Around Town: Lawn bowlers enjoy game's resurgence

“Everyone thinks this sport is just for retired, grey-haired people, but that is so wrong,” insisted the enthusiastic Gordon Head Bowling Club member during the Canadian Lawn Bowling Championships.

As if to prove her point, young Auzzie Chambers turned heads with his prowess as lead on Team B.C. during round-robin tour play under sunny skies.

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“My mom is a seniors’ care worker and a lot of her clients played the sport and invited me out,” said Chambers, 15, explaining how he became a junior champion.

“It’s a lot of fun, and you meet a lot of people. It’s a physical game, but it’s also basically mental.”

Although Forster, who was volunteering as a scoreboard flipper, was dressed in white, she emphasized that “you no longer need to just wear white. It’s become a much more colourful thing.”

Indeed, it was, judging by the sights and sounds of the action on four pristine bowling greens as dozens of the 180 top lawn bowlers from across Canada demonstrated their grace, agility and camaraderie.

“It’s absolutely brilliant, and of course Mother Nature is cooperating,” declared Dave Mathie in his thick Scottish brogue after completing game six.

“The faster the greens are, the better,” said the Team B.C. bowler and host club president, tipping his blue-and-yellow ballcap to Westshore Parks and Recreation for grooming the greens to perfection.

“Lawn bowling is a sport for life,” he said. “To me it’s better than curling, and one of the best sports going because you can move the mat up, and the jack moves. In curling, it’s a fixed target.”

David Calam, Regina-based president of Bowls Canada, said one of the most appealing aspects of the game is that almost anyone can play.

“We have a lot of players under 30 on our Saskatchewan team. It’s having a resurgence among young people, and it’s a wonderful game for retired seniors because it takes a little longer than most sports,” he said.

The purpose of the six-day championships, which ran Aug. 13 to 19, twofold, he said — to have top-level players spread the word about Bowls Canada’s mission, and to ensure teams are as competitive as possible.

“We’re looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in 2018,” he said. “We’re sending 14 men and women to the Gold Coast in Australia.”

Calam personally likes lawn bowling’s strategic elements — that in addition to the physical and social activity there is such a strong mental component.

“I had a demanding job as an engineer when I started playing,” he recalled. “It was therapeutic playing a game that fully absorbed you mentally, particularly if you’re in the office all day.”

For Woodstock, Ont.-based Jim Roth, 60, and his Chatham, Ont.-based brother Tom, 62, lawn bowling gives them a chance to enjoy a common passion.

“We’ve played together for a number of years at the national level and the club level,” said Jim, who didn’t start playing the game their parents had played for years until he retired.

“It’s harder than it looks,” he said.

“When I started playing competitive bowls, my golf game went by the wayside and I was only playing [golf] five or six times a year.”

As challenging as it can be, however, Tom says you don’t necessarily have to be athletic.

“I’ve seen people who are not athletes be very good at this game,” he said.

Their Ontario B team’s skip, Wayne Wright, says there’s a good reason he has been lawn bowling for 55 years.

“I was fortunate, as these guys were, to have played with my parents because I was raised in a small town in Ontario,” said Wright, who hails from Grand Bend.

“There were no babysitters, so when my parents went to the bowls club, my brother and I went with them and hung out and watched everybody playing,” he said.

“There are many examples of four generations of bowlers playing together, great-grandma and all the way down. It really is a sport for life.”

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