MEMBERS of bowling clubs around Basingstoke and the surrounding area came together at Howard Park in South Ham on Sunday, July 31 to mark 100 years of the area’s bowling association.

It was an extra special year for the annual Mayor’s Cup inter-club tournament, as it is also the centenary of Basingstoke and District Bowling Association which comprises between 600 and 700 players.

Seven of the 14 clubs which make up the Bowling Association were represented at the tournament, which was kicked off by the Mayor of Basingstoke, Cllr Paul Miller, and saw Alton Social crowned overall winners.

Attendees ranged in age from Howard Park life member Dennis Barber, aged 102, to Alton Social junior player Lewis Ferneyhough, aged 13.

Alan Tait, chairman of the Howard Park Bowling Club said the sport has been a “lifeline” for him, particularly after he sadly lost his wife, as it is very much about socialising and community spirit.

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Howard Park was able to remain open during much of the pandemic, with sanitising and distancing measures in place, which allowed both long-time members and players from further afield to hold onto something they loved doing while the rest of their lives were restricted.

Alan said: “Everyone wants to come out now! Our membership has gone from 60 to 106 over the past couple of years. It’s a great sport for all ages, but especially our generation, the retired.

“Once you are here, you are hooked! So many players wonder what they were doing before they came here!”

Member Janice Gould added: “It was a lifesaver actually, in 2020. I lived on my own all that time and it just meant that you could get out and be with people.

“We are all very friendly! It’s a social sport as well as being about the bowls.”

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Reflecting on the milestone, Tom Regan-Atkins, president of the Basingstoke and District Bowling Association, said: “It’s changed such a lot in 100 years. It’s traditionally an old men’s game, and now there are youngsters and it’s on the TV with colour and sound!”

After opening the tournament, Cllr Miller said: “It was a privilege to be asked to do that and to kick off the centenary, which really is an important event.

“My mayoral theme is community engagement, and this is what I mean.”

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