Disabled bowler beats odds

Pam Walker at the Taieri Bowling Club. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Pam Walker at the Taieri Bowling Club. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
It has been difficult.

But Pam Walker has defied the odds and played bowls to a high level in Dunedin.

Walker suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that has made life difficult for her.

It is an inflammatory disease that can cause some vertebrae in the spine to fuse together and make the spine less flexible.

It can result in a hunched-forward posture. If ribs are affected, it may be difficult to breathe deeply.

The disease has made playing bowls difficult for her.

''I can't look down the green when I'm delivering the bowls,'' she said.

''I have a bit of trouble with balance and deliver the bowl blindly.''

Walker played netball at Kaikorai Valley High School but because of her illness bowls was the only sport she could be serious about.

''Bowls has been great for me,'' she said.

''It's given me more confidence about meeting people. I've really enjoyed my bowls.

''People who don't play bowls look upon it as on old people's sport. But you see it differently when you are part of the bowls society.

''The old image of bowls has been changing over the last few years.''

Walker started playing bowls seven years ago and joined the Taieri club four years ago.

Bowls was a family game so it was almost natural that she should play the sport.

Tommy Thomson, her father, played for the Brighton club and was one of the best players in the Bowls Dunedin Centre.

Her brother Ross Thomson plays for Fairfield, her sister Jackie Peterson for Andersons Bay and her husband Bruce for Taieri.

''Bruce's team was short one day so they conned me into it,'' Walker said.

Walker did not like bowls when she was growing up and seldom watched her father play.

''Dad loved his bowls,'' she said.

''But as children we didn't take much interest but used to go to the green to annoy him and get money from him for sweets.''

Walker's attitude to bowls changed when she started playing the sport.

''I like working at my game and trying to perfect it,'' she said.

''I like the social side of the sport.''

Walker won her second centre title last month in the champion of champions triples in a Taieri team with Raylene Walshaw and skip Janet Swallow.

It was the 12th title for Swallow and the third for Walshaw when they beat the Outram combination of Sue Hodges, Anne Warrington-Blair and Mary Stevenson 17-10 in the final.

Walker was a member of Swallow's four at the national championships in Dunedin this year and came runner-up in the national disabled games in Auckland.

It is a mixed competition and Walker finished runner-up in the singles to Snow Reardon of Christchurch.

She had a trial for the Commonwealth Games team in Auckland but did not make the team for Glasgow.

• Walker is keen to help people with disabilities get into bowls. She can be reached at 489-8334 or through the Taieri Bowling Club.

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