Terry Redhead learns all about bowls from a former world champion
Terry Redhead has always loved sport of all kinds. So there was no stopping him when the chance to have a master class in bowls with former world champion Greg Harlow at Potters Resort arose. Here’s what happened.
For someone who has adored, relished and thrived on sport for as long as I could catch a ball, meeting a former world champion is always a thrill.
To have a ‘master class’ with someone who has reached the pinnacle of their sport, is an even greater thrill.
So it was that I donned the trainers and stepped on to one of the numerous indoor bowls rinks at Potters Resort, in Hopton, between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, with Greg Harlow, its bowls ambassador.
I was a complete beginner but regarded myself as someone who could take instruction and was prepared to learn. Swiftly Greg went through the basics. Having sorted the correct weight and size of my woods, he gave me a tutorial in actually holding a wood properly, only raising an eyebrow when discovering that I was one of those ‘awkward’ left-handers.
“No problem, it just means I’ve got to do everything the wrong way round,” he laughed.
After explaining where to stand, in which direction to point my feet and how to deliver my wood as smoothly as possible, it was time to have a go.
Greg set the jack, the target, at around 23 metres, meaning that was a ‘short jack’ as it was possible to have it more than 30 metres away.
I followed my instructions to a tee. I concentrated so hard. The delivery was good and the forehand curled its way towards the jack and actually finished respectably close. Beginner’s luck.
When I switched to the backhand, it was equally respectable and I felt pleased to draw some words of appreciation from Greg, someone so respected in the sport.
“For a complete beginner, that was exceptional,” he decided, and I felt myself glowing with pride at the same time as wondering how I was going to maintain that initial standard.
Now I fared quite well until Greg decided we should try a longer jack, some 30 metres away.
“You have got woods within a
metre of the jack and for a starter that’s excellent,” said Greg. “In our events, being too strong or too short by as little as an inch can mean the difference between winning and losing,” he added, simply putting into perspective what top-level sportsmen had to achieve.
Any thoughts that I could actually play were quickly dispelled by a longer jack.
I struggled. Not because I couldn’t deliver a wood that far but because the further away the jack was, the more difficult it was to assume control.
I landed a couple of woods in the ‘ditch’ around the extremes of the ‘green’. “Well what do you expect from a Fen boy?” I joked. “We can’t keep out of ditches and dykes!”
Correcting the first shot was tough and after going at least three metres past the jack, inevitably the next delivery was short. For me, that was evidence to prove that I was a genuine beginner!
Finally, at the end of our master class, Greg suggested I tried ‘firing’. As he explained, if you are in a desperate position and have the final bowl, often the only option is to go directly at the jack with the aim of knocking it into the ditch.
Standing on the mat some 30 metres away, that little jack looked more than a mile in the distance.
After four attempts I actually hit it and, again, felt I had achieved all I could as a total novice, thanks to my expert coach.
The experience was terrific. I thoroughly enjoyed my lesson, delivered with incredible knowledge and perception, kindness and humour.
I’ll be cheering on Greg when I next get the chance to see him in action, hopefully in next season’s world championships at Potters Resort.
Let’s Talk co- editor Terry Redhead concentrates on his delivery after having some excellent tuition from former world champion Greg Harlow.
There are a vast array of bowls from which to select the ones most suitable for you.