Some of the best lawn bowlers in the world are from south Orange County and will compete a month from now in the United States National Lawn Bowling Championships in Seattle.
From Aug. 23-28 at the Jefferson Park Bowling Club, Maryna Hyland, Charlie Herbert, Tony Baer and Brian Stewart — all members of Newport Harbor Lawn Bowling Club, based in Corona del Mar — will compete in the competition against six other teams from around the country.
Each has won a United States Lawn Bowling Assn. Southwest Divisional Play Down competition. Hyland, with her partner Heather Stewart (no relation to Brian Stewart) from the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club, won in Women's Pairs; Baer, with his partner Aaron Zangl from Hermosa Beach Lawn Bowling Club, won in Men's Pairs; Charlie Herbert and his partner Brian Stewart won in Men's Pairs.
Hyland, Baer and Herbert are "Skips", who are similar to quarterbacks in football because they direct the play of the game. In 2005, Hyland and her bowling partner won the National title, and this is the third time they've competed in the event.
"Because of the anticipation of the opposition, my job is shot selection for my team," said Hyland, a homemaker whose husband Ivan is an airline pilot and the 2001 Pairs national champion. This year, his team lost to Herbert and Stewart. "Obviously, I would have liked to see my husband win … they were outbowled," she said.
Herbert and Stewart, who have played together for five years, came out of the loser's bracket and beat Ivan Hyland and his partner twice in the finals. Herbert, a 48-year-old kite surfing instructor, said early on in his lawn bowling days he was inspired by what people from other countries can do with their bowls.
"Their accuracy is unbelievable. That showed me what skills they had," Herbert said.
He has taken those lessons to heart. Herbert and Stewart finished third out of 12 teams at the 2010 Michael Ashton-Phillips International Bowls Challenge held annually in mid-October at Newport Harbor LBC, the only international tournament held in the United States. In 2009, Herbert won the Singles event. It was the first time in the history of the tournament that a team from the U.S. had placed in the medal round. This is the first time Herbert and Stewart, a 48-year-old Newport Beach attorney, will represent Southern California at the National Championships.
"It's very exciting," Stewart said. "We've tried a couple of times in the past, but we haven't done that well. We've stubbed our toes early."
Tony Baer, 38, and Aaron Zangl were an unseeded pair, then went undefeated and won their divisional play down final in a straight win. This is Baer's fifth Nationals, having won the Pairs title in 2008 with Bill Brault of San Diego.
"It's one of the few sports in the world where it doesn't matter if you're man or woman, young or old, you can compete," Baer said. "I played against the world's best player, against a Scottish player, Alex Marshall, a few years ago. I almost beat him."
A large part of the game is to remain calm and concentrate, similar to golf. Baer says, "We never panic, it's like, stick to your game."
Baer also said you can't really take an end off, like in timed sports such as football or basketball, where if one team's up by several points, the clock takes care of the rest.
"A game can change on one bowl," Baer said. "You can be down six points, then you can be up four or five points."
The four don't make that much money, if any, from lawn bowling, but they said people from other countries could make a decent living.
Lawn bowling, with a history dating back several centuries, is an event where each bowler stands on a small rectangular mat and rolls three to four-pound balls, called "bowls," along a large rectangular green. The object of the game is to get the bowls as close as possible to a target called the "jack", a small white round ball, several yards from the mat. The jack is rolled out beforehand, and then centered after it stops rolling.
Each bowl that is closer to the opponent's bowl earns a point. Depending on the game — singles, pairs, triples or fours — there can be up to four points or eight points per 'end', or segment of the competition. There will be 18 ends at Nationals — there are 14 in an average competition — although eight points is fairly rare. A bowl may curve outside the 16-foot-wide lane on its path but must come to rest within the rink boundary to remain in play.
Additionally, roughly 90% of bowls are draw shots, where bowlers gently release their bowls and let them curve to the target. There are also ditches behind the jack, which may make bowls ineligible for points.
Southern California sends 12 representatives to the National Championships each year. This year's team also includes: Rosa Gandara-Baer of Hermosa Beach (wife of Tony Baer), Kim Heiser of Laguna Beach, Eileen Morton of Santa Barbara, Christine Ludwig of San Diego, Steve Smith of San Diego and Loren Dion of Santa Barbara.