HISTORY-maker Julie Leake is hoping her ground-breaking triumph at this year’s Poole Open Bowls Tournament will encourage more women to enter the competition in the future.

The former world champion, 55, put her name in the record books by becoming the first female competitor to lift the prestigious singles crown in the event's 52-year history.

Leake, who lives in Broadstone and represents Poole Park Bowls Club, described the reaction of the predominantly male competitors in the 73-strong field as “respectful” having taken the top prize.

She told the Daily Echo: “For me personally, when I am in tournament mode, I just play one game at a time regardless of who my opponent is. I just stick to my game plan.

“I have played a number of events against a lot of men. I think I am quite fortunate in that I have the respect of a lot of the men locally as a player.

“They took it quite well really. Bowls can be a bit sexist at times. The men don’t think that the women can compete on the same level, so it is an achievement, there is no doubt about it.”

Leake overcame no fewer than seven men throughout the event to seal the crown, beating fellow Poole Park bowler Jim Garner 21-14 in the final.

“It wasn’t until afterwards really that you realised you had played seven men on the route to winning. Nobody scored more than 17 against me,” she added.

“It’s just another person on the green. Whether it is a male or female, it doesn’t really make any difference to me.

“Some people rise to the challenge and that’s what I do. I rise to the challenge.

“I am a former world champion so I think they have that respect for you. I think they showed me the respect that I showed them.

“On the whole, everybody was very respectful.”

Having secured the trophy for 2017, Leake insists she will be back to defend her title next year and is hopeful to see a changing of the guard from the current entry.

She claimed: “I’d like to think that, maybe, it might perhaps encourage more women to enter. I’m not too sure how the men will feel about that!

“I think it was only a couple of years ago that they opened it up to women. Because people come down to play in the mixed section of it, it now means they can both enter the singles, rather than have the wife sat on the sidelines.

“I think the men might be gunning for me next year.”

Leake entered the tournament as practice in readiness for her singles events at the National Championships at Leamington Spa in a couple of weeks’ time.

She also won the Bournemouth and District Women’s singles title the week before her success at Poole.