Bay of Plenty Times February 2010

Like the curly path of a bowling ball, the long history behind one of the Bay's newest bowls clubs has never been a straight line. 

Bowls Mount Maunganui - the marriage of the Cosmopolitan Bowling Club and the Mount Maunganui Bowling Club - came into being at the start of this season and now boasts new colours, a new committee and 280 members. 

In December, Mount Maunganui Bowling Club members played their final games at their former Nikau Crescent greens, which have now been bulldozed to form part of Coronation Park. 

The club was founded 85 years before, when members played on greens metres from where the Mount Maunganui Hot Salt Water Pools now sit. It shifted to Nikau Crescent in the mid 1940s as the campground expanded. 

In 1983, a group of watersiders who drank at the Mount Maunganui Cosmopolitan Club formed their own bowls club out of Blake Park, although the new club wasn't at all exclusive, past member Ivan Aitken said. 

Both clubs amalgamated with their ladies' clubs in 2004, as talks of a new combined "super club" at Blake Park kicked into gear. 

The eventual merger brought together the 80 members of the Cosmopolitan Club and 180 from the Mount Maunganui Bowling Club, in a process president Ray Mace described as a "hell of a lot of work". 

Mount Maunganui Bowling Club's third and final shift across town also resulted in its prized trophies and honours boards either being dumped or stored away. 

"We had a lot of stuff in the clubhouse that just became obsolete," Mr Mace said. 

The official opening of Bowls Mount Maunganui's home at the $8.9 million Mount Greens was marked last weekend, with Tauranga MP Simon Bridges and Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby testing their rolling skills on the greens. 

"The new complex is excellent, first-class," Mr Mace said. 

"It's more central, and it means we might have people who are coming just for a drink but look out, see us playing and think, 'hey that looks quite interesting'. 

"So it might generate new members for the club." 

With the creation of Bowls Mount Maunganui came the uneasy forming of a new board, comprising a president, secretary and four members. 

Mr Aitken described the new club as "very busy and compact". 

"We're busy, not only within our own club, but with events at other clubs, internationals and club pennants." 

Among other regular fixtures, members meet for club days on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. 

And while the face of bowls in Mount Maunganui might have changed dramatically, the game hasn't, with the sport still a great way to meet new friends. 

"Mateship is what bowls is all about," Mr Aitken said. 

New members were always welcome, whether novices or not. 

"A natural sportsman can jump into it straight away," Mr Mace said. 

"Somebody who plays snooker, tennis or golf more often than not will make a good bowls player straight away. Fundamentally, it's pretty simple." 

Mr Mace said the sport should not be compared with indoor bowls, which was not played exposed to the elements. 

The sport was still dogged by the misconception it was for the elderly. 

"The big thing about bowls is there's this idea that it's for old people. But it's not, and nationally we're seeing more and more younger people coming through and winning national events."

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