After a long hard winter we are finally gearing up for a new Lawn Bowls season, so its time to put away the surfboards. Here is the 2019 schedule. Entry forms will be found by clicking the individual event.
Bob Schneider and Anna Witt did the Central Division proud over the winter in international tournaments. Bob Schneider played in the World Championship Singles in March in Warilla Australia. This event was played on an extremely fast artificial surface, something we in the US do not often encounter. In the qualifying round, Bob had several wins to finish in the middle of his flight. missing out on the finals. One of his losses was in an epic battle against the overall Silver Medal winner. Set one of their game ended in a tie. but in set two, Bob came up a couple of shots short. Nevertheless, he had a great experience and did a fine job representing the USA.
Anna Witt, pictured at the top right, played Vice Skip for team USA at Tiger Bowls in China. Due to bad weather, the tournament organizer was forced to change the normal fours format and set up three separate events. The games were played at a number of different venues, sometimes changing from outdoors to indoors making it difficult to maintain any consistency. The teams in each event were divided into two flights with playoffs for the top two in each flight. Team USA struggled on the artificial carpets and didn’t make the finals in events one and three. Event two was a different story, as Anna describes in here own words:
“Tournament 2 (One Belt One Road Zhuhai) was in Hong Kong and Zhuhai. The women were now 10 teams and again split into 2 pools. We played round robin within our pool We played outdoors on the grass at one of the previously closed clubs in Hong Kong and dominated on day #1. We then traveled to Zhuhai, where the green is a 2-rink indoor carpet on the top floor of a hotel. All teams played the last game of the round robin at Zhuhai. Again, the top 2 teams in each pool advanced, which included us this time. We lost to South Africa in the semifinals.”
Well done ladies.
Joe Zinna was recently recognized for his outstanding lawn bowls career by being elected to the US Bowls Hall of Fame. Joe has been a force in Central and national tournaments for almost forty years. He has won many division championships and has appeared in multiple National Championships where he has won gold three times. He also represented the US in four North American Challenges and skipped for Team USA in the Atlantic Games in Scotland.
Joe’s other contributions to the game of bowls include two terms as the Central Division president along with a stint as the division head umpire. He was also the president, vice president, and treasurer of the Rockford Lawnbowling Club. Currently he is serving as a selector for Team USA. Even though Joe has significantly cut back on his playing time over the last several years, if you meet him on the greens today do not anticipate having a happy time of it.
Gil Stephan, Central Division Great Passes Away
Gil Stephan started bowls in 1970 in Milwaukee and went on to win many Central Division tournaments as well as to have a major impact on the national and international scene. He was a long time co-chairman of the North American Challenge. He also ran many tournaments in the Central Division and at the Milwaukee Lake Park club. The Otto Hess tournaments he ran way back when they still consisted of 16 triples teams were legendary for their organization and their amenities. Gil will be missed by his many friends.
Here is the biography from his Lawn Bowls Hall of Fame entry:
R. GIL STEPHAN Jr. -Sun City (AZ) -2003 Nicknamed “Gillie” by his closest friends, Gil Stephan began his lawn bowling experience in April of 1970 as a member of the Milwaukee Lake Park LBC. After moving to Arizona he was a South-Central Division Councilor to the American Lawn Bowls Association from 1990 to 1996. Gil was the President of the ALBA in 1997 and 1998 and the President of the South-Central Division in 1999 and 2000. Again on the national scene, Gil chaired the National Open Tournament in 1993 and 1998; was National Tournament Director for eight years; a national umpire for over 16 years; and Chairman of the National Open Senior Tournament in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Gil has won more major tournaments than can be mentioned here. However, he is probably best known for his leadership as Team USA Manager. In 1995 and again in 1999 at the Asia Pacific Games and as Team USA Manager, Gil guided the team to finish high enough to qualify for the World Bowls Tournaments in 1996 and 2000. He was also the Team USA Manager at World Bowls in 2000 which led to team qualification for World Bowls 2004 .
After his move to Arizona, Gil returned to Wisconsin every summer and continued his contributions to the Milwaukee club, where he was more than happy to pass his knowledge on to younger bowlers.
The 2018 Nationals were uncharacteristically unproductive for the Central Division representatives. It started even before the tournament started with pairs skip Rob Behncke losing his balance while jumping from post to post on the beach and breaking his ankle only two days before the start of the event. Normally the second place team would then be the entrant. However, with such short notice, only Leif Andresen from the second place finishers was able to fill in. Leif arrived in Florida about 9PM before the start of games the next day to play with Jim Cavender. Despite Leif’s lack of practice, Jim & Leif were very competitive, highlighted by games against two of the teams which tied for first place that were determined by the last bowl. Also, the scurrilous accusations that Leif was somehow responsible for Rob’s broken ankle have no basis in fact. Rob’s brother has video proof. Rob was married a week after the tournament. Despite being hobbled by crutches, he managed to do a stand up job of it.
In the Men’s Singles, Bob Schneider was on track to finish in second place. He was ahead in the last end of his final game when his opponent trailed the jack in the ditch on his last bowl causing Bob to finish in fourth place. Anna Witt and Rebecca Nguyen were also very competitive but finished back in the pack. Jim, Leif, Anna, Rebecca, and Bob are all former National Champions, so I’m sure that better days are ahead as well as behind.
The best news from this event was the win of Steve Nelson in the Men’s Pairs. Steve is two or three years removed from the Central Division, but he is still one of us. Way to go Steve.
Two Guys From Milwaukee, (no, not Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson…sorry, got stuck in the Way Back Machine there for a second), but rather Bob Schneider and Rob Behncke, were a large factor in the USA’s first ever victory over Canada in the North American Challenge. This international competition between the US and Canada was founded by long time Central Division, Milwaukee Lake Park, and Hall of Fame member R. Gil Stephan.
Bob and Rob did a stalwart job in the pairs and fours. The US has won a division or two of this event over the years, but this time Team USA delivered the goods and won both the men’s and women’s sections, thereby capturing the overall title. It should also be noted that the team manager was a well known former Central Division guy, Steve Nelson. Congratulations and well done to all involved.
Gryzbowskis and Andresen Repeat as Champions
The team of Jim Grzybowski, Leif Andresen, and Randy Grzybowski won the Otto Hess tournament tournament for the second year in a row. This year the tournament director, Rob Behncke, introduced an interesting new format which he was introduced to at China Bowls. After some great competition, Jim, Leif, and Randy outpointed the second place finishers: Rob Behncke, Carl Landgren, and Olia Frolova. Coming up a few plus points short of second to finish in third place was the team of Tony Baer, Max Cavender, and Ken Koening.
Copious quantities of calcium carbonate were called for in the final match between Bob Schneider and Jim Gryzbowski. Jim Cavender, who was marking the game, commented on how he was earning his pay with all the chalk he was using. After a day one round robin, Bob and Jim were undefeated and found themselves in a double elimination playoff. Jim prevailed in game one while Bob came back to win in game two. After a night in which both players observed a strict training regimen (or so they claimed), game three commenced the following morning. The lead went back and forth throughout the first part of the game. Both players were really dialed in and were making great shots. Finally, Bob’s steady and consistent draw game were too much for Jim to overcome
Schneider and Grzybowski size up the head while Cavender looks on in disgust after realizing there is not one single toucher in the bunch. Thankfully both players stepped up their game and quickly recovered from this shoddy example of bowls. Good luck to all the Central Division players at the National Championships.