Sunday, April 30, 2000

Lawn bowling club is eager to get rolling

'More social than golf, less strenuous than tennis'

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWTOWN — When Dr. Thomas Zuck, longtime director of the Hoxworth Blood Center, retired last year, he figured he'd spend most of his free time playing golf, bowling or tending to his lawn.

[photo] First-time lawn bowler Earl Balcom of Mason rolls while George Hoffman of Indianapolis (left), Sue Zuck of Anderson Township and Jerry Rushing of Terrace Park wait Saturday.
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        But lawn bowling?

        “It's certainly one way I never considered spending a Saturday,” said Dr. Zuck, with a smile.

        Nevertheless, he and his wife Susan were among several curious people who attended the Cincinnati Lawn Bowling Club's membership drive Saturday at the Little Miami Golf Center. The club, which had about 30 members last year, is trying to encourage more people, young and old, to join and learn about the game.

        “Lawn bowling is outdoor recreation activity at its best,” said Carolyn Caldwell, a longtime club member. “It's a game that's more social than golf and less strenuous than tennis, yet just as challenging.”

        The club gathers to play about four days a week — Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday — from May through November at the golf center. Membership fees are $50 per person or $75 per couple.

        Club President Hank Fremont, of Wyoming, said the club plays in a couple of tournaments each year, but “we try to keep this as a social event rather than a competitive event.”

        While the sport of lawn bowling, similar to Italian bocce, may be unknown to many in the Tristate, club members say it is a popular game overseas and dates back to the 10th Century Romans.

        “There is a story that Sir Francis Drake refused to interrupt his bowling on the green merely because the Spanish Armada was coming his way,” said Mrs. Caldwell.

        The object of lawn bowling is for two teams of two to eight players try to roll balls, called bowls, closest to the “jack,” a smaller ball near the middle of a field 120 feet square, called a rink. The rink can accommodate seven games at a time on 16-foot lanes, which are surrounded by gutters or “ditches” to avoid.

        The closest team to the jack wins a point for that round. Strategy often involves knocking the opponents' bowl out of the way.

        However there is a twist. The 4-pound ball each player rolls isn't round. It is oblong and weighted on one side so a player can curve a toss around other balls, either to the left or the right.

        “That's a particularly difficult thing for first-timers to get used to,” said Rich Christy, 59, a second-generation lawn bowler.

        Mr. Christy said he got interested in lawn bowling eight years ago after attending a few club events with his father Duane, who at 89 is the group's oldest member. Keeping the family tradition, Mr. Christy said, his son James, 33, has even joined the fold.

        While lawn bowling has been stereotyped as an old person's sport, club members maintain that is not accurate.

        “This is a game for all ages,” he said. “It's not about age and it's not about strength. It's a finesse game.”

        As for Dr. Zuck becoming a member?

        “It's looks like fun,” he said. “Now that I'm retired, I guess I'll have a lot of time to do some things I never thought about before.”

        The Cincinnati Lawn Bowling Club will continue accepting new members today from 2-5 p.m. at the Little Miami Golf Center. The club begins its regular operating hours May 1. Those hours are: Tuesdays, Thursday and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. Information: 321-7000.


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