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June 2015 from the Windsor Star

posted Jun 11, 2015, 3:09 PM by Sue Hessey   [ updated Jun 16, 2015, 6:36 AM ]

Ontario’s best lawn bowlers dispell the sport’s myths

Bob Duff,  Windsor Star

Asked how he’d to explain lawn bowling to someone who’d never seen the game, Don Caswell got right to the point.

“It’s like curling, but with less housekeeping,” Caswell said. “There’s no sweeping.”

There are plenty of myths about this sport, which to outsiders definitely resembles curling on grass, but anyone who ventured to the Windsor Lawn Bowling Club on the weekend to watch the Ontario fours championship would have quickly seen those notions dispelled.

Yes, lawn bowling is a game your grandparents might play, but – especially at this level – it isn’t an event to be viewed as merely a recreational opportunity for seniors.

“At one time, we used to be embarrassed about talking about that, but I think it’s a sport for life,” was how Caswell explained it. “You can play the game from the time you can hold a bowl until for some, well into their 90s, so there has to be some good stuff about it.”

But if you want to tangle with the best in the world at bowls, you’d best be young and hungry.
Christine Schuknecht, 18, competes in the Ontario Fours Championship at the Windsor Lawn Bowling Club, Saturday, June 6, 2015.

Caswell, who plays out of the Windsor club, served as Canada’s team manager at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland and witnessed the top bowlers on the planet in action.

Several of them were also seen on the greens at Windsor.

In the men’s competition, Chris Stadnyk and his younger brother Randy of Niagara Falls are both members of the Canadian national team. There was also a father-daughter national team combo in Steve and Kelly McKerihen of Toronto.

Darryl Fitzgerald of Kitchener and Kay Johns of Seaforth were other national team players competing.

“I’ve just turned 40 and to be honest with you, I’m getting to be one of the older persons on the international circuit,” said Chris Stadnyk, who has represented Canada three times at the Commonwealth Games.

“Although it’s a great sport for the seniors to play, it’s definitely a young person’s game.”

Hanover’s Ryan Bester, who won a silver medal for Canada in singles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and is considered one of the top five bowlers in the world, is 29.

“You look at the overall age bracket at the highest level and it’s a relatively young group,” said Kelly McKerihen, 29, another 2014 Canadian Commonwealth Games player. In April, she represented Canada at the World Cup in Australia.

“At the highest level, yes, they are young players,” Caswell said. “They’re under 50 and a lot are under 30.”

Much like curling, there’s been a stronger emphasis on fitness in recent years. Bowls Canada employs a high performance coach and a sports psychologist.

“The whole thing about our game has changed,” Caswell said. “You see that in curling. Now they’re slim and trim and fit.

“Bowling has become that as well across the world.”

Caswell also draws parallels between golf and lawn bowling, describing them as easy games to learn but more challenging games to master.

To play either at the highest level requires plenty of time and commitment to go with natural ability.

“That’s the great thing about this game,” Stadnyk said. “You can play at the club level and have a great time, or at the other end of the spectrum you can play internationally and travel the world.”

If you just want a relaxing way to socialize and spend some time outdoors, lawn bowling is for you.

But if you’re the competitive sort interested in seeing how far you can go, that aspect is also available.

It can be your grandparents’ game, but lawn bowling isn’t a game just for them.