Ken Gash : Still galloping through life

November 3, 2022

Ken Gash is coming up to his 88th birthday.

For many bowlers, particularly those in Auckland, it’s surprising that it’s only his 88th birthday … Ken seems to have been around the bowling greens forever. And he has.

“I can only ever remember dad playing bowls,” laughs son Neil Gash. “Bowls has been his life. He was one of those dads who worked hard all week, then played bowls on Saturday. And Sunday.”

“He lived and breathed bowls. And I only say ‘did’, because he’s been unable to play the last 18 months because like many men his age and younger, his prostate has gone AWOL on him. And mum’s been shepherding him through treatment.”

“He’s good. But he uses a frame to walk now. Which will be completely different to the Ken Gash people will remember on the green,”

Ken was renowned for his driving … at a time when driving was popularly used by bowlers to solve problems on the head. “He was great on the drive,” says fellow bowls legend and bowls contemporary Peter Belliss. “He was a fierce competitor,”

But it wasn’t just Ken’s deadly driving that revved up the commentators … Ken perfected the art of the follow-through. Sometimes galloping down the green after the speeding missile Or stealthfully stalking the bowl homing in on the head. Or not-so-stealthfully performing an aerial alley-oop as his bowl did what Ken so unerringly intended it to do.

It was the sort of stuff that could raise a lot of tuts-tuts from traditionalists and greenkeepers.

But boy, he was good. In both the indoor and outdoor games.

Last year, Ken earned his 15th Auckland Indoor Centre title bar with a win in the Men’s Fours. It’s astounding to think that his first Auckland Centre title was waaaaaaaayyyy back in 1980 when Dove-Myer Robinson was the Mayor of Auckland, Rob Muldoon was the Prime Minister and Keith Holyoake was the Governor-General.

“Dad was also a Life Member of the Centre (2001), and Player of the Year twice (1986 and 1997),” says Neil. “But he also excelled at the outdoor game.”

“He’s a gold star winner in the Auckland Centre, and he was Bowler of the Year in 1986.”

“He’s also been President, Greenkeeper, Life Member and more at the only outdoor bowling club he has ever belonged to : Oratia in West Auckland.”

But it’s not just the bowls that define Ken Gash. He’s regarded as a wonderful person as well.

“People know him as ‘Cagey’” explains Neil. “The nickname arose from his first names and the modest trucking company he founded and owned : K G Gash Transport. But it also indicated his cagey and wily nature and sense of humour.”

“And it stuck. We even gave him a personalised number plate CAGEY.”

“Ken’s an amazing man,” adds another of his contemporaries Gary Lawson. “I came up against him a number of times in the early days playing indoor. He’s a real nice guy.”

And his niceness seems to have rubbed off on his three kids : a daughter in New Plymouth, a son in Fairlie, and Neil in Auckland … who is CFO of the disrupting cereal company Blue Frog Breakfast by day, and indoor bowls superman by night (maybe days as well!)

“Like his dad, Neil’s a top indoor player,” says Bowls New Zealand Coaching & Communications Officer, Alex Reed. “And a neat guy as well.”

Looks like there’s going to be a Gash dynasty in Auckland for a long time to come!

Check out Ken playing outdoor, below: