2023 National Championships - Stage One Stars: District 32

Bowls Scotland’s biggest annual event is set to see thousands of bowlers and spectators return to Northfield this month, but the planning and preparation for the National Championships starts long before July. Our dedicated team of volunteer District Co-ordinators (DCs) and District Youth Co-ordinators (DYCs) play a crucial role in organising and delivering stage one of the event across Scotland. We spoke to Alex Higgins and David Kelly, DYC and DC respectively, for District 32 about their involvement in the build up to this years’ event.

This year for the first time in District 32, the District Finals were combined for both the male and female competitions. This change not only reflects a more modern and inclusive attitude to bowling, but proved a success as it drew in a good crowd. We asked David why the decision was made to combine these events…

“So, this was my first year, I was appointed Gent’s DC just before Christmas 2022, but unfortunately no one came forward to take on the Ladies DC role. I agreed that if nobody came forward, I would do both roles as I’d be putting out the ties anyway, so I now cover both Gents and Ladies roles for the District. Last year I’d been to watch the Ladies District Finals and it wasn’t very well attended despite being such a big achievement for the players. So, to try and improve the sense of occasion, this year I approached my own club, Stranraer BC, as we’ve a good green and a big clubhouse and I got the committees approval to host two finals nights at the club. I then approached some of the Ladies involved and asked them for their thoughts and feedback of playing at a combined final, with the draw of a bigger crowd they were more than happy with this idea.

“It was a great success from a bowling point of view and also a spectator’s point of view, there was a decent crowd watching and the feedback received was really good. That’s hopefully something I’ll take forward for the next few years while I’m Co-ordinator, and hopefully grow it too. My daughter Lucy helped me presenting the medals which was great fun for her too.

“District 32 has a rich history of fantastic women’s players but, same as everywhere, we’re not getting the younger generation through as much, particularly with females, I thought that by making the finals more inclusive it might promote it a bit more. Certainly, at my club we’ve managed to recruit a few new female members so I’m hoping we will have more finals played next year. I’ll continue to speak to folk throughout the season and try to grow and improve the way these events are held. To anybody interested in bowling anywhere in District 32, they can get in touch with me, and I will be more than happy to point them in the direction of a local club and support them into our sport.”

District 32 will be well represented at Northfield with entries in youth, para and mainstream disciplines. Alex noted that there will be a real family-feel to many of the male entries as three sets of father and sons have qualified this year from the District!

“Declan and Brian Tait from Wigtown BC will play in the Youth Pairs, Junior Singles and Singles, joined by Uncle, Rab Bark who qualified in the Pairs. David and John Arnott of Stranraer BC will play in the Gents Fours and Mixed Pairs respectively. In the triples the team from West End BC is made up of Adam and Alan Carnie, who play alongside their uncle/brother Kenny. And finally, David and his brother Michael Kelly will also represent Stranraer BC in the Fours.”

David added:

“A huge congratulations to everybody for getting to this stage, it’s a great achievement and all the best at Northfield. It’s just five more games to hopefully secure a Scottish title! I must mention Rebecca McCutcheon who has qualified again for Northfield, she first played at Ayr aged just 9 years old in the Junior Singles in 2018, I think one of the youngest ever competitors at the time. Best of luck to everyone, Alex and Myself will be supporting you all the way.”

David and Alex will be at Northfield for the National Championships both to support their local clubs but also to compete in the Gent’s Fours. David explained to us how he managed his volunteer role alongside playing:

“We have very few greens around here, so the most important thing for me as DC was ensuring ties were held at suitable venues across the District to ensure fair conditions for everyone taking part, this meant as a player there was quite a lot of travel involved so updating scores and results so on often happened late into the night. I tried to streamline things as best I could and used a WhatsApp group with the Club Secretaries to get score cards sent in so I could collate results quickly. Using the technology worked really well for me to update things either on the night or the next morning, sharing updates quickly. The Facebook page as a platform also works really well for sharing information and news.”

Bowls Scotland would like to take this opportunity to thank Alex, David and all the DCs and DYCs across Scotland who have assisted with the successful running of stage one of the Championships. We look forward to welcoming all of the qualifiers from District 32 along to Northfield later in the month.

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