A NATIONAL visually impaired bowls player from West Devon has scooped a major title at the indoor bowls Home Nations National Championships — despite a poor start

Stephen Hartley was joined at the tournament in Newport, Wales, by his guide dog Kingsley and Isaac Shieh, his personal competition director who gives him essential information for visually impaired players.

The win came after an uncharacteristic poor start by Stephen, from Tavistock, but he improved his contribution to the England team which won by four points against Wales and Scotland.

Stephen said: ‘I played pretty badly in losing against Wales by one point on the first day. We were ahead initially, but lost five potential points and I played disastrously. I played against my instinct and the way I normally play in terms of tactics. I was taking advice from team officials and it didn’t work. England also lost to arch rivals Scotland who ‘were on fire’. However, Stephen’s team then had revenge against Wales: ‘I’m pleased to say we slayed the Welsh dragon and then gave a soft toy dragon to Kingsley to metaphorically eat to celebrate. We also avenged our defeat by Scotland when we were on fire!’

He said: ‘My main lesson from this competition was to trust my instinct and play as I feel is the best in the situation.’

The teams include players with varying disabilities, including physical and sight. One of the players has no arms and plays in bare feet and uses them to play the bowls: ‘He is my biggest inspiration.’