There’s not many people who haven’t heard of Phil Skoglund. The only question is …. which Phil Skoglund?
After all, there’s Phil Skoglund the politician born in Greymouth in 1899, who represented the electorate of Palmerston North from 1954 to 1960, and became Minister of Education in the Second Labour Government from 1957 to 1960. Phil was a bowler, but when the lawns bowls skills were being handed out, it was his brother Pete who grabbed the lions’ share, and amongst other things won a bronze in the Fours at the British Empire Games in Auckland in 1954.
And then there’s Phil Skoglund the transport company manager born in Palmerston North in 1937, who when it came to lawn bowls, has been there, done that. Youngest ever National Champion at the age of 20. New Zealand representative in 5 World Championships (1966,1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988) winning a gold, two silvers and three bronzes. New Zealand representative in 5 Commonwealth Games (1970, 1974, 1978, 1982 and 1990) winning a silver and two bronzes. National Singles Champion in 1958, 1966, 1970, 1971 and 1972. Queen’s Birthday Honours recipient in 1988 (OBE). New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 1990. Inaugural inductee in the Bowls New Zealand Hall of Fame in 2013. And more …
And then there’s Phil Skoglund the Detective Senior Sergeant born in Wellington in 1963, who has spent 32 years catching baddies, as well as making a nuisance of himself on the bowling green. New Zealand representative in the World Championships in 1992. Commonwealth Games representative in 1994. National Pairs Champion in 1999. Bridesmaid in the National Singles, Pairs and Fours. And this year in 2019, recently appointed the Convenor of National Selectors along with Peter Belliss and Marlene Castle.
Funnily enough, they’re all related. Phil Skoglund is Phil Skoglund’s dad and Phil Skoglund’s granddad. And the Skoglunds, of the Phil type as well as other versions like Pete and Raymond, have made Palmerston North (and in particular the Northern Bowling Club) a legendary centre of bowls.
But with his appointment as Convenor of National Selectors, it is ‘young’ Phil (he’s only 55!) who has grabbed the bowling world’s attention. And it is young Phil who oversaw the recent selection of the New Zealand Development Squad to much favourable comment … a squad that has seen the likes of the precisionist Gary Lawson and the free-spirited Selina Goddard back in the fold.
“Our job is to pick the best team to represent New Zealand,” observes Skoglund, “We have fabulous bowlers in this country, and we’re looking for those who we believe can lift the team to compete against very tough international pressure.”
Skoglund has a bit of an insight into what that means. “Dad was a very talented bowler,” says young Phil, “but I’ve always had to work at it. I had a little bit of talent and a little bit of luck, but some success mainly came because I sacrificed non-bowling life for time spent practicing on the green.”
That became more difficult as Skoglund rose in the ranks of the CIB … criminals have no respect for time off for bowls. And these days, he has had to accept that time poverty means that he can no longer play enough bowls to be better than a bowls journeyman. But a hellova journeyman!
Skoglund’s enthusiasm waned for bowls when his dad passed away in 2015. “But I started playing out of Eastbourne,” says Skoglund, “and it’s been a breath of fresh air, reinvigorating my own personal game. I’m having a lot of fun, without the stress of top level competition.”
And why not. Although Skoglund is only 55, he already has a life-time of competition bowls under his belt … following his dad around the tournaments with his granddad from when he was 8 years old … using his dad’s bowls while the latter popped into the club with his granddad for a beer …. Joining the Northern Club when he was just 13. Skoglund has been around bowls a long time.
The Skoglund family has been the fear of the bowls circuit. With his dad and his brother Raymond, they would front at invitational triples. There wouldn’t be many bowlers around the country who picked up a Skoglund scalp. But if they did, they’re probably still boasting about it now – and embellishing the story more and more!
Now there’s a new generation of Skoglunds. Not another Phil. But children Ryan, Hannah and Connor … as well as three grandkids under 5 on the Gold Coast. They’re not bowlers like their parents, grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents … but you never know.
One day there could be another one of those pesky Skoglund opponents introducing themselves to you at the Nationals. And you’ll be able to recount to your friends and family how you once played against a bowling dynasty.
- Rob Davis