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Reporter gets a crash course in bowls with world number one Greg Harlow

PUBLISHED: 09:43 19 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:43 19 January 2018

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Archant © 2018

As Potters celebrates the 20th anniversary of hosting the World Indoor Bowls Championships, chief reporter AMY SMITH went along to meet world number one Greg Harlow for a lesson on the rink.

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Greg Harlow, 49, has played in every world championship at Potters Resort in Hopton in the last 20 years, as well as working for the resort as its bowls ambassador.

Ranked as the world number one indoor bowler, Mr Harlow has been playing the sport since the age of 11 at the City of Ely Bowls Club where he lives.

He said: “My parents started playing bowls when I was six and I was taken along with a can of coke and a packet of crisps and you either learn to love it or hate.

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. Picture: Nick Butcher.

“I tried all sports at school and as soon as I could hold a ball I had a go at bowls, and it turned out I was better at that than other sports.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the world championships, with 20 of those years played at Potters, and Greg is competing in the open singles, men’s pairs and mixed pairs.

Greg said: “I’ve bowled in Norfolk all my career and I’ve always enjoyed coming down here, it’s a nice part of the world.

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. Picture: Nick Butcher.

“The crowds have been good so far and like any sport as the competition builds up the numbers get bigger.

“It’s nice for me as I have a lot of local support and all the staff here wishing me luck.”

Greg says he practices two to three times a week during the season, but in the lead up to main events he plays for two to three hours every day.

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. Picture: Nick Butcher.

He has already made it through to the world pairs final with Nick Brett, which will be shown on TV on Monday, February 22, and the same day he will be playing in the first round of the mens’ singles. This evening, he is also competing with Katherine Rednall, from Stowmarket, in the mixed pairs.

After my chat with Greg, we headed down to the main arena for my lesson.

Prior to this, I had very little knowledge of how a game of bowls is played, but knowing the world championships were going on around me I was excited to learn.

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. Picture: Nick Butcher.

After being equipped with my official top and a set of bowls, I stepped onto the rink for a crash course.

With so much experience behind him, Greg was the perfect instructor explaining to me the basics about the six different sizes of bowls - I played with a three - and the bias on the bowl which causes it to bend.

He explained that each player has four bowls, so can score a maximum of four points in each end, and the aim of the game is to get your bowls as close as possible to the jack placed at the opposite end.

Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Amy Smith from the Lowestoft Journal and Eastern Daily Press learns to play bowls with world number one Greg Harlow at Potters Resort. Picture: Nick Butcher.

He talked me through the bowling technique, where to point my feet and how to bowl my ball to ensure it rolled smoothly.

His demonstration made it look easy and effortless, but my first bowl went hurling down into the ditch at the end.

Try again with less power Greg told me, but it still took a few goes until I realised just how softly I needed to roll it.

We practiced a couple of ends, with Greg placing a plastic cup on the rink as an aiming guide, and I could feel my technique getting better.

Despite just a few minutes of practice, I agreed to a game with Greg, knowing full well I was about to lose. But, it was all done in good spirit and I didn’t completely embarrass myself.

As expected, Greg won all four points as he perfectly rested his four bowls around the jack, although I did manage to position a couple of mine just behind.

I was pleased to hear Greg’s verdict that I had the potential to one day become his doubles partner, although I think I had better get a bit more practice 
in first.

Tickets to watch the world championships are still available and can be booked by calling 0333 3207 436.

The competition runs until January 28.

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