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Going Strong: Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club Open House May 7

Pictured (left to right) are Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club members Dwight Parker, Patti Balsillie, Peg Anderson, and Jake Jeffery. The club and sport are known for fellowship, comradery, and lifelong relationships its created. The organizations has actually produced a number of national champions.

By Laurie Hanson

April 30, 2022~ With a sport that’s endured time and weathered the pandemic, the Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club is hosting an Open House on Saturday, May 7 at 1109 Federation Dr. at Recreation Park.

After the City of Long Beach closed them down due to the pandemic from March 2020 to November 2021, they are happy to resume the unique, highly social sport, which has served as a lifeline for many club members.

“I’m sure it is what kept us all sane,” said Treasurer Candy DeFazio who has been bowling for 13 years. “The Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club is like a little slice of heaven.”

“The clubhouse is a rare beauty, sporting high beamed ceilings in the Spanish style,” she explained. “The greens are fast and smooth, the gardens are stunning, and everyone enjoys the comradery of new friends with a bit of competition.”

All their members will be out at Open House volunteering their time to welcome interested people to the sport and give free lessons while encouraging them to sign up and join the club while having a free slice of pizza and lemonade.

“It was hard on all of us because we knew that being out in the open air with lots of sunshine was the best thing for us,” added DeFazio. “When we were allowed to return, we proudly could say that no one got Covid 19 from lawn bowling. Being older, we were all cautious and followed the city guidelines.” 

The average age of their players is around 60 years old, with many being retirees. Several have become lifelong friends, and even one member met their future spouse at the club. 

“I joined at the same time as Eileen Lancendorfer, and we became best of friends and bowling partners,” she explained. “Eileen met her future husband at our club! I also invited my best friend from childhood, Stephanie Johnson, to come out and see what this new sport of mine was all about, and she joined up as well – old friends and new friends!”

The sport also offers some healthy, friendly competition. This year is the first year since 2019 that the tournament schedule is back on the books, according to DeFazio.

“Those of us who love to compete are happy as clams to be back into the competition,” she added. “If you are very competitive, you can join league play with other clubs and join tournaments throughout Southern California. There are 27 lawn bowling clubs just in Southern California. Our annual dues are $200 a year, and we have over a hundred members.”

One of their biggest events, the Playdowns, is coming up in May. Winners of the tournament attend the National Championships, held every fall at a predetermined location in the U.S. The top 48 bowlers from seven divisions throughout the country compete for the National Title.

“I have had the honor of going to the National Championships five times,” said DeFazio. “The last time the National Championships were held was in 2019, and Long Beach Club sent three of our best bowlers to the event.” 

DeFazio and her teammate Lancendorfer competed in the women’s pairs. Another club member, Robert Busciglio and his teammate represented the men’s pairs and won the National Championships. In yet another huge tournament, the Southwest Division Open, the Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club had a champion entered in all three events. Both DeFazio and Lancendorfer won 2nd place in the Rinks, with DeFazio taking 1st place in the women’s pairs competition and Busciglio placing third in the men’s singles. 

This history of lawn bowling is an interesting tale of evolution dating back to Stone Age excavations confirming that something similar to the game was played with rounded rocks rolled or bowled to a peg or other marker, according to www.bowlscanada.com

“It is said that the sport of lawn bowls began in ancient Egypt and has been played in England since the 13th Century,” added DeFazio. “It was the game of kings and royalty.”

There is historical evidence of bowls-like games found in the cultures of the Ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs, the early Polynesians, and various North American Aboriginal cultures. Records of organized lawn bowls date back to the 12th century in Great Britain. 

Shakespeare references the sport in Act III of Richard II, indicating that both men and women could be found on the bowling greens. 

By the early 19th century, many of the inns in England had established bowling greens, presumably as an amenity to attract customers, according to ww.bowlscanada.com.

“The sport waxed and waned in popularity until the mid-19th century, when it experienced a revival, especially in Scotland,” she added. “The Scots developed flat greens and drew up rules that remain largely unchanged.”  

“It came to America by Scottish immigrants and to a small private club in New Jersey in 1879,” DeFazio explained. “The sport spread along the eastern seaboard and eventually made its way to the West Coast of America.”  

By 1905, the International Bowling Board was formed with members from Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales. Canada, along with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States joined in 1928. Today more than 40 countries play the sport, but the home of the modern game is still Scotland, with the World Bowls Centre located in Edinburgh, according to www.bowlscananda.com.

“Walt Disney was said to have been an avid lawn bowler, and each year there is a tournament in his honor at the Beverly Hills Lawn Bowling Club,” added DeFazio.

In 1928 the Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club was established and by 1930 held its first competition. Formerly known as the Recreation Park Lawn Bowling facility, it was a men’s only club. But over the years, it developed into two clubs, one for women and one for men, according to DeFazio.

“Times did change, and the clubs merged into the Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club, where men and women enjoy playing the sport together,” she said. 

Located at 1109 Federation Drive across from Recreation Golf Course in Long Beach, the club sports three greens cut short like a golf green. Each green has room for eight “rinks” or playing lanes.

“Action is conducted from one end of a rink to the other end,” explained DeFazio. “A small white ball or “Jack” is lagged to one end of the green to start a match.” 

The game carries on with each player rolling three “bowls” or balls, each weighing about three pounds. Bowls are weighted heavier on one side allowing them to travel on a curved path toward the target ball called a “Jack” or “kitty.” Points are scored by rolling or locating bowls closest to the “Jack.” 

“The match is over after a predetermined number of ends with the total score deciding the winner,” she added. “The game can be played as singles, pairs, triples or fours.”

The best part about the sport seems to be the camaraderie and fellowship enjoyed by all players.

“When you join Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club, you join a big family,” DeFazio said. “You make lifelong friends. It becomes the center of your social life. I cannot imagine what I would be doing if I had not found this sport. Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club is the place to be! Come visit us and join!”

For more information about the Long Beach Lawn Bowling Club, please visit online at www.longbeachlbc.com

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