Arlene McGinn will promote lawn bowling to anyone who will listen. And it's not just because she's president of the White Rock Lawn Bowling Club.
Arlene continually sees the positive impact the sport has on its 200 members.
“We have a dozen members who are over 90,” she says from the club's entrance along a residential cul-de-sac of White Rock with a view of the sea.
Founded 25 years before the Vancouver suburb was incorporated, the club continues to thrive.
“Lawn bowling isn't aerobic, but you need flexibility to bend and stretch,” Arlene explains, as she walks around the green dotted with men and women in “whites.” Some of the players are rolling dark-coloured balls (called bowls) toward a much smaller red bowl called a jack.
This morning, the 70-plus crowd has the green.
“We would love to have more young people, but most of our members are seniors,” says Arlene.
Also a golfer, Arlene says lawn bowling is more affordable. “Two games of golf at our local course will cost you $150. That's the annual fee for membership in our club.” And since they installed an artificial green two years ago, members can now bowl year-round.
Arlene, who lives two and half blocks away, took up the sport when a friend sponsored her and she joined the club. That was several years ago and now, as president, she works with an executive board and 10 committees, ranging from coaching to entertainment. Volunteers run the club.
She points to one of the several male players on the green, “He's over 90 and walks to the club every day with his dog to practise.”
“Our club encourages both competitive and recreational bowling,” adds Arlene. The club also supports and accommodates members who are in a wheelchair (and have access to a mechanized “bowling arm”), the visually impaired (who can be aided by placing white lines on the green) and members with dementia.
Inside the clubhouse, Arlene introduces Marlene Cleutinx, a member who represents Canada at international competitions.
“I wish I started 10 years earlier,” says Marlene. “That's something you'll hear from lots of people who take up the sport.”
Despite its popularity within commonwealth countries, lawn bowling has yet to qualify as an Olympic sport. “Not enough countries play,” says Arlene.
Peggy Hansen has been lawn bowling since 1984.
“Last year, I bowled on Christmas Day,” says Peggy. “Before the artificial green, we would spend the winters playing bridge in the clubhouse.”
Peggy is part of the “over-90” set and lives in a house next door to the club. She joined with her husband in 1990 and, over the years, has been involved in “friendly” tournaments with the Mann Park Lawn Bowling Club (White Rock's only other club), as well as bowlers from Langley and Surrey. Peggy says her vision is no longer clear, but it hasn't stopped her from staying active.
A trophy case lines the wall along with photos of the club founders. Bulletin boards announce a wide range of activities.
Lawn bowling, it seems, requires the concentration and strategies of chess and has some of the features of curling.
“You have to roll the bowl as close to the jack as possible,” says Peggy. The bowls weigh more than three pounds and fit easily in the palm, but feel heavy.
Each asymmetrical bowl has its own bias, so the roll is always different. Added to this, the bowls roll much more quickly on artificial green than a natural lawn.
“It's not just a physical sport, but a mental game,” says Arlene.
This month will mark the club's 75th anniversary and celebratory festivities will abound.
For more information about The White Rock Lawn Bowling Club, 1079 Dolphin Street, call 604-536-2616 or visit the website at www.whiterocklawnbowlingclub.com
SEPTEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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