This weekend sees the Tour heading to Skien in Norway for the inaugural Brunvall Gård Norwegian Open. We have plenty of debutants mixing it with the best the sport has to offer but who will come out on top?
Here are our ones to watch!
Tone Boe (Norway) (World Ranking: 205)
It’s been a great start to the season for Tone. Securing both of Norway’s points in the season opening World Cup with victories over Tony Bell & Ingvar Nelson. She followed this up with Cup qualification at the UK Open, topping Group 12 with impressive wins against Nigel Nicholls & Henselite Order of Merit Champion Joel Hager.
Tone does face a tough task to make it through this weekend however. She finds herself drawn in Group 6 with former World No.1 Joe Beattie & England stalwart Ed Sawbridge amongst others. Will the confidence she now has from her early season exploits be enough? Only time will tell.
Victor Andersson (Sweden) (World Ranking: 35)
17 year old Victor has also had an unbelievable start to the season. A fantastic Bronze medal at the UK Open was followed swiftly by a narrow 7-6 quarter final loss to Aidan Corrigan at the Irish Open. Then on home soil last month, Victor secured his second Swedish National singles title with victory over Dick Almen. Boasting a superb 16-2 record at SMPT events this season means the youngster from Ödeborg now sits pretty at the top of the Henselite Order of Merit.
Victor will be favourite to top Group 8 but faces stern tests from World Cup winners Tony Bell & Jorgen Karlsson. Can the precocious star of Swedish bowls finally add Gold to his haul of medals?
Rune Lifjeld (Norway) (World Ranking: 439)
At their first international home tournament you can be sure that all the Norwegian players will be keen to make an impact on the SMPT scene and none more so than the current Norwegian Champion Rune Lifjeld. The 57 year old who plays for the Grenland bowls club has only one previous tournament victory which came at last season’s Swedish Masters.
If Rune can keep up the form he has shown this season then his chances of a top two finish in Group 2 will be high. Facing 2 Swede’s, a fellow countryman and Diane Bell from Ireland will be a good test but can he step up to the task of beating England’s Nigel Reed with the added pressure of playing on the Show Mat?
Pauline Beattie (Ireland) (World Ranking: 8)
Now playing in her 19th tournament, Pauline is still searching for that coveted final appearance that has just eluded her on 4 occasions. With 3 Bronze medals in the bag, including at our last event in Belfast, can the 41 year old from Portadown finally taste victory? Her 17 wins and an impressive 82.35 win percentage on the Tour this season makes her one of the favourites in Norway.
Pauline will be confident of finishing top of Group 4. Her strongest opposition is likely to come in the shape of Englishman Paul Seaman & Ingvar Nelson of Sweden. If qualification is secured then Pauline will also look to cement her 3rd place in the Henselite Order of Merit standings and even overhaul Victor and Jack Pye above her.
Jonathan Payne (Belgium) (World Ranking: 5)
Not making the Cup Knockout in the first two ranking events has seen Jonathan drop from 2nd to 5th in the rankings. However, the man from Herentals is always at his best at hard floor venues, two SMPT titles is proof that he’ll be a strong contender again on this surface.
Jonathan should have a comfortable passage through Group 14 and is clear favourite to finish top. Four Norwegians, including 2 debutants, Åse Jakobsen & Mitra Bafrani and Swede Bjarne Andersson stand in his way. With Cup qualification hopefully secured the 48 year old Belgian veteran will be keen to break back into the World’s top 3 and with it land a third SMPT title.
Everyone in Group 12!
This event’s group of death sees a wealth of talent with some big names possibly missing out on Cup qualification. In the only 5 player group, 3 of the World’s top 6 players will battle it out. England’s Dom Reed and Swedish pair Joel Hager & Dick Almen not only have each other to face but also Irishman Sam Moore and seasoned England international Chris Hopkins! With such a strong group, we will bring you at least 2 of these matches on the Show Mat throughout Saturday.
And finally…… the big one!
Mark Beattie v Dimitri Payne
This will be the second meeting between the world’s top two players. Mark leads 1-0 following victory over Dimitri at the 2014 UK Open. This match takes on extra significance as Dimitri actually tops the provisional World Rankings, 22 points ahead of Mark. To add spice to Group 7, World No.25, England’s James Trott, could throw a spanner in the works and pip either of them to a Cup qualification spot. As expected the match will be second up on the Show Mat and you can watch all the action LIVE via our Facebook page at around 9.50am on Saturday!
As always you will be able to see all the results as they come in, you can view the constantly updated group tables and you can catch up on event highlights and listen to player interviews via the live feed on our website. Don’t forget we’ll have live, end-by-end updates of all Show Mat games too! We will also be bringing you live footage of matches via Facebook throughout the weekend, so make sure you’ve ‘liked’ our page.