By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
Grass skirts, spirited sing-a-longs and rowdy Red Barn hotel parties.
Even in their 60s, 70s and 80s, the lawn bowling enthusiasts of the Ladies Three-Day Tournament know how to have some fun.
And the Heritage Greens Lawn Bowling Club is bracing for impact this weekend when their two-year commitment to host the event, which is attracting 128 female competitors from across the province, starts.
“There is a lot of fun and a lot of good lawn bowling,” said Jean Brighton, making her 11th appearance at the popular ladies tournament after competing this week in the Western Ontario Bowlers Association meet in Woodstock and the provincial championships in Ottawa.
“But we’ll have some of that fun taken away, because we can’t stay in a hotel this year.”
Starting at 8:30 a.m. today, the pristine pitch of Heritage Greens will be flooded by dozens of top-flight, provincial-level bowlers competing in pairs, fours and eights divisions until the final matches on Sunday.
Winners get cash, prizes and bragging rights.
The Heritage Greens Lawn Bowling Club, with its membership of about 130 bowlers, is hoping to raise $3,000 to keep things running smoothly over the next year and hosting the tournament again in 2013, a condition attached to the bidding of the Ladies Three-Day Tournament.
With only one groundskeeper on the payroll at Heritage Greens, members need to raise funds each year to keep the operating budget fluid and will be volunteering over the weekend as prep cooks and maintenance workers in order to keep guests happy.
“It’s a big deal for us,” club treasurer and tournament publicity director Ed Edwards said. “We try to do everything we can to keep the sport accessible for our membership.”
And they will need to be ready.
The Ladies Three-Day — which is usually held on the long weekend and has been hosted in London, Hanover and Belleville for the last decade — is one of the most popular tournaments on the provincial circuit.
So popular that competitors need to secure their spot in cash for 2013 by Saturday and a coinciding spin-off was created, the Ladies in Waiting Tournament.
“It’s so popular, if you don’t sign up right away you may never get back in,” Edwards said.
Brighton and teammate Irene Watt can still remember their Ladies Three-Day initiation, and, considering the difficulty of finding a spot at the tournament, are counting their blessings they made it in the first place.
Brighton was a second-year lawn bowler at the time but the first to hear about the tournament in 2002. There were a few spots left shortly before the start of the tournament, so Brighton grabbed a group of four ladies and they made their way to Hanover.
“I had no business being there, but we did all right,” she said. “And we’ve been there every year since.”
The allure was evident from the start, even though Watt had to towel off in between shots because of the heavy rains. The next year, Watt, Brighton and their teammates showed up with four more girls and proceeded to take over one of the local hotels.
“I’m not going to say what exactly we did, but we got a little wild,” said the 80-year-old Watt. “A bunch of us little old ladies.”
This year, some of the thrill of the tournament will be lost as Watt and Brighton are confined to their own beds. There will be no whooping it up at a local hotel to celebrate the day’s frivolities.
But they still plan to have fun. Some need it, too. Two ladies in their group are widows, “so we look forward to the camaraderie,” Brighton said. “We’ll play the games, go out for dinner and be there with them until it’s time to go to bed.”
When the games start, though, their skills will be tested.
“You have a wonderful time,” Watt said. “It’s not like provincials. It’s all about the fun of the thing and the camaraderie, because you get to see the same girls over and over again.
“But you can bet, once the game starts, it’s all business.”