Tournament showcases how lawn bowling is helping build communities

A local lawn bowling club showcased what community is at the Ontario Men’s Singles Championship.

Cosburn Park Lawn Bowling Club hosted the tournament over the July 8–10 weekend, as 32 participants competed against each other for the title of provincial champion.

Dave DeFoe won the tournament on Sunday afternoon, making it his first ever. He’s 65 now and has been playing the sport for close to 20 years, but he’s been watching his family play it for forty.

“I used to just go watch and help out with the greens — you have to cut the grass and put everything up. At the time, I thought it was kind of an old-age sport, but that’s changed in the last few years,” said DeFoe, a member of the Heritage Greens Lawn Bowling Club in Kitchener. “It just gets people closer together because, you know, they’re looking over the fence and they come on in and try it, and next thing you know they join and they tell friends.”

The sport puts a lot of emphasis on welcoming people from all walks of life.

lawn bowling crowd
SUPPORTERS: Lawn bowling fans follow the action from the Cosburn Park clubhouse during the tournament. (Daniel Ramos/Streeter)

Cosburn Park Lawn Bowling Club on Cosburn Avenue in East York is one of many Toronto establishments with that same mission. It has more than 250 members and also hosts an LGBTQ+ lawn bowling society, the Toronto Rainbowlers, with more than 80 participants.

“It brings together different people. I’ve met people here that I don’t think I would have any opportunity to come across in my everyday life,” Martin Zibauer said, who holds the Communication Chair for the association. “You know, you have that kind of intergenerational stuff happening, and there isn’t really a lot of opportunity for that in other venues.”

The sport is relaxing and welcoming but that isn’t all it has to offer. It takes precision, poise, and accuracy to be successful in it.

Mike Magon, tournament convenor at Cosburn Park, knows how riveting the sport can be and what his club has to offer.

“We have a good reputation in the bowling community, so if some competitive bowlers are looking for a different club to join, they’re attracted to our club because of our population and we have very good greens to bowl on,” he said. “We try to be very open to the community to just come in and give it a try. See if you like it.”

Start at any age

Magon has been participating in the pastime for nearly four decades and one thing is clear to him: he would’ve joined a club even sooner if he could have.

The lawn bowling enthusiast isn’t the only one who shares that sentiment.

“I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of people that I talk to in bowling,” Magon said. “They’re in their 70s or late 60s, and they’re saying, you know, I wish I had tried this sport when I was in my 20s. And I can say I did. I did when I was in my 20s and it was well worth it. I love the game. I love the community.”

The beauty of such a simple game showed in the final between DeFoe and Everett Zwiers. DeFoe started out the game scorching hot and gained an early lead that put his opponent — and friend — in a difficult position.

Each player had impressive bowls but DeFoe maintained consistency and precision throughout the match, hitting the jack on multiple ends. The game ended 21-11 in his favour.

Dave Defoe with plaque
WINNER: Defoe is awarded honours as Ontario champion at Cosburn Park Lawn Bowling Club. (Daniel Ramos/Streeter)

As the champion received the first-place honour on the same green where he’d just won it, he became emotional from the achievement and overwhelming support of the crowd.

Despite the competitive nature of the event, it was evident how tight knit this sport is, and it was made clear how hard organizers work to make it that way.

“It’s all about the social connection,” said Cosburn club president Kevin Boyce,.

Provincial championships proved more than just a simple tournament, it offered entertainment, tranquility, and socialization.

The top four of this tournament now move onto national competition. They will be facing off against the top players across Canada, to see who will represent the nation on the global stage.

DeFoe goes in with a confidence that others may not have, but regardless of the competition, he’s just happy to be there with his peers.

“It seems like when you join these things, you have friends for life,” Defoe said. “It’s a very friendly sport and a lot of us are just relaxing. We like doing well, but if we don’t, I mean, there’s always next week, right?”