By Tom Sproat
Consider the following: players, beginning from one end and aiming towards the opposite, utilizing precise estimations of weight, speed and distance as well as guidance and direction from their teammates, try to guide their shots into a scoring zone. Their efforts are best realized should their shot earn points or establish strategic positioning to prevent subsequent attempts by their opponents from scoring. Now imagine that one is played on ice with brooms and no small amount of shouting; another played on a grass lawn under watch of the sun. The former, obviously, is curling, a sport so intertwined with the notion of Canadian athletic identity that it perhaps ranks second only to ice hockey. The latter is lawn bowling, viewed by most as a curious hobby with an almost cult-like dedication to starched white clothing.
It is a disparity not lost on Larry McLellan, operator/caretaker of St. Marys lawn bowling and an avid enthusiast of the game for nearly 50 years. Established in 1889, the local club used to boast a standing membership of over seventy players, a number that is now down to around thirty and skewed heavily towards older players—not exactly a sustainable model. Larry is hoping to change some of that on May 21st with an open house from 1:30 – 3:30pm, an event he hopes will draw people in for free instructional lessons and history on the game. The opening coincides with several other events happening at The Flats, including a stop for the reality TV show ‘Amazing Race Canada’ who are including a lawn bowling challenge for this season’s competitors. With so much going on, Larry hopes he can funnel a bit of the excitement into his club and the registration of new members. “I love this game for the competition, for the comradery between players” he says fondly, an eye out the window and towards the bowling greens in front. “It’s a game for families, for children and grandchildren, but it’s also a game that can take you across the country if you commit some time and effort to it. I’ve been to all corners of Canada because of lawn bowling” (Larry is a provincial champion several times over and has played at national tournaments throughout Canada).
With his passion for the sport so evident in his voice, it’s hard not to be persuaded by McLellan’s pitch. He invites anyone interested to come and join him on the grass this Sunday, May 21st to see if they too don’t come away feeling even a little bit differently about the sport than they did before. Membership rates run from $30.00/month to $100.00 for the entire season.