Don joins evergreen member of Yamba Bowling Club
BOWLS :This week we are joined by greenkeeper extraordinaire and all-round good guy Graeme Brown.
Graeme has been at the club for several years now and in this time he has established a reputation as an excellent greenkeeper, a man of his word, a committed employee and club member and a very proficient bowler.
Graeme has had many highlights over his career including being awarded the club President’s Award in 2016 and achieving peer recognition when named the 2019 NSW Greenkeeper of the Year as voted by the NSW Lawn Bowls Greenkeepers Association. Graeme, as always, was very accommodating in giving us further insight into this multifaceted character.
DF: Winning the 2019 NSW Greenkeeper of the Year Award would have been a very proud moment. Who do you think has had the greatest influence on your career?
GB: Everyone I have worked with. An old CEO, Guy Halgath, made me step up from an assistant to head greenkeeper only 18 months out from my apprenticeship.
DF: Why did you become a greenkeeper?
GB: I did a week’s work experience and loved everything about it.
DF: Where was your first greenkeeping job?
GB: My first job was for a contractor that had quite a few clubs back in Sydney. My first club was Canterbury-Bankstown Tennis and Bowling Club.
DF: What is the greatest challenge about being a greenkeeper at a lawn bowling club?
GB: Keeping the grass healthy at a height of only 1.4mm to 1.7mm. There’s no room for mistakes, none. Although most clubs have plenty of “experts’’ who are willing to give advice.
DF: How long have you been with the Yamba club?
GB: Twelve years
DF: What is the best thing about being a greenkeeper in Yamba?
GB: Yamba is in the region that has the best climate in the world, according to a CSIRO study So, it’s the easiest place to grow grass. Well, in theory. We still have a few challenges, if the grass grows well so does everything else!
DF: What is your favourite feature about the club?
GB: The best feature is the size of the club. When I first drove into town and saw the club all I could think of was how huge it was. Having multiple greens allows us to renovate on a cycle so that bowls never has to stop. It also allows for big events and tournaments. Last year at the Yamba Classic Pairs we had 54 teams playing simultaneously: not too shabby.
DF: What other sports have you or do you play competitively?
GB: My main sport was hockey. I played for 20 years for the Glebe Hockey Club in Sydney. This was until I did an ACL in my knee. I then took up coaching, umpiring and was on the committee until I moved up to Yamba.
DF: At what age did you take up the sport of lawn bowls?
GB: 27 years old.
DF: Where and when did you first take up the game of lawn bowls and what was the driving motivation?
GB: June 2000 is when I first bought a set of bowls. This was because the president hounded and harassed me to play, stating that “to be a good greenkeeper you have to play bowls to know your green”. So true were his words.
DF: What has been your greatest achievement in the game?
GB: Playing in two State Finals, one in Merimbula and one in Halekulani, plus winning a mixed fours championship with my Mum back in Sydney.
DF: What is your greatest regret in the game?
GB: Although by most standards 27 years of age is a reasonably young start in the game, I do wish that I had taken it up when I was way younger. However, that would have meant giving up one of my other interests and this would have been a challenge.
DF: Who is the best bowler that you have played against in singles competition?
GB: Ron “Pork Chop” Smidt. He beat me in the Minor Singles final last year, so he must be an outstanding bowler.
DF: Who is the best team-person with whom you have played?
GB: Anyone who is always composed in a crisis. Such teammates are worth their weight in gold.
DF: Who is the most humorous player you have played with or against?
GB: No names, but the Alstonville player who slammed his bowl down on the green and abused his teammate in a pairs game after the lead told him which hand to play. It was the greatest meltdown in history. I killed myself laughing. I thought he was joking but he wasn’t. We ended up winning on the last end.
DF: Which bowler in the world would you like to have a game of bowls with or against?
GB: Anyone who has a chat in the game and doesn’t take it too seriously. I’m there to enjoy the green instead of working on it.
DF: Where is the strangest or most unusual place that you have played lawn bowls?
GB: In the toy room with the kids. My wife’s grandmother had a miniature carpet bowls set.
DF: Where would you like to have a game of bowls?
GB: There is a bowling club in Central Park, USA apparently. That would be different.
DF: What goal or ambition do you have for your bowling career?
GB: A state pennant flag would be nice. Last year our side lost one game all season, by one shot only, but it was the game that eliminated us from the finals. The side we had was a great bunch of fighters and although we lost that game by a single shot, we also won quite a few by less than five shots having shown true character and a never say die attitude. Hopefully when bowls returns we can get together again and see if we can go that little bit better.
DF: How would you change or improve the sport?
GB: Unfortunately, the game is seen as an old person’s game. However, most tournaments and state championships are won by people under 30 years of age. It’s the only sport that gives away thousands in prize money every week in tournaments. No one knows about it unless you are a bowler.
Thanks Graeme, Yamba bowlers and visitors need to thank you and your staff for the commitment to the greens. You, Nathan and Tony have helped make us the envy of many clubs across the state.
Graeme’s advice to all bowlers: Remember, if your skip wants an opinion, he’ll give it to you.