They love their bowls in the Deep South.
There’s bowling clubs dotted throughout Southland … both in the towns and in the country. The ‘capital’ of Southland, Invercargill, sports 8 clubs : Waikiwi; Waihopai; Waverley; Northend; Te Rangi; Georgetown; Kew and Invercargill.
Include the outskirts of Invercargill, and you can add another three : Otatara; Bluff and Woodlands. That’s more than within the boundaries of Wellington City. Perhaps they like to talk more in Wellington and bowl more in Invercargill.
After the closure of the Southland Bowling Club a couple of years ago, the Invercargill Bowling Club is now the oldest club in the city … established in 1909 just south of the CBD. And despite the fact that the club’s catchment area these days is more itinerant, and the residents are not settled long enough to learn to love a bowling club, membership is still 45 and growing.
“We have a lot going for us,” says Club President Glenice Paisley. “We have one of the better greens in Invercargill, if not the best. It’s full size, 36 x 36. So for anyone wanting to play competitively, we have a great facility.”
And great competition at the club.
“When I came to the club 6 or 7 years ago, there were only 7 women here. It’s not only more than doubled since, but both our men and women are performing well at centre level. Our men (George Amos and Dave Clark) and our women (Pam Calder and myself) won the recent Southland Centre Champion of Champion Pairs.”
Pam and Glenice now have 53 Centre titles between them. “Pam has it in her blood,” Glenice laughs. “Her dad is still playing out of Mercury Bay Bowling Club at Whitianga in the Coromandel. He’s 99!”
“I would imagine that we’ll also have players at the Nationals in Alexandra next year as well … it’s a great opportunity for the club when it’s so close. The club’s never won a national title, but we did get a third in the Fours in the 1960’s (Les Spencer, Alan Weeds, Noel Munnings and Brian Weeds).”
However, it’s not all about serious competition at the Invercargill club.
“Every Thursday evening we have drinks at the club,” says Life Member and retired Greenkeeper, Lawry McIntosh. “We get a great turnout. I would like to say that almost every member comes if they’re able. The evenings carry on right throughout the winter even when we’re closed.”
“And although, we’re taken very seriously at centre competitions, it’s a couple of informal tournaments which we’re more renowned for.”
“’The Turkey’ is a Mixed Fours tournament held before Christmas every year,” he says. “Every player in the top 3 winning four takes home a turkey, and the fourth placed team players take home a consolation turkey roll. We raffle turkeys on the day as well. There’s always players waiting to fill in for any of the 64 who might drop out on the day.”
“Just as popular is the Speights 1200 Mixed Fours In March, Speights used to give us 4 kegs, but we now get just two. That’s still more than enough for everyone to get a free jug. It goes down a treat. Plus there’s a prize pool of $1200 on top of that.”
“We get people from around Invercargill coming back year after year for both tournaments.”
Most bowling clubs describe themselves as either ‘competitive’ or ‘social’ … with the predominance of members either enjoying more serious tournament play or a membership which prefers a roll-up with a bowl in one hand and a beer in the other. However, Invercargill seems to be both competitive and social.
They seem to have found a perfect formula at the club. And as a result, members are very happy with the way things are.
“We don’t have any particular development plans,” says Life Member, Morris Spencer. “Why would we go to the expense of putting down an artificial, when we’ve already got a great green. We’d only get a few more weeks of playing at either end of the season ….it’s still too cold and wet down here to play a lot outside in winter.”