Bowls round-up: Colin Westlake stands aside after 40 years at Winscombe
The man who knows every single blade of grass at the Winscombe Bowling Club is handing on the responsibility of looking after the green having clocked-up 40 years as greenkeeper.
Colin Westlake, who will be 79 in November, has been a member at Winscombe for almost 50 years, but, in 1963, started helping the club’s original greenkeeper Jack Nuttycombe, who looked after the hallowed turf for the first 50 years of the club’s distinguished history.
Now he has decided to take a rest, and to entrust the green, which is often described as the best in Somerset, to his assistant Lew Collier.
Westlake, who now lives in Banwell, learnt a lot from his mentor Nuttycombe, who used to cut the grass with a scythe, but went on to study the science of greencraft in detail and accumulated knowledge the hard way, by gaining experience year on year.
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“It must be some sort of record that the Winscombe club, which was founded in 1921, has had only two greenkeepers,” said Collier, who is looking forward to taking on the responsibility and is determined to maintain the high standards set by his old friend.
“It goes without saying that I hope that Colin will always be there for me if I need some advice or assistance,” Collier added.
Earning the respect of bowlers and greenkeepers everywhere, Westlake has occupied the role of official Green Adviser for Bowls England, travelling many miles in Somerset and throughout the South West over a couple of decades.
His work on Winscombe’s superb green was once very much a family affair, with his son Neil and wife Jill often helping out – but he has also looked after greens at Ashcombe, Frome Park, Prattens and Wyrral Park.
Over the years, the Winscombe green has been used by the Somerset Bowling Association as a venue for Middleton Cup trials – and has hosted Middleton Cup matches and regional finals for national competitions.
One of Westlake’s proudest moments came in 1990, when son Neil defeated Mark Bantock, who went on to became England team captain, in the final of the national under-25 singles championship.
Around ten years ago, Westlake asked for some help in looking after the Winscombe green, and was joined by Collier, who says he has learnt a lot, just by observing Westlake going about his duties.
“He taught me everything I know about greenkeeping,” said Collier. “Colin’s great knowledge makes him a master of his trade and made the Winscombe club the envy of many of our visitors from all over the country – and that makes us very proud.”
He added: “Winscombe Bowling Club would like to thank Colin for all the many hours of attention and hard work that he has given to their bowling green and wish him a long and happy retirement.”
Westlecot star Neil Smith, who is Wiltshire’s Middleton Cup team manager, may not have, as yet, gained the approval of the England selectors, but he is certainly a hard man to beat when it comes to singles play.
Recently, he won six matches in succession to take the Planetbowls.com Desborough Open singles title – and his success was all the more remarkable because he beat former world number one Greg Harlow in the final.
On his way to the final, Smith left Westlecot Open winner and runner-up Brian Lees and Mark Sykes trailing in his wake – and accounted for England international Andy Ware in the quarter-finals.
By the time he faced Harlow, Smith had yet to drop a set and he outclassed the City of Ely star 9-3 in the first set before Harlow predictably hit back to win the second 8-6 and it all depended on a best-of-three-ends tie-break.
Harlow fluked the first end, and looked on course to win the second, when Smith attacked the head and claimed the shot, leaving it all square again.
After Harlow killed the sudden death decider, he showed his class by putting up a long jack, and delivering a front toucher – but, once again, Smith brilliantly beat him to it, and took the match and the title 9-3, 6-8, 2-1.
“I’m absolutely overjoyed to finally win a tournament after so many close misses,” said Smith. “But to beat Greg in the final is the just icing on the cake.”
Britain’s flagship indoor event – the home international team series and British individual championships – gets underway in Stanley in County Durham on Friday.
It will take three days to decide who wins the women’s team title, while the next three days will be devoted to the individual championship, featuring the men’s and women’s champions at singles, pairs, triples and fours from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands.
The men’s international series, in which selected teams of 24 players per country do battle for the Hilton Trophy, is left until the last three days
It is hard to imagine a club in Bristol flying in a top player from Canada to help them win the Wessex League title – but that is exactly what happened in South Australia, where the Ascot Park club caused quite a stir when they signed up Kiwi Shannon McIlroy.
McIlroy, a 26-year-old Maori, who won a bronze medal in the world championships in Adelaide before Christmas, played six times for the Ascot Park – his host club – in the build-up to the world event and is therefore qualified to represent the club.
He will be flown in, all expenses paid, no doubt with a handsome fee on top, to bolster Ascot Park’s efforts to become the number one club in South Australia.
But the move has generated an uproar, with the wealthy Adelaide club being accused of using its money to buy success.
“There is a real sense that Ascot Park is trying to buy the premiership title – and that’s not what our sport should be about,” said a player from a rival club, who chose not to be identified. “And it’s not just sour grapes that they have money and we don’t.”
You cannot help feeling that Clevedon’s legendary David Bryant, a true blue amateur, who is universally regarded as the best bowler the world has ever seen, missed out somewhere along the line.
CLARRIE DUNBAR THROUGH TO FINAL
Clarrie Dunbar are through to the final of the Somerset County Men’s Double Rink competition after a 44-26 win over Taunton.
Having won the title last season, Clarrie faced Taunton for a place in the final and the chance of retaining the title.
In a match that was dominated by Clarrie from early on, they had a 13-shot advantage after ten ends, which increased to 15 shots after 15 ends and eventually ended with an 18-shot victory.
The win was built on a strong home performance on the rink skipped by Andy Colebrooke, who recorded a 20-shot win.
Although Keith Bailey’s away rink lost by two shots, they did their job of limiting the Taunton rink on their home green.
Clarrie now face either Clevedon or Yeovil in the final at Donyatt on March 23.
Results – At Clarrie (Clarrie names first): D Discombe, G Jones, S Wiltshire, A Colebrooke 30; H Scragg, D Ormesher, D Burch, S Barnard 10.
At Taunton (Clarrie names first): A Taylor, D Taylor, A Totterdell, K Bailey 14; A Affleck, D Buckingham, T Hembrow, B Southwood 16.
Clarrie lost out to a strong Clevedon side in the semi-final of the women’s double rink competition.
The game was close in the first half with Clevedon taking a three-shot advantage, but they then took the initiative in the second half to win by 18 shots – 51-33.
Results – At Clarrie (Clarrie names first): N Keefe, T King, M Hartley, J Hocking 17; S Branfield & team-mates 24.
At Clevedon (Clarrie names first): K Walker, A Midwinter, N Parfitt, W Ivory 16; M Dyer & team-mates 27.
Clarrie’s John Freeman secured a place in the final of the County Singles competition with a 21-12 win over Clevedon’s outdoor England international John Hick.
Freeman will play either; Paul Bryant (Bristol) or 2011 champion Andrew Owen (Weston St Andrews) in the final at Donyatt on March 23.
Having qualified from the Wessex League Central Region group stages, Clarrie now proceed to the knockout rounds and face Poole’s Dolphin club this Sunday.
Currently sitting second in the men’s County League Division One table, Clarrie are one of several clubs chasing the top spot, currently held by last years champions Yeovil.
In the fifth of six matches, Clarrie face their local rivals Purnell.
For more information about Clarrie Dunbar Indoor Bowling Club please visit the website at www.clarrie.co.uk, find us on facebook, call 01373 830092 or just pop in at the club in Standerwick, near Frome.
Somerset Outdoor Patrons got the better of the Somerset Indoor side in a match at Taunton Deane, taking victory by a margin of 128 shots to 114 despite each side winning on three rinks apiece.
County match at Taunton Deane: Somerset Outdoor Patrons bt Somerset Indoor 128-114 (Patrons first): M Beale 21, G Finch 19; M Talbot 32, C Mitchell 15; P Hanks 16, D Avery 19; D Hurst 22, J Capon 16; R Becker 18, R Scott 25; R Dezille 19, J Brown 20.