Steve’s an inspiration at the Pembrokeshire Disabled Bowlers’ Club!

Steve WhitmoreSteve Whitmore is a key participant in indoor bowling because not only is he a sight- impaired player in his own right but also runs the Pembrokeshire Disabled Bowlers Club along with wife Olwyn and appreciated volunteers.
The Pembrokeshire Disabled Bowlers’ Club had begun in 1984, and in 2014 the club had the opportunity to elect a new committee.  And so, the first disabled-majority committee was formed for the club to be ‘run by disabled people for disabled people’. The club is really thriving, and although he would play down his roll, Steve took over as secretary of the club, with Olwyn recently taking the reins as treasurer.

A club welcoming to all

Over the past 18 months the Whitmores have also run an Alzheimer’s Club on Thursdays for those suffering from the illness but able to attend with their carers at the sessions on the green in the bowls hall at Milford Haven Leisure Centre.
"We were approached by the local Alzheimer's Society and I decided from the outset that the emphasis was on total enjoyment as we had several former sports players as part of our first group.
"We have sessions of eight weeks, plus an extension if they want to continue and we also encourage the carers to play as well so that they can have a nice time with us when they get involved."
Not content with that little lot keeping him busy, Steve has also approached the Pembrokeshire Leisure Services to consider starting a children's club to get more youngsters involved.
There is certainly a need because when the Whitmores put on a Children's Bowling Day with Pembrokeshire Housing they had almost 250 turning up during a very busy day!

Dancing is a delight

The Whitmores originally hail from The Midlands and came to Pembrokeshire via Ireland.  When they eventually returned, their main leisure activity was ballroom dancing, something they still enjoy tremendously in this county. They became members of the University of the Third Age and dance at Neyland Athletic Club on Wednesday afternoons and took up sequence dancing - and even go to Gibraltar to dance as part of their passion.

Terrible news sets Steve on a journey

About five years ago Steve was told at the hospital that his eyesight had deteriorated so much that he would have to be registered blind.
"At least it helped explain why I had fallen down steps a few times," says Steve with a rueful chuckle!
"I was shattered by the news but when I was visited by a lady from the Visually Impaired sensory team, she suggested I should join a group called 'The Young Men's Club' and it was on a visit to the Flying Boat Museum in Pembroke Dock with them that I met up with Jack Lloyd, an inspirational blind bowler from Milford Haven, and Laurie Brown (a very good pistol shooter who was defying his visual impairment to do well.)

Joined Jack on the bowling green . . .

"It was Jack who suggested I should try indoor bowling and I loved it from the start, bringing back memories of my days as a youngster up north, where we played crown green bowling.  I could only see the jack if it wasn't too far down the green, but I soon learned to visualize its whereabouts once Olwyn began to act as my 'director' and told me how far each wood was away from the jack - and at what angle in terms of it being like a clock face.
"I also use a monocular (like a binocular but with only one eyepiece) which has helped a little over the last 18 months!"

. . . And took over the club’s reins

"I became secretary of the club after Bill Jones, who along with other founding bowlers had done a great job in setting it up. At first there were 15 members, and we now have 36 members who travel from Narberth, Tenby, Fishguard and St Davids to name but a few places. We used to meet from 2-4pm every Monday but it has been so successful that we now meet from noon until four o'clock."
“As a PAN disability club, which means we accommodate all disabilities, we have not only visually impaired bowlers but those in wheelchairs, through to individuals who have Asperger’s.  “We also have hospital referrals i.e. stroke victims who use the sessions for exercise and rehabilitation.
“Everyone is made welcome and treated as an equal,” says Steve with conviction, “which is as it should be.”

Coaching others – and representing Wales

Not content with being involved on the administrative side, Steve has also taken up coaching and with club mate Madeline Roberts, they are the only two sight-impairment coaches in Wales, having attended a course over four weeks at the Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli, organised by Bernard John, who has since retired.
"With regard to my own game, I have since been regraded from B4 to B3, a category for bowlers with poorer sight, and my game is continuing to improve; so much so that I was thrilled when I was selected for the Welsh Sight Impairment team to compete in the UK Singles Championship this year.
"We all travelled up to Glasgow together and it was an amazing occasion to take on the top two players from England, Scotland and Ireland.
"I have to admit that I was very nervous but I played better as the weekend went on and although I lost four games I was really pleased that I beat the current Welsh Champion, with Olwyn as my director and dishing out the orders!

And finally . . .

"Maddy and Jack won medals in their categories and I was delighted for them - and it was nice that I was identified as one to watch from the Welsh team for the future - and I have already been chosen for next season's Home Internationals in Nottingham."
It is worth commenting on the fact that Steve and Olwyn's involvement is voluntary
and there is no doubt that Steve Whitmore is a huge factor in its progress of the club, along with the likes of Olwyn, Maddie and Jack – and long may it continue to provide such a wonderful atmosphere with Mr Whitmore at the helm!