GRIFFITH will host the lawn bowls equivalents of Tiger Woods and Greg Norman at the second annual Griffith Exies Masters, which kicks off today.
Each hand-picked entrant has bowled at a state level or better, including current state and Australian players.
The tournament was inspired by a misconception in Griffith that bowling was a sport for old people, according to tournament director Peter Thornton.
“I played in the NSW Open and I realised I was the oldest person there at the age of 40,” said Thornton, who has co-organised the competition with John Ritorto.
“We needed a competition to promote the game to young people in Griffith, especially those who don’t have a footballer’s build, which we have done by showing most of the guns in bowling are youngsters.
“The average age of the Australian lawn bowls team is 23 compared to an average age of 32 in the Australian cricket team, but the misconception surrounding the sport is that you have to be old to play.”
The big names on show include current world champion Aron Sherriff, 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games silver medallist Claire Duke, the famous Norahna sisters and junior Australian bowler Dawn Hayman.
The high-class field was lured to Griffith by a $31,000 prize pool and a social atmosphere.
The tournament cashed in on the sponsorship dollars which had been allocated to the defunct Griffith pro-am.
“Our sponsors mingle with the players and provide a social atmosphere that is unparalleled,” Thornton said.
“Instead of the players just going back to a motel to have a few quiet beers and getting up in the morning to go straight back to bowl, we are providing a big dinner and plenty of social occasions which is a point of difference from other tournaments.”
Eighty-four players have entered in teams of three for the competition and will compete against local bowlers.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Wayne Turley will compete at the masters for the second year running and said he was drawn by the pool of talented players and festive atmosphere.
“I am expecting a great calibre of bowler and it was a very well-run event last year,” Turley said.
A local team from Griffith won the masters last year against a similarly impressive competition and Turley aims to restore the balance the second time around.
“Last year the locals put up a great calibre of players and they were good enough to take it out,” he said.
“In fairness there is a big home ground advantage playing on carpet but I’ll know how to play it this year.”