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Norma Beales with team 

From left Doreen Hankin, Glenda Dexter, Norma Beales and Pauline Clark

Norma Beales may have started bowls "quite late" in life but she's packed a lot of games and achievements in since first stepping on to the green and more importantly, has made the most incredible friendships.

"My grandad had played bowls and I thought it was a game for old men," she recalled.

"I was encouraged by my Mum and Dad who had just started playing after retiring and I remember going to support them in their first match which I enjoyed watching.

"I was in my forties so it was quite late in life but I thought I would like to give it a try as it looked quite easy - I soon learnt how wrong I was!

"That didn't stop me though as I enjoyed the competitiveness of the game and striving to improve. Before I knew it I was hooked."

Norma followed her parents and joined Burnham Bowls Club in Buckinghamshire, where she would later play with the late, great, Mary Price.

"It was a thriving club and it turned out to be the best move I made as it's where I met the legend, Mary, who taught me so much about bowls over the years. I couldn't have had a better teacher."

The pair became firm friends and soon teamed up, reaching the English Women's National Finals in 1995 in the pairs.

Norma said: "I had never been to Leamington before so I don't remember being nervous. That all changed in our first game when I went walkabout and Mary found herself seven down but, as always, she found that big bowl and drew the shot.

"Thankfully I improved after that and we went on to win the final. My first trip to Leamington and we had won the National Pairs. What an amazing feeling but also a bit surreal."

Next, Norma joined Egham Indoor Club so she could continue playing the game she loved all year round.
Another huge highlight came in 2000 when, alongside friends Kath Strutt and Barbara Whatford, they won the National Triples and, in the same season won the National Fours Clare.

"I think it was the first time this double had been done," Norma said.

"We all enjoyed playing together but Kath was an inspiration to us all. She suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis and was always in pain but it never stopped her playing brilliantly every game."

After having a six-year break from outdoor bowls Norma joined the outdoor club at Egham to play with her indoor friends Doreen Hankin and Pauline Clark.  Joined by Glenda Dexter, the quartet qualified for Leamington in the women's fours in 2015.

"We were playing well and I remember when we won the semi final Glenda said to Dors; 'we can relax now.'
"Quick as a flash Dors replied; 'Oh no we can't as this is the difference between winning £400 or £800.'"

Needless to say they went on to win the final and the following year lifted the British Isles Fours trophy too, guided by the then England Team Manager, Tony Allcock OBE.

Norma said: "I have been fortunate to enjoy other successes in bowls but the ones I have mentioned were special not only for the fun and laughter but I was able to enjoy the success with such special friends.

"Without bowls we would probably never have met. I feel lucky to have such incredible friends who have stood by me in the good and the bad times, never more so than when my husband died over five years ago.

"They encouraged me to get out and continue playing when it was the last thing I felt like doing. I found that the bowls club was a place I could go to on my own and not feel out of place. There is always a friendly face and someone to chat to."

Norma says she still loves playing bowls even after all these years, despite finding it tough on her knees.
"I've become quite an expert on using different knee braces and also knee injections!" she said.

"But you only have to look at players in the disability bowls teams to see how, with determination, anything can be overcome. My friend Kath was a brilliant example.

"I hope to carry on playing as long as I can. I love playing at different clubs, meeting up with old friends and making new friendships.

"For anyone thinking of trying bowls I would say give it a go. It's definitely not an old man's game and many of the best players are young. Bowls is an enjoyable game for everyone and the social side is great for meeting up with friends new and old. Bowls clubs are always looking for new members and you would be made very welcome.

Go along and have a look and give it a try. I'm sure you won't regret it."

Sian Honnor.

We'd love to know what bowls means to you, get in touch at info@eiba.co.uk

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December 2023

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