The average age of a lawn bowling player is 55 according to Jack High Bowl. Lawn bowling is a sport that is primarily played in the United Kingdom, but Angel Gomez, an 18 year-old first year biology major at Point Loma Nazarene University, is not only one of the youngest to ever play the sport competitively, but also one of the elites.
Born and raised in Coronado, California, Gomez’s journey with the sport began unexpectedly.
According to Gomez, when he was about eight years old, he and his mother would walk by the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club when going to the park or to the school he attended at the time, Sacred Heart Parish School.
“It was summer at the time, we [Gomez and his mother] walked by and we saw a huge sign saying ‘free twilight bowling lessons.’ We were looking for something to do and we decided to try it out that night as a family,” Gomez said.
They met the club presidents there who taught Gomez and his family how to play.
Here’s the game:
A small white ball, called a jack is placed on one end of a grass playing field, called a rink. The objective of the game is to attempt to roll the object they play with called a bowl closest to the jack. Whoever rolls their bowl closest to the jack gets a point. And an additional point for every bowl that is closer to the jack than the nearest bowl of the opponent.
“After that night [at the Coronado Lawn Bowling club], we [Gomez’s family] were hooked on to the game,” Gomez said.
The family consistently went to the club’s social events, according to Gomez. A few months later, his father, Javier Gomez, acquired a membership at the club, which granted Gomez even more playing time.
“I didn’t think of it as a sport that I’d continue or a sport that would take me anywhere. I thought of it as something fun and a hobby,” Gomez said.
Little did Gomez know, this hobby would take him to compete at the national level.
Gomez was in Sun City, Florida for the 2023 Lawn Bowling national championship the week of Oct. 30-Nov. 4 with his partner Peter Ritchie where they finished in second place. According to Gomez, as he prepared for the national championship, he recognized that if he had won, he would have been the youngest player to ever hold the national title.
In physically preparing for the championship, Gomez noted that the “greens” [grass] are different than in San Diego.
“Over here [Florida] the grass is very slow, so how I prepare for that is to play in the slowest green I can find possible,” Gomez said.
Preparing mentally for the championship, Gomez was locked in.
“I’ve already played in so many tournaments I’m just used to going out there and playing my own game,” Gomez said.
Gomez began to take lawn bowling more seriously and started playing competitively his freshman year of high school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There was nothing much to do [during quarantine] except go outside and go to the park and have some fun. That’s when I started practicing a whole lot more and eventually competed in big tournaments,” Gomez said.
Because of the required age of 16 to compete in larger tournaments, Gomez and his father played as a team in order to participate.
“What made me think I could go far with this sport was winning a tournament with him [his father],” Gomez said.
Gomez looked up to his father while lawn bowling. According to Gomez, he watched his father’s games in big tournaments when he couldn’t play because of the age limit.
“I would watch him play and he was super happy with his lawn bowling friends. He seemed to enjoy it a lot and I took that and wanted to be a part of it,” Gomez said.
Another hobby of Gomez’s is chess.
“I like to think of it [lawn bowling] as a chess game — a 90-meter chess game where you have to think on what you’re going to do but also what your opponent’s going to do,” Gomez said. “Lawn bowling is a mental game. There’s a lot of moving parts to it, you have to think ahead.”
Gomez noted that chess helped with his lawn bowling game.
“It helps me strategize on what I want to do while I’m playing. It helps me visualize more,” Gomez said.
In striving to bring his passion to more people his age, Gomez hopes to start a lawn bowling club at PLNU.
“I’m looking to get a group of people and try to teach them lawn bowling and get a team after that and then play in different tournaments,” Gomez said. “The hope is to get more people like me out in the green.”
As a biology major at PLNU, Gomez has had to balance his time with school and work while also being away for a week for the national championship.
“I’m still working for a balance before I go to Scotland in five weeks,” Gomez said.
Gomez’s next competition in Scotland is for the 2023 International Junior Under 25 (U25) World Championships where he will represent the United States and compete against 17 other countries.
According to Gomez, he is being sent to the competition because he is the only player of his age in the US.
“I would like some competition. Right now, it feels nice but I wish I could prove myself more instead of just being sent,” Gomez said.
In hopes of passing on his skill to the younger generation, Gomez also teaches lawn bowling.
While he lives on PLNU campus, he travels to Coronado on the weekends to coach and practice lawn bowling.
“I think people [in the Lawn Bowling club] were happy to see a younger crowd out playing them on the green,” Gomez said.
The people are Gomez’s favorite thing about lawn bowling.
“Before we start a game, we always say ‘good game.’ Even after a loss, you don’t think of it as a loss. It’s like a ‘you’ll do better next time,’” Gomez said.
He also said he appreciates the possibilities lawn bowling brings.
“I like how quickly the game can change [and] how as long as you have a positive attitude things will turn around; maybe you’ll win. That’s the sport of lawn bowling,” Gomez said.
In acknowledging the fact that not many younger people play lawn bowling, Gomez looks to make a change.
“Right now, lawn bowling is seen as an old person sport. I’m trying to change that. I really want other college students or high school students to come out and play and try it out for themselves. It’s a really fun sport,” Gomez said.
Gomez said he wants to encourage those who may stray away from sports because of their aggressive-nature to try the sport for themselves.
“It’s [lawn bowling] for those who don’t like to play football or the sports that require lots of running; it’s a nice sport for everyone.”
Looking to his future, Gomez hopes to either teach biology or become a genetics counselor.
“I really liked working with genetics when I was in high school; it fascinated me a lot. And the teacher at my high school was very passionate about what he did which inspired me, ” Gomez said.
A piece of advice Gomez would give to someone who is also managing school life and their sport is to find a balance within it all.
“Balance is key to everything. Try to find that balance between school and the sport that you love, ” Gomez said.