Sunnybrae Bowling Club was created in the late seventies after Glenfield members with only a single green for their 70-80 men and women players urgently needed expansion but without nearby space available they saw a new club as their only option for the overflow.
The piece of land acquired, 3kms down the road on a long-term lease from the then-North Shore council, was described as 'just a swamp' but it was a large one and adjacent to Thomas Park Golf Club. Current Sunnybrae President and its only still-playing foundation member Alf Jenkinson recalls around 600 golf balls being removed as the new greens were being installed.
Alf began his bowling career south of the bridge at Avondale while working as a lawn-mowing contractor - and moved to the North Shore in 1978, running a fruit and vege business and becoming involved in Sunnybrae’s evolution.
“Drainage remained a problem, with interference from the water table horrendous, but we had people who wanted a new club and their infectious determination carried the others through to make it happen,” he says. “We installed some very expensive drainage to overcome the problem and it has all been okay since then.”
Sunnybrae was officially opened in 1980 with 120 men and 110 women. It now has 42 men, 26 women and around 20 social members with two greens and a carpet laid in 1985. The original clubhouse was used for many years by an East Coast Bays gun club - before being carted cross-country to the bowling club. It was used for 12 years before being replaced by a large, modern building. The old clubhouse remains in use as a store-room.
Alf spent some early years on the committee but was time-limited by his business until recently – he is now in his second year as president after a term as senior veep.
“Sunnybrae has always been known as a very friendly club,” he says. “a place where members still gladly volunteer for maintenance and other jobs that need doing regularly, like trimming hedges, mowing green-surround and growing fruit and vegetables for members and visitors.
“But it seems fewer people want to play bowls these days. Their biggest issue is time – mostly for family and work – and drink-driving and finding new players had become very difficult, particularly for new and smaller clubs which are not getting them no matter how hard they try.
“Sunnybrae, though, is still on the right track. We have good greens, ample parking, the best facilities anywhere and we will be around for a long time.
“We have also become successful as an events venue and do a lot of corporate evenings, birthdays, wedding receptions, stag dos and anniversaries and we will do anything to attract them but mostly it is by word of mouth these days."
Alf sums up the sentiment at the club.
“I’m not a gun player, I just enjoy my bowls. It’s all about comradeship and good mates – and you can’t put a price on that.”