Still rolling up after 54 years

Popular Wanaka Bowling Club life member Betty McCormack (90) hopes her team will win the Central Otago champion of champions women's bowls tournament in Patearoa on Monday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Popular Wanaka Bowling Club life member Betty McCormack (90) hopes her team will win the Central Otago champion of champions women's bowls tournament in Patearoa on Monday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Win or lose, 90-year-old Wanaka Bowling Club member Betty McCormack will be celebrating after the Central Otago champion of champions women's fours tournament in Patearoa on Monday. Make no mistake, though. With an ability that belies her years and a competitive streak to match, she is in it to win.

A stalwart of Wanaka and Central Otago bowls, Mrs McCormack will draw on her years of competitive experience as a player and administrator in her bid for the title with her three Wanaka teammates, with whom she has plenty of fun - despite an age gap of more than 20 years.

''They look after me, in case I have too much to drink,'' she said with a chuckle.

She has competed in, and won, many champion of champions tournaments since joining the Wanaka club in 1959, in need of a break from bar work after buying the Luggate Hotel with her husband Eric two years earlier. However, her first outing on the green was nearly her last, she said.

A strict bowling club dress code at the time meant women's skirts were measured to ensure they were long enough, and Mrs McCormack's ensemble earned some disapproval.

''They said `I'm sorry, you can't wear that dress. You can see your bloomers through it'.

''I went home and said to my husband `I'm not going back'. He said `Don't take notice of them ... just go and play'.''

She returned a fortnight later with head held high and began her ''long career'' with the club, which has spanned 54 years and earned her a life membership in 1995. Her executive club roles have included president, secretary, club coach and umpire. She has also served the Central Otago Bowls Centre as player, president, umpires' president, manager and selector.

She features on the Wanaka club's honours board in every competition, including as women's singles champion six times.

The former Upper Clutha sports reporter for Radio Otago is thankful the club's clothing etiquette has evolved.

''It's marvellous now. It's just very relaxed.''

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz