Monday editor Kyle Slavin learns about lawn bowling from Davie Mathie at the Juan de Fuca Lawn Bowling Club.

PLAY with the PROS: Bowled over

Monday editor Kyle Slavin learns what it takes to be a world-class lawn bowler

While most people my age spend their summers outdoors engaged in highly physical sports like soccer and tennis, a laid-back game of bocce in the shade is my idea of a perfect summer activity.

So walking up to the 40-by-40 green at Juan de Fuca, I expect lawn bowling – which looks to be a formalized bocce match with a white-only dress code – to be a just-as-leisurely afternoon activity.

Sure, bowls could be leisurely and non-competitive, but not when you’re playing against someone as skilled as Davie Mathie, who coaches Team Canada.

I grab my bowls and quickly learn they aren’t spherical like normal balls. They’re about the size of a grapefruit but they’re shaped more like a solid, five-pound dinner roll. And one side is more convex than the other, meaning a bowl characteristically curves as its moving along the grass.

It doesn’t take much for Mathie to teach me the basics – a forehand and backhand throw, but it’s a demanding game of inches, and it’s clear that it takes a lot of finesse and practice to be consistently good.

My weakness is throwing weight. A lot of my bowls either end up three metres short of my target, or slamming into the back wall and stopping in the ditch. And when I do get the weight right, I wind up holding the bowl the wrong way, and it curves away into the neighbouring rink.

Eventually, as we keep playing, I start getting some lucky throws and proudly beat Mathie in a couple of ends.

“You did great. That was just an hour of work – think how good you’d be if you actually played,” he says.

Mathie is taking 10 bowlers to Scotland this month to compete at the Commonwealth Games. Either he’s super confident in his coaching abilities or he sees strong potential in me, when I ask how I’d fare on the pitch at Glasgow.

“If you gave me a week to work with you, you would do pretty good,” he tells me. “You’re not bad. You could pick it up pretty quick. It all depends on how you could handle yourself at the Commonwealth Games with thousands watching you.”

Alright, that part I know I couldn’t handle. But Mathie has convinced me to give up bocce – I’ve found my new summer sport of choice!


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