By Dennis Lockwood, Special to the Independent
In 1931 Herbert Hoover was president, a gallon of gas cost 10 cents, and the “Star Spangled Banner” became our national anthem. The city of Laguna Beach had a population of 1,981 and the Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts were in their infancy.
Talk to anyone who’s lived in Laguna for a decade or two or more and you’re sure to find someone willing to complain about how our town has changed and not for the better. And it’s nice to be able to counter those grumblings with evidence of what hasn’t changed through the years, 85 in fact. So add the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club to that distinguished list. Yes, since 1931 the LBLBC has occupied a prime piece of real estate in Heisler Park on Cliff Drive where passersby become easily enthralled by the bowlers in white.
The club, which hosts its annual open house from 10 – 3 on Saturday, May 7, celebrated its 85th anniversary last month. Club President Sheila Conti said, “People here feel so lucky to be apart of this history and enjoy our beautiful setting. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young. Everyone can participate to whatever degree they chose.”
Also attending were several members who are celebrities in the international world of lawn bowling, among them Eileen Lancendorfer and Scott Roberts.
Lancendorfer placed first winning the gold medal in the U.S. Open Pairs competition in 2015. She started bowling six years ago on a whim with some people she was taking a painting class with in Long Beach. The first time she rolled a bowl and saw the bias when it curved toward its target she was hooked.
What she liked most about the sport was how easy it was to learn, the different levels of competition, and the social aspect of the game. “I’ve never met so many nice people,” she said, “and the setting here is spectacular.” What keeps her coming back is the challenge of an easy sport to learn yet one difficult to master.
Roberts is the U.S. Open singles champion for 2015 and recently placed third in the world at The World Cup in Australia.
He and his wife Linda got hooked on the sport seven years ago when they were at a resort in Palm Desert. It was a favorite of another legendary bowler, Walt Disney.
Roberts, who traveled to New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, and Canada for lawn bowling, says that Laguna Beach is at the top of his list when it comes to the most beautiful places to play. In a recent podcast interview about lawn bowling, he cited Glasgow, Scotland, where bowling originated, and where there are over 200 clubs. Australia has 500,000 to 600,000 lawn bowlers, while the U.S. has only about 100 clubs and 7,000 lawn bowlers. He hopes to do more to promote the sport he loves.
When asked why, he said, “it’s a very easy sport to learn and it’s just so much fun for men and women of all ages; just a whole lot of fun.”
So on Saturday, May 7, come on down to Heisler Park and find out what you’ve been missing. Everyone is invited to come by for a free lesson and introduction to the game of bowls. Sign up should you be so inclined. A year’s membership is cheaper than a round of golf and you’ll make a whole lot more friends.
Dennis Lockwood is a writer who lives in north Laguna. He and his wife Pat are both members of the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club.