisherman and talented bowler, died after a boating accident on the Waitaki River last year. The tournament is being convened by his son Craig MacDonald, the Awamoa Bowling Club president.

Kelly started playing bowls as a 12-year-old at the Pukeuri Bowling Club, and MacDonald and Dave Rankin became his mentors.

“I looked up to both of them at the time and certainly gained some valuable stuff,” Kelly said.

“I certainly wouldn’t miss it for any other tournaments.

“I’m aware that no-one’s here forever and you never know when your last day is going to be.”

He was looking forward to competing and catching up with friends in Oamaru this weekend.

“There will be quite a few others similar to me who would have been influenced a great deal by Rusty.”

Kelly was confident there would be a lot of celebrations around MacDonald’s life.

“He was a hell of a competitor and he loved getting around other people’s tournaments and supporting them.

“It’s a pretty handy field for an inaugural tournament.”

At present, Kelly is a New Zealand representative bowler. He was one of five players named in the New Zealand squad for the 2020 World Bowls Championship in Australia.

It has been postponed until next year, due to Covid-19.

Also lining up for the Rusty Mac Memorial Pairs tomorrow is New Zealand representative Mike Kernaghan, who will partner with local bowler Bill Kingan.

Former international bowlers Shaun Scott and Sean O’Neill will also feature in the 32-team field, which has attracted top players from Canterbury, South Canterbury, North Otago, Southland, Dunedin, Central Otago and South Otago.