It has been an Annus Magnificum for Darren Burnett, with 2014 arguably the greatest year of his bowling life.
Not only did the Arbroath policeman win the Just Retirement World Indoor Singles at Potters, he also pocketed a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the men’s singles at Glasgow in front of a fervent home crowd and you get the sense he is still way up on cloud nine all these months later.
“It’s been unreal,” said 38-year-old Burnett, who also won the pairs event at the inaugural Superbowl tournament later in the year and actually begins his Potters slog in the World Pairs with Stewart Anderson today (Friday).
“The year started well and the momentum kept going. It’s just a shame the year had to come to an end.”
On winning the gold medal in Glasgow, he went on: “Realistically, you’ve got to be honest about it and it would be hard to ever emulate it. Just the whole circumstances of the Commonwealth Games, being in Glasgow and so close to home. That will probably never happen again in my whole career.”
Bowls stars don’t often get the adulation or attention their skills deserve, but Burnett’s triumphs certainly brought him to the public attention and opened up a few new doors for him.
“It has been quite surreal,” he said. “I did say after the Commonwealth Games, I think after winning the world title at Potters there was a lot of attention given to that and a lot of people who covered the worlds then followed me to the Commonwealths after I had been selected.
“For all of us involved in that, it has been weird. The amount of invites we’ve had, functions, stuff we never thought we’d be involved with.
“I got invited to the Ryder Cup and never once thought I’d be there as a spectator. That was really special – all the medallists were invited to attend.
“It has not been life changing, but it has certainly put us into the public eye, much more than we’d ever been before. It’s been good, though, and good for bowls. We’ve all probably all had a good old moan that we don’t get quite the coverage we deserve, so you’ve got to grab every opportunity you can.”
Burnett knows he is now there to be shot at at Potters as the defending title holder, but says he is feeling no pressure as he attempts the rare feat of attempting back-to-back crowns.
He explained: “I’ve done the hard part now, after winning loads of other titles, and managed to win the world title at Potters. I can go down there in a relaxed mood and am really looking forward to it.
“The only pressure I will put on myself is to play the best I can. You want to go down there, regardless of whether you’re the holder or not, and put in a decent performance. If your opponent plays better than you, there’s not really much you can do about it. You just don’t want to go there and not perform.
“Whoever’s playing me will be all out to beat me, I understand that, but I can think there’s a relaxed element in going back as a holder. I will just look to play my best and see how far I can go in defending my title.
“It’s not an easy thing to do – it’s a hard title to win in the first place and to defend it is just as tough.
“It’s a top-class field and it gets stronger every year. I am under no illusions, it will be very difficult to win it again. But I am in the field, in the draw and there is no reason why I can’t do it.”
Number one seed Burnett is in a tough half of the draw, a section dominated by Scottish players, and he faces Elgin’s Andrew Barker in his 2015 bid.
“We’ve played each other quite a lot as we’re in the same sort of area,” Burnett said. “We’ve played in a lot of events and had a few tough tussles over the years. He’s a quality player and he’s done very well this past year as have a lot of young players from Elgin.
“He knows the environment as he’s been down to Potters in the Pairs a few times, he knows what to expect. He’s recognised as being a top lead and he’ll draw well I would imagine and I will have to play my best to try and match him and put him under pressure.”
Burnett is a best-priced 14-1 to bag a second world crown and the burly Scot concluded: “It’s not something I tend to look at, but it does seem a very generous price.”