Club members thrive in healthy competition
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By Oscar A. Hernandez
Special to The Advertiser
By Oscar A. Hernandez
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As a youth, Australia native John Gilbert often watched his relatives in lawn bowling games and "vowed to play when I had time."
His time came about eight years ago.
Gilbert, who is in his early 70s and a 16-year Honolulu resident, is a member of the Honolulu Lawn Bowls Club, which makes its home within the familiar stone walls at Ala Moana Beach Park.
The club, which consists of 18 retirees, bowls three days a week, including Saturday mornings for social mixed matches, and also holds tournaments during the year. In the winter, the club says it hosts approximately 800 to 1,000 visitors, and is always looking for new ó and younger ó members.
Gilbert said the game is a good way to remain in shape, particularly for older people.
"One does not need the fitness of a triathlon athlete, but one walks for at least two hours and stretches in delivering the 3-pound ball," Gilbert said. "The strategy requirements help keep the mind sharp and alert."
The object of the game is simple: Players roll "bowls" in a grass rink to try to get closest to another ball called a "jack" to score points for their team.
The documented roots of lawn bowling, also known as lawn bowls, go back to the late 1200s in Southampton, England. The sport found its way to Hawai'i in 1937.
The Honolulu Lawn Bowls Club maintains the City and County of Honolulu facility at Ala Moana and uses it for its meetings and games.
Hazel Redlack, 86, has bowled for 19 of the 24 years she has lived in Hawai'i.
"I love it because it provides me a chance to be outdoors getting some fresh air, and it's a fun, fun game," she said.
Redlack, who was bowling with a bruised hip, said her doctor said it would be good exercise.
She can be found on the green three days a week, for approximately two-hour sessions each day.
Harold Hu, 80, of Moanalua, was introduced to the sport by a friend about eight years ago.
"For me, the fitness and recreation benefits come from walking around a lot," Hu said.
He added that although the balls are not too heavy (approximately 3 1/2 pounds), the repetitive throwing makes for a moderate and consistent workout.
During an "end," which is similar to a frame in bowling, players are required to walk the length of the rink. The club typically goes 16 ends in a game.
"One walks a third of a mile in one game going from end to end (16 times) on the bowling green," said Dominick Petillo, 72, president of the Honolulu Lawn Bowls Club.
Despite the club's older membership, they welcome younger players to try the sport.
"I imagine doctors can only recommend (lawn bowling) especially as one ages, for one can play into one's 80s and some into the 90 years," Gilbert said. "Yet with the strategy and need for good eye-hand coordination it also appeals to young people."