Jack (an old boyfriend), backhand draw (something my dad laid on us if we talked back), grass (much ado about nothing) and touchers (dark movie theaters?). Not what you may be thinking — I’m talking the game of Lawn Bowls here.
You know that big green area in the West Village where a bunch of older folks hang around? Well, not all of them can be considered “older.” In fact, I decided to talk to the youngest member in the club, Rob Humphrey, to find out what might attract people to the game.
Having lived in Cambria since he was around 10 years old, he’d grown up seeing the artificial turf but not thought much about it. Until his regular recreational activity was not coming together one day and his curiosity pulled him elsewhere.
“Yeah, the waves were really lousy,” Humphrey said. “So I thought, what the heck — I think I’ll go check this out … and fell in love with the game!”
That was in 1998, and he’s been playing ever since.
Rob still surfs and waits tables at night, but at 45 years of age, he is the youngest regular member of the Cambria Lawn Bowls club (by the way, the difference between a “ball” and a “bowl” is that what they use is not completely round, which gives it the interesting spin you see when they play). He has also made it to a couple of U.S. Open Nationals. Yes, the world of Lawn Bowls is much more than just a pastime in a sleepy little coastal village!
“They’ve played Lawn Bowls for over 600 years, longer than golf,” he said. “In fact, in France, they outlawed the game because it was so popular it was taking away from archery practice!”
I don’t think that’s the case here, but it does allow the team (one of the smaller teams with 30-40 members) to travel and host visitors. They play Fresno, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. The Nationals Rob has attended are hosted across the country in various locations.
By the way, the iconic green patch on Main Street is reportedly the oldest artificial lawn bowl turf in the world, as most are real grass. Hmm, good thing, as it wouldn’t have held up well with this drought, eh? Yet, another Cambria distinction.
I asked Humphrey what kept a young buck like him in the game.
“It’s a game that’s open to anybody and everybody,” he answered. “You don’t have to be a jock or young or old or a certain body type. Everybody has a chance to do well and to certainly have fun.
“I also love the camaraderie. It’s a great group — not that it can’t get competitive. It can. It’s up to you as to how far you want to go with the sport: local and casual or serious and travel. I like the possibilities as well as just the challenge of the game. It’s fun!”
On that note, the club is always looking for more players and offers free lessons. Go anywhere near the place while they’re playing and they’ll smile and launch into the invitation: “We’d love to have you join us!” They’re so sweet.
- Cambria: The Cambria Lawn Bowls Club is one of 29 in the Southwest Division of Bowls USA. For more about the Cambria club, call 927-3364.
- Bowls USA: The 2015 U.S. Open of Lawn Bowls will be Sept. 26 to Oct. 3 in Los Angeles. The National Championships will be Oct. 20-25 in Long Beach. For more information about Bowls USA, visit www.bowlsusa.us.