The Santa Monica Lawn Bowls Club hosted clubs from Holmby Park, Beverly Hills and Hermosa Beach on Sunday, July 1, in an all-day tournament sponsored by Fidelity Investments on the bowling green at Douglas Park on Wilshire Boulevard at 25th Street. 48 bowlers formed 16 teams to compete for $1,000 in total prize money put up by Fidelity for the first four three-player teams among the competitors – men and women of various ages – at the Westside event.
The sport generally known as lawn bowling – more properly called bowls, lawn bowls or bowling on the green, according to the American Lawn Bowls Association – is of ancient origin, having been traced to Egypt (suspected bowls dated to 5200 B.C.), England (first club in 1299) and Polynesia (Captain Cook found the game in the Sandwich Islands in 1788). The Association reports, “The two oldest British sports are archery and bowls,” and statutes were passed in the 14th century restricting or prohibiting bowls because its increasing popularity led to “fear by King and Parliament that the practice of archery was being neglected” so as to compromise England’s military preparedness.
At the Douglas Park event, bowler Max Wurwand, who was sitting out the tournament with a bad hip, explained that the modern game could be played in singles (one on one), pairs, trips (as in triples) or rinks (teams of four). Under any format, one player first rolls the jack toward the opposite end of the rink – the jack being the small white ball that will serve as the target, and the rink being the lane of the green on which a particular game, or match, is played.
Each player then attempts to roll his bowl as close to the jack as possible – the bowl being the not-quite-symmetrical spheroid that curves in its path as it slows down. The team with the bowl closest to the jack scores a point and then scores another point for each of its remaining bowls that are closer to the jack than any bowl of the other team. The number of bowls per player varies with the number of players per team. (And there are, of course, strategies involving knocking an opponent’s bowls away from the jack.)
As one might imagine, the sport has developed a vocabulary of its own (“narrow bias,” for example, refers to a relatively straight bowl, while “full bias” refers to a sweeping curve) which has led to its own peculiar expressions, such as a bowl that is “narrow as a boarding house kipper,” as bowler Julian Katz of Hermosa Beach remarked.
And if the origins of the sport seem to be worldwide, so is its present appeal. Louise Peralta of the Santa Monica club said that a recent survey of that club’s members showed that they claimed 17 countries of origin.
Raymond Spiro, president of the Santa Monica club, announced that top prize money ($400) on July 1 went to the first place trips team of Phil Dunn, Noreen Wilke and Richard Parkhurst of the Santa Monica Lawn Bowls Club.