This weekend I had fun playing old friends and meeting new friends. I got to thinking about grampa Sayer when I saw a feather on the ground and knew if I put it in my hat I would see his smile up in the clouds. I told stories of playing with my grandmother as a kid, my dad and, as always, with my brother.
It was great to be on the green. It was great being lost in play.
But it was challenging. COVID-19 makes everything more challenging. On top of COVID, I don't play often so that I'm as keen as I could be, my partner, Veronica Sum, had torn her Achilles tendon a couple months ago, it was a recipe for failure.
But...... well a little more of the story first.
Veronica didn't intend on playing. Neither had I really, though we both chatted about it months ago. With her injury I hadn't given it another thought. When I heard she was going to attend the event anyway to watch her mom, I sent her a quick message - "Hey, are you able to at least chuck the bowls up the other end?"
She replied she thinks she could. We then said we should still sign up and play then. It was at Frick Park in Pittsburgh.
So there we met on Monday to start the two-day COVID-19-restrictions-in-place Northeast Division Open doubles tournament. Masks and all. Social distancing and no sharing of equipment. No handshakes or high-fives. Just bowls as best we can during a time we feel lucky to be able to just leave the house, never mind play. Our division and Frick Park LBC were smart enough to develop the rules we needed to ensure as safe an environment as possible for play.
So we did.
It was grueling, but we played.
Veronica, who lives in New Jersey used a kneeling scooter to get around and to bowl from. The tournament directors kept it so we were on the end rinks the entire time to ensure minimal damage to the green or rutting from the tires. She would sit on the little kneeling seat and deliver her bowls.
She bowled terrific.
We joked that maybe even after her ankle heels she should still use the cart. We actually wondered if we should all get one. We laughed a lot about all of this. Because we just kept winning.
Our first two games we just clicked and ended up winning them by wide margins, though both games were better than the score showed. The third game was a real challenge. Our opponents were just playing very well especial Tony DeCarolis who was the skip, or teams captain. It came down to my last bowl and i needed to make the shot to win. I said jokingly before I delivered it, "This is why I get the big bucks."
Thankfully I did it. No big bucks.
Day two we just rolled again in the first game even though it rained and was so muggy I could barely see through my fogged up glasses most of the time.
But we were able to play!
I want to emphasize this, we were very lucky to be able to play during this very difficult time.
So a little fog - who cares. Suck it up buttercup!
Our last game was quite a challenge and we where struggling from behind. We caught up near the end. We had only a couple ends to go in a very tight game and unfortunately our opponent's back gave out on her and she was in a great deal of pain requiring a substitute in the last end. We ended up prevailing and were the only undefeated team.
For those of you who do not know what lawn bowls is - here is a brief description. It is not Bocce, though it is closer to bocce than say football. It is a moveable target sport played on a flat, usually grass, surface with balls that curve. The object of the game is to have the closest ball to the target than your opponent. And you can can score multiples if you get more than one closer than your opponents closest. The playing surfaces is roughly 15 feet wide by 120 feet long and there is a ditch and something called a hogline that I won't describe to see how many of you look it up.
This game has a rich centuries old history with tales of Sir. Francis Drake not willing to deal with the Spanish Armada until he finished his game of bowls, to the sport being banned in Enland for awhile because too many people were playing it rather than honing their archery skills, to the famed Walt Disney deciding that bowls was his relaxation between running the Disney empire. It is a great old game that is unfortunately not played by too many in the states. It is growing in population in Australia and New Zealand and is holding steady in Scotland and England.
Here in the states we have in the neighborhood of a hundred clubs with the most active clubs being in Southern California or in retirement communities in Florida and Arizona. Here in the Northeast we have about a dozen clubs from Connecticut to Virginia and out to Pittsburgh. Frick Park LBC in Pittsburgh is one of the largest clubs in the division.
I have played since I was 12 and am a third generation in four generations who play this game. I was a partner with my grandfather when I was younger and for that alone, I owe this sport everything.