As one of Auckland’s most picturesque bowling clubs with views over its sands, estuary and adjacent golf fairways, Omaha Beach is again growing membership to healthy levels after crashing to just 20 and facing an untimely end three years ago.
And the upswing brings even more reason for a great quarter-century birthday celebration on April 21.
President Warwick Spicer says the dark days at Omaha began soon after he took over the top administrative role as the club’s 30-member base began to fade and many believed it would follow similar Rodney district clubs Point Wells and Wellsford into disaffiliation.
“However, an increase in the number of permanent residents – mostly young retirees – at Omaha has helped us rebuild to more than 50,” Warwick says. ”We expect membership growth to continue and 60 or 70 would be nice.
“Growth has also been encouraged by our members helping attract newcomers, we have held a series of roll-ups and bought 10 sets of bowls for $7000 so new players could experience the modern style of bowling – today’s bowlers are not into the higher levels of competition with games spread out over all day but are looking for faster, exciting games based around the T-20 format.
“It is notable that bowlers new to the sport these days are not necessarily interested in the customary tournaments - they want games reflecting the comparison we see in cricket between the purists’ five-day test and the excitement of the shorter game.
“This means a growing gap between the controlling bodies –in our case North Harbour –and the smaller clubs as the demand for a higher level of competition dwindles and appeal for costly affiliation fees wanes as smaller clubs become self-sufficient and lean toward a future as a sports and social club.
“It is a threat BNH is aware of and has taken some action to address, however the lesson is there with the once-doomed Point Wells club which now has more than 100 members as a sports and social club which also offers limited bowling activity.”
Omaha Beach BC is situated in its attractive surroundings with the golf club, tennis courts and a community centre which houses a sports bar.
Warwick began a 32-year media career with the Star Sun in Christchurch before becoming editor and general manager of the Auckland Star during the Eighties. He later founded large-format printing company Cactus Print Shops in Auckland and after three years expanded to Australia with Cactus Imaging which became market leader in billboard printing.
He established a similar company in Chennai, India, then sold all his printing interests on turning 70 in 2010 and in his first retirement years bought a Takapuna apartment and his beach house at Omaha – and learned to bowl at a Sydney club.
“I never had time for golf so decided to try bowls and found I liked the nature of the game while its pace and camaraderie appealed to me,” Warwick says. “Retirement can be a lonely place but at bowls you are with good friends. “
And Warwick became quite good at his new sport, winning an Omaha singles championship and representing his club in pairs, triples and fours tournaments.
And Omaha has more than just good looks – the club has won BNH championships and hosts two-weekly open matches which attract players from Orewa, Manly, Maharangi, Warkworth and Leigh while with around 50% of membership female, Omaha also stages a women’s tournament among several other major annual home events.