Top field building for Orange's $16,000 Golden Eagle bowls tournament

From Dubbo to Dapto, Blakehurst to Bundoora and Cowra to Cabramatta they are coming to Orange with one goal in mind.

GEARING UP: Jim Gersbach (tournament director) and Davis Ellis (chairman, Orange City Bowling Club) with the Golden Eagle, with (from left) Finn Wilkinson (AON), Matt Halloway (Tony Leahey Motor Group), Ian Berryman (ILB 
Steel Buildings), Jaime Wenban (Coca-Cola). Photo: JUDE KEOGH

GEARING UP: Jim Gersbach (tournament director) and Davis Ellis (chairman, Orange City Bowling Club) with the Golden Eagle, with (from left) Finn Wilkinson (AON), Matt Halloway (Tony Leahey Motor Group), Ian Berryman (ILB Steel Buildings), Jaime Wenban (Coca-Cola). Photo: JUDE KEOGH

To wrap their hands around one of the biggest trophies in country bowls, the prestigious Golden Eagle Classic Pairs, to be contested from February 20-23 at the Orange City Bowling Club.

This year sees the prizemoney and trophies value up to more than $16,000 with $4000 for the winning pair.

And that’s helped organisers attract most of the recent winners who are returning hoping to add their names to the winners’ roll that stretches back to 1968.

Club organising committee member Neil Southcombe said it was the 49th running of the event that has high-profile former winners including Rob Parella.

That means next year’s 50th anniversary event will be even more prestigious as it will be the golden Golden Eagle.

Southcombe said pairs from all over the Central West, Blue Mountains, Sydney and the Central Coast would face teams from Victoria and Queensland.

There's a couple of newcomers we don't know much about.

Neil Southcombe, Orange City Bowling Club

He said reigning champions father Warren and son Jared Hamilton from the Illawarra were back.

The pair’s win last year’s win was impressive, too, with the champions progressing through section three undefeated then winning their quarter-final tussle before the Hamiltons accounted for three-time champions Gerard Beath and Bernie Diduszko in the classic semi-final.

The duo then faced with the in-form Country Club team of Lee Stinson and Steve Carr, Hamilton and Hamilton shot out of the blocks fast, earning a 22-5 lead after 14 ends. It proved an unassailable advantage, too, eventually winning 27-14.

“Jared also won in 2014 with the Australian player Jeremy Henry, so he will be going for number three,” he said.

The 2015 champions Mathew McIntyre from Dubbo and Jay Porter of Cabramatta will also be competing.

And there are a few unknowns in the field, who are regular competitors in regional tournaments.

“There’s a couple of newcomers we don’t know much about.”

A physically and mentally draining tournament, Southcombe said the event was a true test of fitness.

“It is quite taxing on the bowlers. They have to bowl 21 ends by two games each day. It’s not just about throwing down a bowl, there is a lot of walking.”

The final is at 1.30pm on Thursday February 23.