An illustrious career

Veteran bowler decides to wind down at 92

THERE comes a time in a man’s life when he has to start winding down and take a back seat.

A LIFE IN BOWLS: Kowie Bowling Club green keeper Charles ‘Doc’ Louw with the honorary life membership award he received from Bowls SA in 2010 Picture: BOB FORD

This is the case with 92-year-old Dr Charles Louw, South Africa’s top bowls green keeper and administrator for many years.

It was way back in 1960 that Louw decided to take up bowls and has been heavily involved ever since. It has, in fact, been a major part of his life and the big love of a keen sporting enthusiast.

His interest in bowls came about due to unusual circumstances. At the time Louw was the doctor in the Eastern Cape Town of Adelaide and was mayor at the time. He was a keen golfer and was finding it difficult to get to golf in time after surgery hours on a Saturday.

The bowls season was to be opened and, as mayoress, his late wife, Jean, was invited to get proceedings under way. He accompanied her to this event and was immediately attracted to the game. It suited him better as play started later than golf and he was able to get to “tabs in” in good time. He was immediately hooked on the game and has never looked back.

It was the start of an illustrious bowls career.

While studying medicine at Witwatersrand University, Louw also took a course in sports turf, which was considered to be a minor part in his degree. But it was then that his interest in grasses and his love for green keeping started. After moving to Adelaide he took up golf and immediately took over looking after their greens. When he decided to take up bowls, it was natural for him to care for their green. And he has been heavily involved ever since, not only at the clubs where he played, but throughout South Africa. Many clubs throughout the country have benefitted from his vast knowledge.

In 1983, Louw sold his practice in Adelaide and moved to Port Alfred. It did not take him long to make his mark in the green keeping world. Two years later he was appointed to the SA Bowls Green Keepers’ Board and became chairman in 1988, a position he held for 20 years.

On a 10-day trip to Cape Town, he once inspected 123 greens in the surrounding area.

During this time, he travelled extensively visiting bowls clubs throughout the country to inspect greens and also to conduct seminars. Many clubs benefitted from his wide experience. It was not unusual for him to visit more than 100 clubs in a year. On a 10-day trip to Cape Town, he once inspected 123 greens in the surrounding area.

In 1995, Louw travelled to Australia to increase his knowledge and spent six weeks studying green keeping further with the Australian Turf Research Institute. “I got to know the Aussies well and was fortunate enough to be made an honorary member of the Institute,” he said. He still remains in contact with them.

His last reference book, Bowls Greens Management, took eight years to complete, but was rewarding in that it sold throughout the country and as far afield as the USA

Louw had gained enormous experience throughout the years and wanted to share his knowledge with others. It was thus that he wrote his first book, How to Evaluate a Green. This was followed by another book, Basic Principles of Green Keeping.  Then came a major undertaking when he wrote his last reference book, Bowls Greens Management. This took eight years to complete, but was rewarding in that it sold throughout the country and as far afield as the USA.

Louw has been well recognised for his huge contribution to bowls in South Africa. He has been made an honorary life member of both the Adelaide and Kowie bowls clubs as well as the Eastern Areas mini district. He is also an honorary vice-president of EP Bowls, but his proudest moment was when he was made an honorary life member of SA Bowls.

“This was a proud moment for me as I am the only person to have received this award who has not served on the actual executive,” Louw added. And he has the blazer to prove it, which now hangs in the Kowie Bowls Club’s clubhouse.

It is time for the younger members to take over, Louw said

It was not only at green keeping that Louw was successful. He was also a very keen participant and won many tournaments in his 57 years of playing. But his proudest moment on the playing scene was when he skipped the Kowie team that won the EP trips in 1991.

He was one of the oldest playing bowlers in the country and was regularly seen in action at 91 until ill health forced him to retire about a year ago.

With the Kowie Bowls Club’s AGM coming up shortly, Louw has decided not to seek re-election. “It is time for the younger members to take over,” he concluded. But he will not be lost to the club and bowls generally as he has agreed to make himself available in an advisory capacity and will continue to do the draw for “tabs in” games.

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