Lawn bowling has been described as the curling of the Commonwealth. Some of the best Canadian players to have played the bucolic game will be on display this week at the national senior triples championships taking place at the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club.
The opening ceremony is today at 4 p.m. with competition beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday and rolling through the medal matches Sunday. Eight men’s and eight women’s triples teams, a total of 48 bowlers, have come through their 65-and-over provincial championships to be here.
Among them is Keith Roney, inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, and who has two world championship medals for Canada with gold in men’s pairs in 2004 at Ayr, Scotland, and bronze in triples in 2008 at Brisbane, Australia. The 2004 championship in pairs is Canada’s first and only gold medal at the world championships and was won by Roney with Ryan Bester, the latter who has five world championship medals and three Commonwealth Games medals in men’s singles with bronze at Melbourne 2006 and silvers at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018.
Roney also has a gold and three bronze medals from the Asia Pacific championships, including in 2003 at Juan de Fuca in what was the test event for the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
“These bowlers were major players [in their prime] and are still very good,” said Gopal Gowda, chair of the hosting committee.
“They continue playing because the sport provides good comradery. It is a very addictive game.”
The host Victoria Lawn Bowling Club was established in 1909 and was inducted as a whole into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. It is among the 17 lawn bowling clubs on the Island, 11 of which are in Greater Victoria.
“The power nations are Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland but Canada does fairly well internationally,” said Gowda.
“It is a popular sport in Victoria and on the Island. And not only for seniors. A lot of young Canadian players are coming up.”
Because B.C. is hosting, it is allowed two berths in both men’s and women’s competitions this week in the seniors triples with both the provincial gold- and silver-medallists playing in the nationals. One of the B.C. women’s teams is from Parksville and Qualicum Beach and skipped by Sandra Mitchell backed by Christine Fereday and Carol Bucyk. One of the B.C. men’s teams is from the Cowichan Lawn Bowling Club and skipped by Bill Ferguson with Gordon Brownbridge and Michael Schnarr.
“These are the best seniors from across Canada. All have played at the national level [in their primes] and the quality is very high,” said Team B.C. head coach Dave Mathie of Victoria, who coached Canada at the 2010 Delhi and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Lawn bowling is played in singles, doubles, triples and fours. The biggest difference from curling, of course, is that bowls is played outdoors on grass the equivalent of golf putting greens with elliptical balls and curling in arenas on ice with granite stones. Another difference is that in bowls the button is not painted stationary on the playing surface but is a white ball called a jack that is rolled and becomes a moving target.
“A lot of our members curl during the winter,” said Gowda, noting the general cross-over similarities between the sports.
The national seniors triples competition is returning after a two-year pandemic hiatus. The defending champions from 2019 in both men’s and women’s are Team Ontario.
This is the biggest lawn bowling competition on the Island since the open 2017 Canadian championships were held on the Commonwealth Games greens at Juan de Fuca.