At this year’s Victorian Open, a passionate group of 16 bowlers from Hong Kong will take to the greens across the Shepparton and Goulburn Valley region. They’ll be doing their best to win their matches, of course, but don’t be surprised to see big smiles on their faces regardless of results.
“They are just a bunch of very keen bowlers who want to come here for the Vic Open and have some fun,” says Kathy Maskrey, the group organiser. “A few friends of mine have visited Melbourne before to play bowls and go to the Moama Bowls Carnival. They thoroughly enjoyed it so I told them how nice it would be to come back here for the Vic Open and they loved the idea. It’s a fantastic time of year, the weather is good, and they can enjoy at least four days of bowling. Bowls is more popular in Australia compared to Hong Kong.”
While each member simply loves to bowl, the level of experience and skill varies across the group. “They all play bowls on a regular basis. A few of the bowlers have represented Hong Kong in the past but on this trip everyone is just coming to enjoy themselves,” she says.
“They’ve heard so much about the quality bowling greens in Australia. Every time my friends come here they are so impressed by the condition of the greens, whether its grass, indoor or undercover. Playing on the greens in Australia is like playing in heaven! The club facilities are also better and the bowling strategy in this country is something we really admire. Plus the standard of bowling is very high, so it’s a great opportunity to play against some top bowlers.”
While Kathy has taken responsibility for organising the whole experience including accommodation, carpooling and playing schedules, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m like a tour manager but I’m very happy to do it. I think it’s the first time such a large group from Hong Kong has come over for the Vic Open so I’m an ambassador promoting this great event and I hope they will enjoy it and keep coming back every year,” she says. “They will be able to go back and tell all their friends at their bowls clubs how they had a wonderful time.”
Kathy will also team up with her brother, a former Hong Kong champion, for the mixed pairs – the first time the siblings will have played together competitively. “It’s very exciting! We’ve never played bowls as a team before so I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. Hopefully I can learn a lot from him as well.”
Kalon Huett – Briefcase Media.