Curtin unbeaten in qualifying play

Seamus Curtin (Stokes Valley) looks concerned after delivering a bowl during his final game of...
Seamus Curtin (Stokes Valley) looks concerned after delivering a bowl during his final game of section play at the Speight's North East Valley 10,000 yesterday. Looking on is his opponent, Andrew Kelly (Christchurch). PHOTO: WAYNE PARSONS
Promising Wellington bowler Seamus Curtin was the only player to progress through section play undefeated, when the quarterfinalists were found at the Speight's North East Valley 10,000 yesterday.

In taking the honour of the tournament's top qualifier in section play, Curtin was quick to play down the feat, as he realised the business end of the tournament awaits him when quarterfinal play gets under way at 8.30am

today.

At 19, Curtin is the youngest player at the tournament and one of the most exciting prospects among the next generation of top-flight bowlers in New Zealand.

He came into the tournament for the first time last year as one of the early favourites, only to be eliminated at the preliminary quarterfinal stage by eventual finalist and runner-up Ryan Bester (Canada).

But this year, Curtin came into the tournament somewhat under the radar and drawn in section 2, consisting of defending and Commonwealth Games champion Aaron Wilson (Australia), 2009 champion Shaun Scott and other internationals such as Mark Watt, Andrew Kelly and Caleb Hope.

Few would have picked Curtin from that pool to go through undefeated and get the jump straight to the quarterfinal stage, such was the calibre within the group.

But meeting the challenges head-on, Curtin overcame the odds with maturity beyond his years.

His closest game was his second-round 25-23 win over Scott. In the third round he lowered Wilson's colours with a 25-18 victory and accounted for Watt 25-14 in the fifth.

In the final two rounds yesterday Curtin defeated New Zealand development player Caleb Hope 25-21 and withstood a late charge from Kelly in the seventh and final round of section play 25-22.

"It's a great feeling," Curtin said of being the tournament's top qualifier.

"It's all just beginning, really, now," he said of looking towards the business end of the tournament.

While some would not envy being placed in a section full of international talent, Curtin decided to take it in his stride, thinking that to be the best he had to beat the best.

"I've looked at all the caricature drawings of past champions on the wall and that's my goal, to be alongside them, as champion also."

Curtin will play Rory Soden (Auckland) this morning for a spot in the semifinals, Soden having knocked out 2011 champion Tony Grantham in the qualifying round 25-21.

Should Curtin defeat Soden he will meet the winner of the Keanu Darby (Dunedin) and Jordan King (Auckland) quarterfinal.

Among others to gain automatic entry to the quarterfinal stage by topping their section were Jamie Hill (Auckland), Shannon McIlroy (Nelson) and Darby.

McIlroy is the only player progressing through to the knockout stage to have won the tournament previously. He meets Ryan Burnett (Scotland) in quarterfinal play and the winner to meet either Hill or Gary Lawson (Christchurch) in the semifinal at the top of the draw

Fortune did not favour defending champion Wilson's hopes of a three-peat at the tournament. His third-round loss to Curtin began a snowball effect; he lost a further two games and failed to qualify for post section.

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