Most people in the bowling world will have heard of Katelyn Inch – bronze medal winner in the Fours at the World Bowls Championships in Christchurch in 2016, New Zealand representative at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018, and collector of numerous other bowling accolades.
What most will not know is that 23 year old Katelyn has a younger brother, Jacob, who at the age of 12 years old became the youngest participant in the recent Summerset National Pairs in Auckland, skipping his father Les.
Like his sister Katelyn and his dad Les, Jacob plays out of Oxford Club Bowls in the small town of Oxford (population 2,100) 50 kilometres northwest of Christchurch abutting the foothills of the Canterbury Plains.
School is at the Oxford Area School. And home is 10 minutes down the road at ‘Cloverfield’, a mixed dry stock and dairy grazing farm, where Jacob pulls his weight like any other kid brought up in the country. “Jacob loves tinkering with motors,” observes Les, “so he’s pretty handy to have around the place.”
Jacob, Katelyn and Les provide no better affirmation that if you ‘give an inch, they’ll take a mile’.
The Oxford Area School must be thrilled with the mile they have been able to take after ‘Inch’ Jacob and the school’s lawn bowls team cleaned up at the Koru Games (the South Island version of the AIMS games for Intermediate-aged kids) at Lincoln in September last year.
And Oxford Club Bowls must be thrilled with the mile they have been able to take, not only from producing ‘Inches’ Jacob and Katelyn, but the service that ‘Inch’ Les has given as vice-president and volunteer for the last 9 years.
But it’s not all bowls and jacks for Jacob.
“I love bowls,” says Jacob. “But my favourite sport is rugby.” Last year, Jacob played half back, and is hoping to swap to flanker in 2019. He may also swap to Christchurch Boys’ High School in the future, a school with a pedigree that is bound to nurture his rugby preference.
Boys’ High may also nurture his other sporting preferences – Jacob also plays cricket and basketball. Which makes you wonder how this young guy gets the time to play rugby, bowls, cricket, and basketball … as well as fix all the motors on his dad’s farm. At least bowlers can take comfort from the fact that these pastimes rank behind his love of bowls.
Just as well. There wouldn’t be too many 12 year olds that had skipped their dad in the national pairs over the years. And there wouldn’t be too many dads magnanimous enough to be skipped by their 12 year old son in the national pairs over the years.
“We came close in a few qualifying games,” reports Jacob, “but we cant say we had a win.”
“We’ve had a great time and we’ll be back,” says Les, “Maybe when the nationals are next in the south.”
Meantime, Jacob and Les have an eye on Australia. Inspired by the wonderful time that Katelyn is having playing out of the Broadbeach Club on the Gold Coast, both Jacob and Les are eager to join her for a bowling holiday in Australia.
That’s a holiday preference expressed a lot in bowling circles (but not so much in rugby circles!). And it may well be a holiday that’s enough to kick rugby from Jacob’s number one sporting spot.