The Bowls Napier greens are the scene this week of six consecutive days of regional eliminations under the ‘pathways’ concept. At time of writing, Manawatu has already had significant success. The top Men’s Interclub side from Northern and the ‘B Grade’ Women’s team from the same club both earned a spot in the National Interclub finals weekend to be held in Palmerston North later this month. A journey to the deep South awaits Pat Horgan’s Palmerston North Men’s Four who will try for a National Club title at the Dunedin indoor complex in June. Further aspirants for Dunedin will hopefully emerge as the week progresses. While congratulating our successful players, several background aspects of the competition are points of discussion. Firstly, our ‘pathways’ players will face major hurdles to surmount in their pursuit of national glory because match play on artificial indoor surfaces is not available locally. The Heretaunga complex in Hastings the only one that is not located far from the Manawatu. It’s also acknowledged that the region in which Manawatu competes is not one of New Zealand’s strongest, meaning that most of their opponents will have battled through a potentially tougher field to earn their place. The ‘pathways’ concept was designed to give all players the chance to play their way to a national title without the expense of attending the traditional Nationals held in the post-Christmas period. It’s not quite that simple though, with endless debate about the costs of this system and consequently the best dates and venues to use from an economical point of view. Long gone are the halcyon days when money was poured liberally into the sport by a certain cigarette company, whose representatives would even dispense their product cost- free around the greens during top competition! The status of the ultimate champions is also under debate. From the outset, winners have earned a full national title and a point towards a potential Gold Star, but Gary Lawson and others have championed the argument that ‘pathways’ titles should not be recognised equally with the traditional tournament ones. Putting all that aside, local bowlers will be right behind our representatives who, in the Horgan team’s case anyway, sneaked through on countback by the narrowest of margins. This is not uncommon where only four teams are involved in a cut-throat competition which almost requires a mathematician on the bank to keep up with the constantly changing match differentials that often make all the difference at the end.
There was also a need for accurate maths last week in the engine room of the Palmerston North club’s 30th Golden Oldies tournament. In this case though, Centre Secretary Vern Sixtus and his trusty laptop computer ensured that results were dealt with accurately and speedily. There was a suggestion at one point that a certain former national president who was officiating at the Terrace End greens may have made an error! A speedy return journey to headquarters to locate the relevant scorecard proved that the error in fact lay with the skips, who had signed a card showing the reverse of the correct result. This incident underlined the responsibility of the players to keep accurate records in an event where often only the finest of margins separate the competitors and thus can make the difference when it comes to the prize money. This tournament is the biggest run by a club in the country, proving that there must be several keys to its ongoing success. One is the distribution of prize money, which is well stratified, avoiding the temptation to put too much emphasis on a large purse for the ‘A’ Section. Levin’s Ian Mahoney played impressively to wrap up his second title in three years, this time with a radically altered team featuring the addition of two former Manawatu players in David Walker and ‘the Lizard’, a.k.a. Trevor Tuatara.