Over the past few weeks one of the powerhouse clubs of North Harbour, Browns Bay, has been celebrating its 75th anniversary and appropriately taking centre stage have been a number of tournaments.
An any-combination triples tournament was held worth $3000 in prize money was held in mid-November followed by a dinner-dance and the crowning glory was the annual ham-tournament planned for early December.
Life member Frank Lockey, who has master-minded this popular event, is aiming for a bumber entry of 64 teams requiring all four of Browns Bay greens. Also in early December Browns Bay will be the base for a revamped Ryder Cup-style Battle of the Bridge representative clash with Auckland.
Hosting major tournaments has been a speciality of Browns Bay which has become almost a tradition. In the 1980s the club hosted one of the Auckland region’s first professional tournaments, the Lions Masters in which some of the game’s legends like Nick Unkovich, Ivan Kostanich and Rowan Brassey were regular attenders.
Another life member, Doug Bishop, who like Lockey was heavily involved in their promotion, recalls about the same time club stalwarts Bill Latimer and Geoff Sorrell were in the forefront of starting junior one-to-five tournaments which are still thriving.
In the 1990s and into the early 2000s an Anniversary weekend pairs tournament had a high profile and more recently there has been the successful staging of Heartland Bank tournaments.
But the high point perhaps was Browns Bay, on behalf of the centre, hosting the national championships. The organisation headed by then members Tim Preston and Graham Dorreen was widely acclaimed and the championships were capped by another club member, Elaine McClintock, making the women’s singles final.
Though around since 1943, when affiliated to the Auckland centre, Bishop believes Browns Bay came into its own with the formation in the 1980s of Bowls North Harbour. Bowlers like Eric Simmonds, David Reid, Nick Separovich and, when he moved from Takapuna, Tony Marinkovich, became prominent. They have been followed in later years by the likes of Colin Rogan and John Walker, among others, and in the women’s ranks, again among others, by McClintock, Margaret Duke, Madeleine Holland, Anne Dorreen and Gail Dick.
Mainly for residential reasons, some of these players have moved on, but Browns Bay remains a formidable competitivee force, with the arrival in the past couple of years of Black Jack international Tony Grantham to help Brent Turner spearhead the men’s teams.
Current president Richard Talbot acknowledges that some of the North Harbour standard-bearer status Browns Bay has enjoyed for so long was now being shared a little with the fast growing Orewa. He agrees, too, that there have been challenges for the club, one being merging the interests of its 130-odd competitive bowlers with those of RSA social members who are now a major part of the organisation.
“We are now a club as such rather than just a bowling club,” he says. But any issues are now being worked through amicably and Talbot is confident that with 75 successful years behind it Browns Bay is now on the brink of another resurgence. The long-term outlook, he believes, is bright.
Browns Bay owns most of its complex and land and that is valued in multi-millions. Twelve new bowlers were recruited for the 2018-19 season, the club has an excellent catchment area with a number of nearby retirement villages and another lucrative enterprise has been a popular and well supported Business-house competition which will start in the New Year.