FREE PRESS FOCUS: Our man Paul Goodwin gets bowled over!

Paul Goodwin tries his hand at Bowling. Picture: Marie Caley D2862MC

Paul Goodwin tries his hand at Bowling. Picture: Marie Caley D2862MC

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AS far as my own embarrassing sporting moments are concerned, this was way up with the best of them.

After watching enviously as seasoned bowler Harry Guttridge rolled his first wood effortlessly up to the Jack, the assembled crowd at Doncaster Indoor Bowling Club looked on with interest.

Harry Guttridge, manager at Doncaster Indoor Bowling club pictured with members. Picture: Marie Caley D2861MC

Harry Guttridge, manager at Doncaster Indoor Bowling club pictured with members. Picture: Marie Caley D2861MC

So up I stepped. Not exactly trembling with fear, but keen to make a good impression on Harry, the club manager.

And so I sent down my first bowl.

Too heavy.

But not only that, it veered off in completely the wrong direction!

Now I knew there would be a certain competitive element at the Hexthorpe-based bowls centre - home to more than 300 members from across South Yorkshire and beyond - but I wasn’t bargaining for what followed.

“The sticker’s on the wrong side of that bowl,” said Harry. “You’ve held it the wrong way.”

“You’ve stitched me up right good and proper,” I replied.

Harry just laughed.

My complete incompetence, of course, had nothing to do with Harry.

It acted as an ice-breaker though, as I immediately felt at home and welcome at the biggest indoor bowls centre within a 17-mile radius.

And Harry, 72, was quick to inform me about both the social - and serious - side to life at the club, which this month celebrated its tenth anniversary.

“There’s a competitive element,” he said.

“We’ve basically got three types of players that come here.

“We’ve got seven or eight really top bowlers - scratch handicap players as we call them.

“They’ll play alongside the general members of the club.

“And then you’ve got your beginners, and a lot of the beginners are moving up the ranks - that’s where the competitive element comes in.

“You’ll find most of our members all laughing and joking with each other when they’re not on the green.

“But when you stand on the yellow mat out on the carpet, you are my enemy!

“Some people want to just come here and pass a bit of time. That’s fine,” added Harry, of nearby Balby.

“They’re the people that come every week, rain or shine, and support the club.

“Without them we’re in trouble.

“But when we get a county match on in here there’s a totally different atmosphere.

“So we’ve got a social and competitive side to things, but for me it’s just a great feeling being here and knowing that people are enjoying themselves.”

Doncaster Indoor Bowling Club, built in 2001 as a replacement for the former indoor bowls facility at the Dome, celebrated its tenth birthday with a party earlier this month.

In that time the club has gone from strength to strength.

“We’ve got about 300 members but a lot more who come and bowl casually,” said Harry.

“We’re a vibrant club and we’ve introduced quite a few things outside of bowling, like line dancing and country and western nights.

“But on the bowling side we’re doing quite well too. We have a few people playing for Yorkshire.

“At one time Doncaster had 1,300 crown green [outdoors] bowlers but that’s diminshed to around 900 now,” he added.

“That’s mainly down to age.

“The majority of those will come here during the winter to keep their eye in.

“We don’t have a lot of youngsters coming through and that’s something were keen to change.

“But the the centre is thirty per cent active in the summer, and in the winter we’re one hundred per cent active - so we’re looking forward to a busy few months ahead.”

*For more information about Doncaster Indoor Bowling Club, which has a licensed bar and also serves food, ring 01302 361600.