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It’s all systems go as Cheltenham Bowling Club celebrate special year

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Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Friday, 27th April 2018, 08:00

Lee Williamson was national singles winner in 2014 Lee Williamson was national singles winner in 2014

They are undoubtedly one of the jewels in Cheltenham’s sporting crown.

Located in the heart of stunning Suffolk Square, just a hop, skip and a jump from fashionable Montpellier, which is still the envy of pretty much every other town in the country, Cheltenham Bowling Club have even more reason than usual to be enjoying their sport this year.

That’s because 2018 marks the centenary of their move to Suffolk Square, having played just behind the town hall in Imperial Gardens in their formative years.

“Yes, it is a big year,” said club secretary Allen Brookes, who is in his 16th year in the role. “We’ve got a centenary match against Bowls England in May and a centenary tour to the Torquay area in September.”

Founded in 1883, the club were one of the six founding members of the Gloucestershire Bowling Association in 1905 and have always been a big noise in the sport.

“We’re the biggest bowls club in Gloucestershire and one of the biggest in the south west,” said Brookes. “We’ve got two greens and about 150 bowling members and 100 social members.”

The club are open for business all year round and the outdoor season, which runs until September, is already in full swing. And as you’d expect of a club with their standing in the game, they boast some pretty good players, both past and present.

“Tony Allcock was one of our top players,” said Brookes. “He was a world champion and is now CEO of Bowls England, he’s a life member of our club. Then there was Andy Wills who was playing for Cheltenham when he was England captain.

“These days Nathan Kitchen flies the flag for the club. He’s an under-25 international and is a skip for England juniors. In 2015 he won five of the seven county championships.

“And Lee Williamson won the national singles title in 2014 and represented his country in the World Champion of Champions in Queensland, Australia, in 2015.”

And it’s not just the men who have been making a name for themselves on bowling greens up and down the county and beyond.

“The ladies have come a long way since they started playing at our club in 2001,” added Brookes. “We’ve got 35 ladies playing and they’ve won county leagues and competitions and done well at national level.”

They are captained this year by Jeannette Scott, who also plays for Gloucestershire alongside clubmate and ladies’ secretary Penny Callaghan.

Brookes’ wife Carolie was the first ever ladies’ captain back in 2002 and it’s a position she has held a further three times over the years, most recently last year.

And there are clearly plenty of leadership qualities in the Brookes household because Brookes himself, who joined the club in 2001, was captain of the men’s section last year.

“We won four of the county men’s championships in 2017 but we consider that to be not a very good year,” he admitted. “In previous years we’ve won everything bar one.

“We missed out on the County Challenge Cup which was a bit of a blow. Before that we’d won it for nine of the previous 10 years.”

But while the club may not have achieved everything they set out to last time out, there was still plenty to shout about.

“One of our younger members, Finlay Williamson, who is the son of Lee, won the national under-18 plate,” said Brookes. “That’s a big achievement because he was only 10.”

And it’s not just on the greens that the club make their presence felt.

“We’re a very community-minded club,” added Brookes, “and we raise a lot of money for charity. We’ve raised more than £3,000 for the Gloucestershire Special Olympics over the past two years and provide coaching to youngsters from Belmont School.”

That’s pretty good going, of course. On and off the greens, Cheltenham Bowling Club are clearly a major force as they celebrate their landmark year.

Other Images

Cheltenham’s County Cup winners in 2016
Nathan Kitchen is a top player
The ladies’ County Top Club winners in 2015
The stunning green at Suffolk Square

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