Mark Thorpe - World Short Mat Bowls Champion

World ChampsMark Thorpe recently enjoyed his first-ever visit to Belgium and it proved to be one that he’ll never forget because he joined brothers Andrew and Alan Evans in winning the World Short Mat Bowling title in the triples’ category.
It was fitting reward for Mark because he has been playing the game for 24 years and has worked hard to earn his reputation as a canny reader of play, a great judge of line and length – and as a sportsman too!
It was the start of a memorable ten days for Mark because the following weekend he joined Andrew Evans as Pembrokeshire representatives in the Welsh Pairs at Llandrindod Wells – and they won that too!

He has also played cricket, football and rugby too, but more of those later.

Mark started out in short mat bowls because his grandparents, Margaret and Peter Lewis, were involved in the game and encouraged him to give it a try and so he joined Freystrop, the nearest club to the family home in Johnston – and took to it straight away.
“That was in the 1998/99 season and within three years I won my first club championship  as I joined my grandmother Margaret and Michael Harries in winning the triples – and it was a great thrill to pick up my first trophy,” admitted Mark.
“I’ve represented Pembrokeshire since 2004/5 and I enjoy the annual British Isles tournaments when Pembrokeshire have represented Wales and won it, as we did the last time we took on England and Ireland at Heatherton, with Rhydian Rees as captain.
“I enjoy all the four different categories of singles, pairs, triples and rinks but if pushed I would have to admit I really enjoyed playing pairs with Michael Harries, and we have won the county title three times – and I also won it once with the late Eileen Hughes, who was a lovely lady.
“When I was younger I won the county under 35 singles title three times and I have also won county titles twice in the triples with Mike Harries and his grandmother , and then with Sean Hughes and James John-Davies – and I’m playing in the Welsh rink championships pretty soon now and hoping to do well.”

Other Sports . . .

Alan Evans and Mark ThorpeMark also played outdoor bowls for a while and enjoyed that in the summer months for Haverfordwest, but with a young family coming along he decided to focus on the short-mat version and hasn’t really looked back since!
He has been a very keen cricketer at Haverfordwest from the age of eight since the family have been involved there, with parents Keith and Julie having played, and his uncle Micky, aunty Cath and cousin Chris also involved there.
“Dad and I played one season together, which was nice, and other good memories include watching Ashley James smash the ball everywhere when we won the 2012 Ken Morris Cup Final in Narberth.

Family involvement at cricket

“Now I help Simon Williams in coaching the Haverfordwest under 9s at The Racecourse after he persuaded me to go on a coaching course alongside Danny Dewstowe to qualify – and my wife Lynette, who is a great supporter in my sport, and I are delighted that our daughters Sophie (8) and Chloe (6) are enjoying the ‘All Stars’ and ‘Dynamos’ schemes at Haverfordwest.”
Mark also played football for The Cricket Club as a full back and enjoyed rugby at the old STP School with Gelly James, Jonathan Dodd and Meredydd Richards as great teachers and says with a typical chuckle that he would play wherever he was needed in order to get a game he enjoyed!

Enjoying indoor bowls at The Meads

The programmeBack on the short mat bowls front, Mark has been playing for The Meads Bowling Club in Milford Haven since 2017 since his old friend and mentor, the late Marley Hughes, established the club – and there are still 12 regular players available for what is a useful team.
“We practice together once a week and play weekly now, which is great after all the interruptions caused by Covid. We play against other teams across the county with the format being a singles, pairs, triples and rink clash in each game – and we have a great camaraderie which was initiated by Marley, who was a smashing bowler and just as good as a coach because he was great in making you feel good about your game, especially with regard to tactics.
“It is just great being back in short mat bowls and I would recommend anyone to give it a try, just like I did all those years ago!”

**Stop press** Mark makes it a special ‘Double’!

Mark (lead) and Alan (skip) not only travelled to play in the Welsh Pairs competition at Llandrindod Wells but came away with another trophy and medals as they battled their way to the final and beat Mark’s Meads team-mates Sean Hughes and James John-Davies by 10-9 in a very tight final.
They were trailing as they went in to the penultimate end but Andrew stole a shot back to tie things up. His final wood then earned the Thorpe/Evans duo a shot advantage with Sean having the final wood to bowl – but he was unable to move the wood closest to the jack and so a relieved Mark and Andrew took the title
It’s been a wonderful campaign for Mark Thorpe and one that is richly deserved by this modest and unassuming sportsman – so well done indeed!”

The Pembrokeshire contingent