Monday, 19 August 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

New Zealand title for former Mercury Bay Bowling Club member

When 21-year-old former Mercury Bay Bowling Club member Taylor Horn won the Bowls New Zealand National Open Championships men’s singles final on Tuesday last week, he became the youngest men’s singles champion in recent memory.

While Taylor’s title was great news for him and his supportive family, it’s also helping to give the sport of bowls a whole new look. Long thought of as a game for the more senior among us, Taylor is just one of a number of the younger brigade who are taking up the sport, providing it with a fresh look and giving some of the more experienced players a run for their money.  

In Taylor’s case it was a National Open Championships run that ended in glory at the Carlton Cornwall Bowls club in Auckland after eight days of a tense knockout competition. Tony Fabling, whom Taylor beat 21 - 15 in the men’s singles final, needed to overcome current world singles champion Shannon Mcllroy to make the final, which is an indication of the standard of bowls at the elite level in New Zealand. 

Taylor, who attended Mercury Bay Area School for almost his entire school career, showed early promise and talent playing for the Mercury Bay Bowling Club for six years, before joining the Mangere Bowling Club in Auckland four years ago. The move exposed him to competitions against some of New Zealand’s best bowls players, but didn’t come without sacrifice from him and his family as Taylor kept on residing in Whitianga and a huge amount of travelling was required.  

Taylor has been on the brink of success at the national level for some time. This was his fourth appearance at the National Open Championships. Last year he made the final in the fours championship.

A painter by trade, winning the prestigious New Zealand Bowls Open Singles Men’s Championship title now puts Taylor firmly in the frontline for future New Zealand team selection. Participation in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is certainly a possibility.

Having moved to Te Awamutu only a few months ago, Taylor still travels to Auckland to play for the Mangere Bowling Club. He says because of the perception that bowls is a game for older people, it’s very much underestimated as a serious sport by many people. “Without doubt it’s a great social game and is enjoyed by many for that reason, but to step up to the elite level it takes a huge amount of commitment and practice,” says Taylor. “You have to learn to ‘read’ the rink, take into account the often-changing conditions, be prepared to be on your feet and firmly focused for long periods of time and cope with pressure. It’s a game where you can win or lose on the very last bowl, so trying to cover all the different scenarios that can play out is another key element. For every near perfect shot you play, your opponent is focused on spoiling it and grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat, as often happens.” 

Taylor is very grateful for the ongoing support he continues to receive from his family and the Mercury Bay Bowling Club. Having started to play bowls 10 years ago, he’s something of an old hand at the sport these days. “When I was 11, we were a few friends who asked some of the members of the Mercury Bay Bowling Club if we could have a go,” Taylor says. “They were great and I was pretty much hooked from day one. I seemed to have a natural gift for the sport, but I quickly discovered that talent only takes you so far. Bowls is my total focus at the moment. If I’m not working, I’m playing in bowls competitions or I’m practicing. I’m always looking at ways to improve my game.” 

It’s inevitable that Taylor’s success will convince more younger people to take up bowls as a sport and to follow in Taylor’s footsteps. The Mercury Bay Bowling Club can most certainly claim part of the credit for that happening.

Taylor’s win has proven bowls is indeed a game where age is no barrier.  

Picture: Taylor Horn, a former Mercury Bay Bowling Club member, became the New Zealand National Open men’s singles champion on Tuesday last week.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.