Spooky Brown: The Greenbuster at Kia Toa


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Kia Toa greenkeeper Spooky Brown leaves no patch untouched when it comes to his prestigious Timaru greens in South Canterbury.

Doug Brown is not sure how he came to be known as ‘Spooky’.

It was some time during his 50 years working in the casings and gut house at the Pareora Freezing Works – the big works south of Timaru. “I never went walkabout as the young kids at the works seem to do these days,” recalls Spooky. “which might’ve given rise to the name. But I think the guys found me hard to pin down. So I became ‘Spooky’.”

The honorific stuck. And these days, the name ‘Doug Brown’ has been very much lost in time, and the greenkeeper at Timaru’s Kia Toa Bowling Club has become known as simply ‘Spooky’.

And Spooky’s pretty happy with that. ‘Doug Brown’ is far too formal for someone as unpretentious as Spooky.

Spooky’s tasked with looking after the one mixed cotula/maniototo green at Kia Toa, as well as caring for the other artificial green. He’s largely self-taught, although prior to joining the club, he looked after the pitch for the Celtic Cricket Club in Timaru.

“I’ve always been into my sport,” says Spooky. “I played cricket for Celtic and rugby for Zingari. A mate dragged me along to Kia Toa in the late 90s, so I got into bowls.”

It was easy for Spooky to enjoy his new club. “I only lived 60 paces down the road,” he says. ”So it became pretty easy to enjoy the bowls. And with no driving required, easy to enjoy the ‘fellowship’. It also became easy for me to eventually become the greenkeeper. That happened 4 years ago.”
Spooky played a mean game of bowls. He won 4 centre titles in the early 2000s and with his brother Roger, won the Club Pairs. “I’ve had my moments competing,” he laughs.

But it’s greenkeeping where he made his mark.

“The grass green needs a lot of looking after,” he says, “There’s always something wanting to make you look bad: fungal diseases, cotula weevil, piranha weevil, you name it …. Things that can cause big brown patches in your green. I hate big brown patches!”

He’s also got to keep on good terms with the neighbours who can get ‘excited’ about the sprays he uses. “I take a lot of care,” says Spooky, “but you sometimes wonder if they hate sprays that much, why they’ve bought next door to a club that’s been here for over a hundred years.”

Spooky was around for the club’s centenary celebrations in 2007, but can’t recall too much about the big night. For the usual reasons. But he also ended up in hospital after tomfoolery with a mate went a little awry. “They were great celebrations,” he says, “We have a club that enjoys socialising … the socialising is as important as the bowls.”

It’s not surprising then that one of the key facilities at the club is an outdoor BBQ area. If the area could talk, it could no doubt recount a lot of stories from the banter that’s taken place within. And many of those tales would be about Spooky’s time at the works … as well as his in-between-season times as a builder’s labourer, railway worker, painter, shearer and more.

Spooky’s wife Lorraine, his two daughters and his 5 grandkids obviously know that that’s the way Spooky like to operate: work hard and play hard.

And even though Spooky’s now 70, it doesn’t look like much is going to change.

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-Rob Davis