ST. GEORGE — Before the opening ceremonies for the Huntsman World Senior Games even commenced, the Queen of Lawn Bowling was rolling bowls for the last time.
Tuesday morning at SunRiver Lawn Bowls Green, competition in the pairs lawn bowling contest played out under an overcast sky with a cool breeze for the players.
Joline Beck of Santa Ana, California, teamed with her daughter Janelle in the lawn bowling competition, one of the many popular sports at the games.
Beck is a familiar figure on the lawn bowling circuit. She competed in the Huntsman World Senior Games four different times, winning a gold medal in singles competition in 2008.
“I think my competitors were in shock, but I was hot,” Beck said. “I was hot.”
It was a bittersweet day for Beck as the 96-year-old is ready to call this World Senior Games her last.
“What else can I say about bowling? I love it,” Beck said. “I probably got to hang it up now, after 36 years, unless this arthritis gets better. I’m so happy my girls are into it. They’ll probably never bowl as often as I do.”
Lawn bowling, referred to by some of the competitors as “bocce on steroids,” is played on lawns, called rinks, that are 14 feet wide and 125 feet long.
A white target ball called the jack, similar in size and appearance to a pool cue ball, is rolled, and then players roll a variety of weighted balls, called bowls, as close to the jack as possible.
“They said there’s nobody who has their ball on the jack more than I do,” Beck said, talking about back in the day when she was in her prime. “I was a pretty good bowler for about 20 years. Now I’m just bowling for fun.”
Points are tabulated according to how many bowls a player gets closest to the jack in each round, or end.
Ten ends are played in each match and whoever has the most points after the 10th end wins.
Beck started bowling in 1982, going once a month with her first husband. She grew to enjoy the sport and started bowling three times a week.
“I’m really competitive, in everything,” she said.
It’s a family affair for Beck as her daughters Chris and Janelle bowl with her. She hopes to get her son-in-law Rick involved as well as some of her 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“My granddaughter and my grandson gave me this big, beautiful bowling bag that says, ‘Queen of Lawn Bowling’ on it,” Beck said. “So I’ll probably go with it. Maybe I’ll still be able to play in my home league.”
Beck has been an inspiration for her large family over the years, not only as a competitive lawn bowler but as a world traveler and an example of someone who lives life to the fullest.
She had a quick answer to the question: What’s the secret to a long and happy life?
“Oh, I pray to my Lord every night,” Beck said. “I’m really blessed. I’ve got a wonderful family, they all support me. My Lord and my family, I guess that’s my secret.”
Dennis Duszynski, assistant director of lawn bowling for the Huntsman Senior Games, talked to St. George News at the edge of the green during the competition.
“There’s a lot of strategy involved, and that’s what makes the game interesting,” Duszynski said, adding that lawn bowling might look easy but it’s not.
Duszynski said there are about 50 total players lawn bowling this year. Being the World Senior Games, there are some international competitors, but Duszynski said at least half of the bowlers are either from Utah, California, or Arizona.
“We’ve had a good core in the last couple of years – it has grown,” he said. “We have a bit more room for our singles and pairs matches, but our triples competition is full.”
Duszynski mentioned a number of reasons why he thinks lawn bowling is so popular among players.
“There’s a number of skills involved,” he said. “You have the different variances in the rinks. You can set them at different lengths. The bowls are all different. There’s different biases to them. It’s mentally and physically challenging.”
Most of all, as was obvious on the green during the competition, it’s fun.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie around here. We have a good group – it’s a great club,” Duszynski said. “And it’s a great group of guests who come in as well.”
Lawn bowling continues at the Huntsman World Senior Games through the end of the week, with singles championships on Friday and Saturday.
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