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Wood aims for Jack-pot at Potters

PUBLISHED: 11:07 22 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:03 06 July 2010

ON the face of it, it's difficult to argue that the game of bowls doesn't look pretty simple.

With apparently effortless ease, the players curl their four bowls, or woods as they're known, within millimetres of the jack, creating a tidy cluster of red and green around their intended target.

ON the face of it, it's difficult to argue that the game of bowls doesn't look pretty simple.

With apparently effortless ease, the players curl their four bowls, or woods as they're known, within millimetres of the jack, creating a tidy cluster of red and green around their intended target.

A piece of cake… or so you'd think.

On Monday, photographer Nick Butcher and I were invited along to a coaching session with 2009 ladies champion Debbie Stavrou.

We were promised a few ends against the English international at the Potters indoor practice rink before being given a chance to tread the arena's blue carpet.

As keen sportsmen, we were fairly confident that we'd take to it easily despite never having picked up a wood.

And, after arriving early and receiving a few pointers from Fiji-born Canadian international Hirendra Bhartu, we thought we might surprise our Buck-inghamshire coach.

We knew about the bias that dictated the curve; we had decided whether we liked dimples on the woods or not; and now I had my very own official Potters green shirt.

So, shoes off, and on to the practice carpet. I had the jack in my hand and was ready to send it along the green. Unfortunately, I couldn't send it in a straight line and it landed short of the required 23 metres.

Suddenly things weren't looking so bright...

Debbie moved the jack in line and returned to show us how it's done. Standing square on the mat, she took her red wood in her right hand, stepped forward, keeping one foot on the mat, and unleashed a forehand draw. Keeping the smallest circle on the side of the bowl nearest to her, she sent it out to the right and saw it curve effortlessly back towards the jack.

Stepping forward, I gently made my first forehand draw. Being careful to put aside the tenpin bowling mindset of sending it as fast as you can, it felt like I'd basically just put the wood down on the floor as it curled to within three feet of the jack.

Good start.

Beginner's luck was soon left behind, as we proved it was a sensible decision to block off two greens for our attempts, with Debbie's four red woods putting our eight green ones to shame.

Soon our childish side took over and we wanted to take out the jack and scatter the woods everywhere with the spectacular drive shot. But, who'd have thought it: we missed everything.

Still, after four ends, we'd seen a vast improvement and it looked like we'd actually been aiming for the jack.

We were even on course to steal a point before Debbie, who was going easy on us, nicked in somewhat predict-ably with the last draw.

It was time for the blue carpet treatment, and we strolled into the sport's very own version of Wembley Stadium. The seats may have been empty, but, with the lights burning bright, there was nowhere to hide in sweltering conditions.

Debbie warned us that the carpet ran differently to the practice area, and she wasn't wrong.

As the woods cruised uncontrollably into the ditch, we'd been taught comprehensively just how tricky this sport can be.

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