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'Very proud': Midland lawn bowlers are among the nation's best

Local club, which officially opened in 1977, has deep roots in the community and always welcomes new players to facility on Little Lake

The Midland and District Lawn Bowling Club is referred to as a little piece of paradise by its members. Nestled on the banks of Little Lake, it’s easy to see why the bowlers feel this way.

The sport of lawn bowling is accessible to anyone and can be a challenging game of skill for the committed player. Cindy Higgins, the current women’s champion lawn bowler in Ontario, and the head coach at the club, can attest to that. She’ll be competing at the nationals later this summer in B.C.  

Bruce Henderson, a long-time member, speaks with pride about the pedigree of players the club has spawned over the years. 

“She’s a good athlete, and she’s been playing (in Midland) for 12 years,” says Henderson. “We’re very proud of her.”

The Midland Fours team — consisting of Higgins, Lynn Cranch, Laurie McLeod and Betty Robitaille — also hold the silver medal for Ontario this year and will be competing at the Nationals in B.C. in the team competition.

“We have some excellent players," said Henderson, who notes anyone can play and enjoy the game.

“The game can be played by anyone from 10 years to 95 years old. It’s a low-stress, high-skill sport,” explains Henderson about the appeal of the game. “I retired up here in 2001, got to know people there, saw they were very friendly and with the free coaching I became a member.”

There are few other sports that can offer free coaching from the current provincial champion, he noted.

You can find the club if you take the path through Little Lake Park beyond the boat launch on the south east end of the park. Otherwise, you can access the club through the laneway off of King Street near the Villa’s new expanded long-term care facility.

The clubhouse occupies prime real estate on the lake. Henderson says there aren’t many clubs like it anywhere.

Before the 1975 addition, afternoon tea on the Green at the Midland and District Lawn Bowling Club. This photo highlights an old tradition of having to wear white that is now defunct. Supplied Photo

Henderson recently wrote a brief history of the lawn bowling club. He contacted many past members to put together a retrospective for Doors Open Midland before the pandemic.

Henderson said the original founders — Ken Ellis and Ken Cowan — had commitment from some 75-80 members between 1972 and 1975; the club itself didn’t open until 1977.

The idea came from Ellis and his wife, who bowled in Florida, and thought the idea might work in Midland. The rest is history.

The site of the club sits on what was originally known as the Campbell Farm that the town of Midland bought from the family for $15,000 in the mid-1940s.

The clubhouse is a converted cottage that was left on the land purchased by the town. The founding members spent about two years fixing it up so it has a lounge, a kitchen, bathrooms, and an office.

Ellis and Cowan proposed the club to the town, and arranged a lease for a portion of the property at Campbell’s Farm.

Since its founding days, the club has been run by the members who volunteer their time. All other revenue comes from memberships and grants. The original membership fee was $30 for the season. Now, a fairly consistent 100 members pay $210 per year to enjoy. 

“We only have one paid employee, and he’s the greenskeeper,” says Henderson. “Everything else is done by volunteers."

The biggest change at the club during that time is the addition of a portable in 1995 which doubled the size of the clubhouse. That space now serves as a lunchroom and holds the club’s trophies. 

“It’s not an A-Class sport – not like hockey, baseball or golf,” explains Henderson. “For the number of people that play, we have some of the best players in Ontario at our club.”

To learn more about the local club, visit their website.