Lewis king of Leamington
Kent’s Lewis King was elated to qualify for the National Finals of the Bowls England national singles final for the first time, 24 years after taking up the sport (writes Sian Honnor).
To go on and win the title, he says, was “way more than a dream come true.”
“I’m not really sure I ever dreamed it would or could happen,” the 31-year-old said.
“Qualifying in itself was a huge thing for me, as playing in Kent is very hard as there are so many entries, so many great players and the early rounds we are often drawn against our own players at the Appleyard, most of which would be capable of getting to Leamington on their day!
“Over the last 10 years, I have fallen in and out of love with singles… some years I enter the competition, some years I don’t. Even now it’s probably not my favourite discipline to play in, but I think I can get over that now!”
Lewis says he felt confident during this season, with the exception of a blip in the county singles final which saw him lose out on the title at the hands of Shaun McCaughan.
“It was played the weekend before Leamington started and I felt quite disappointed as I really struggled that day, but Shaun really did play fantastically well and deserved to win, so no complaints there.
“Opportunities to win the Kent county singles championship don’t come around that often and I felt like I didn’t really give it a very good go, so following that defeat I’d say my confidence had certainly taken a bit of a dent. How, literally five days later, I went onto win the national singles at Leamington I still
ROAD TO THE
After beating Simon Richardson from Northumberland 21-16 in the first round, Lewis found himself ‘in a bit of bother’ in rounds two and three against Cambridgeshire’s Adam Barker (21-19) and Nathan Nimmo from Bucks (21-18).
He recalled: “I truly believe looking back on it now that Adam was the better player on the day, I just managed to find a handful of massive bowls at the right time! From 16-11 down and 19-14 down, I clawed my way back to win 21-19 in three ends, picking up three and two twos.
“Then Nathan started better than I did and was bowling a more consistent weight than me. I again found myself 16-11 down and genuinely was starting to lose a bit of hope, but in this one I seemed to feed off my band of supporters at the scoreboard end. Mum and the rest of the gang from Kent kept on giving me encouragement, despite my constant moans of how hard it was.”
Lewis admits to being in bed by 8.30pm that night and says
it was the best decision he
has ever made.
‘Super Saturday’ saw him defeat Richard Moule from Worcestershire 21-12 in the quarter-final and Bucks star Tom McGuinness, 21-16, in the semi-final.
“In the break between the semi and final, I went and sat on my own on the grass by the corner of A Green,” Lewis said.
“I felt I had to distance myself from everyone and everything and just get in ‘the zone’ for the final. I’m still not really sure what the zone is or was, but I think it definitely worked.
“I scrolled through the many messages from friends and family on my phone congratulating me for getting to the final and also wishing me luck. On reflection, I’m so glad I did this, because all of that support was at the forefront of my mind when I started the final and stayed with me up to the moment that I won.”
Lewis dominated on the inside hand of A1 against Darren Allsopp of Leicestershire.
“Much like every other player I played, he was such a nice guy and a pleasure to do battle against,” Lewis said.
“Fortunately, I fell on the pace and found centre of the rink pretty quickly. The closer I got to that magic 21, I didn’t get nervous or anxious, I just kept plodding. A couple of times throughout the final thoughts of winning the title popped into my head, but I immediately told myself to shut up and put it to the back of my mind.
“I tried to remain as relaxed and calm as possible and vividly remember singing/dancing to some of the songs being played over the tannoy (which I think was a great addition to the national finals this year) to help me
At 16-10 up, Lewis scored a three and a two to seal his fate as the 2023 men’s national
“A surge of emotion erupted out of me and the tears began to flow the moment the game had ended,” he said.
“I shook hands with Darren and Sue Mates, the marker, and then turned to mum and my partner Josh which made me cry even more. I could see how proud they both were, even though I was still in disbelief about what had just happened. Truly unbelievable.”
The fairytale was not quite complete as Lewis was also part of the Appleyard team that lifted the men’s Top Club trophy.
“It was such a special moment, for many different reasons,” Lewis told me.
“Most of the team have been bowling for between 20 and 50 years, which is basically a lifetime for all of us. A lot of us have bowled together for that amount of time too, having never quite gotten over the line in a national final outdoors (except for Middleton Cup for Kent) before.
“I would say it was the best day of our bowls lives for most of us and we’ll certainly never forget it. To win something like that with your best friends is so special. The time, commitment and dedication this sport takes to get to the top is not to be sniffed at, so for people like Tosh Springate, Lee Shoobridge and Paul Barnicott (all of whom have played for over 40 years), it was very special. It was also special for one of my best friends, Sean Coyle, as it was to be his last season for a while so he can spend time with his new family, Lauren and baby Frankie. It makes me emotional just thinking about it now.”
Lewis believes that being part of a good club and having loyal teammates behind him is the biggest factor of his enjoyment
“I wouldn’t want to be at a club that is strong and wins everything ever year if it wasn’t enjoyable or you didn’t get on with the people you were playing with,” he said.
“I’ve been so lucky to play with the same core group of people for such a long time, all of whom have become my best friends, not just in bowls but in life too. It never gets any less special when we win something together and we always make the most of celebrating any success we have, because you never know when your last success might be.”
Lewis started bowling at the age of seven with his brother Matt, following in the footsteps of their mother Wendy and grandparents.
“I can honestly say I was hooked from that point on,” he said.
“I love the social side of the game. There aren’t many sports where you can play with your friends, family, older people, younger people. In our Top Club, our oldest player was 71 and our youngest was 19. I can’t think of many other sports where there can be a 53-year age gap between teammates and they can still win the same title together. It’s magic. Win or lose, you can go for a beer afterwards and just talk to people. And then you do it all again the next time. I love it.”
How does Lewis stay motivated when times get hard?
“That’s never been my biggest strength in the game but maybe age and experience have helped me more recently,” he said.
“I’ve also learnt a fair bit since playing with and against Harry Goodwin. He’s never beaten until it’s over, he never gives up, he resets himself for every bowl he plays. It’s almost metronomic.
“You must be confident too, something that I have never
truly been, particularly about myself. But I think I have finally realised that if you don’t believe it is going to happen or that you can do it, then you may as well not bother.”
For now, Lewis is still high on his summer success. But soon he will turn his attention to indoors and the quest to try to win more titles.
He said: “I want to enjoy the wins if they come, but to also enjoy the time spent together playing this wonderful sport that we all play.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want more from the game. It would be great to pull on an England shirt again, but I know how difficult it is to get in. Winning one competition isn’t enough, people win competitions all of the time. You have to do it consistently, or at least play as consistently as you can, to get a chance, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
Caption: Lewis King won the men’s singles. Credit: Bowls England/My Sports Photography
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