Peter Ayson, the only male in the Otautau Bowling Club, is joined on the green by, from left, Shirley McCully, Margaret Gutsell, Wendy Copeland, Lesley de Ruyter, Margaret Smith, Olivia Bath, Jan Lowrey, president Robyn Clarke and Tania van Rooijen.
Life member Peter Ayson is the only male in the Otautau Bowling Club but his contribution is vital for its future.
Fellow members all agreed that without Ayson’s green keeping work, greens would not be playable.
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it,” Ayson, 86, said.
He’s been a greenkeeper for 30 years and the lone male in the 12-member club for the past three years.
“We all get on well together … sometimes I have to bite my tongue.”
* Otautau church thinks big with $1.4 million community centre project underway
* Otautau School pupils given advice on mental wellness
* Relatives in China unable to travel to help keep Southland couple’s business going
* Otautau man receives a Queen’s Service Medal
Otautau has one of the smallest memberships among the 38 bowling clubs in Southland.
The club relies on fundraising, competition entry fees, hiring out it facilities and proceeds from its annual sale of donated pea straw to raise money to cover operating and some maintenance expenses. Applications for community funds are made if the club had major work to be done on its property.
Neighbouring contractor, Rabco Ag Ltd, cuts the club’s hedges, free-of-charge, and parts of it that are hard to get to are cut, at no cost, by Wallace Takitimu Community Board chairman Andre Bekhuis in his spare time.
Ayson remembers when becoming an Otautau bowler in 1985, the town had a men’s bowling club (35 members) and a women’s bowling club (15 members). Both clubs amalgamated 10 years ago.
“From the 1970s to the late 1980s that was the peak [for player numbers],” he said.
“Back then we had two teams in the western competition on a Saturday, and we had reserves as well. If you didn’t go to practise, you didn’t get a game.”
Ayson said through the 1970s-1980s Otautau used to have three banks, three pubs, three garages, the old Wallace County Council had “quite a big workforce” in the town, many forestry workers and six or seven stock firms.
“The people aren’t here any more, they’ve moved away.”
Club member Tania van Rooijen joined the club last year after being invited by president Robyn Clarke.
“I thoroughly enjoy it,” van Rooijen said.
“My father-in-law always said, ‘enjoy what’s around you and support what local facilities there are, otherwise you’ll lose them’.”
Playing bowls is looked forward to by Scotts Gap farmer Shirley McCully.
“It gets me off the farm, I just love it.
“Once you’re here on the green, it’s about enjoying the green and the people around you.”