MORAY bowler Mike Stepney’s bid to win the Scottish international open has fallen at the final hurdle.
Stepney was defeated by Scotland head coach and seven-time world champion David Gourlay 9-4, 11-7 in Saturday’s final.
The Burghead bowler, who was a wildcard for the tournament, enjoyed a superb run in the competition which has taken him into the top 16 in the world rankings.
He defeated seventh-seed Stuart Anderson in round one and world number 14 Mervyn King in the quarter-finals, before toppling favourite Paul Foster in Friday’s semi-final.
However Prestwick veteran Gourlay proved too strong for the Elgin club player on Saturday.
Gourlay moved to number 2 in the world rankings with his win and paid tribute to qualifier Stepney after the final.
“I knew I had to play well to beat Michael,” he said after the match, which was screened live on BBC. “What a week Michael’s had. He fully deserves to get through to the top 16.”
Stepney said: “He was outstanding today from the very first bowl to the very last.”
A 40-1 shot to win at the start of the tournament, Stepney began well and was 4-1 up after four ends of the opening set in the final.
However Gourlay won each of the next seven ends to take the set 9-4 with some accomplished play, consistently peppering the jack.
The Glaswegian then raced into a 4-0 lead in set two but Stepney stayed in touch by gaining three shots in the next two ends.
A big turning point was a three picked up by Gourlay in the fifth end with a drive shot, followed by a two to move 9-3 ahead.
At 10-4 down Stepney landed a three to give him some hope with two ends to go, before a brilliant draw shot by Gourlay in the tenth end took the decisive shot to land the title.
There was one Moray triumph in Perth this week, as Elgin bowler Graeme Donaldson was crowned Scottish Masters champion on Friday.
Donaldson defeated Darren Weir (Prestwick) in a final which could not have been much closer.
Both the first and second sets finished all square (7-7, 6-6) but the Elgin man triumphed 2-0 in the tiebreak.