All posts by Jim Corr

The Meat Axe Stays In Berkeley!

Despite the definite chill in the air on Saturday, Berkeley bowlers grew hot as the day wore on and came out triumphant in the annual Meat Axe tourney against the Palo Alto Lawn Bowling Club. We were down 3 ½ games to 2 ½ at lunchtime, but, duly fortified, stormed back to win 4 of the afternoon games for a 6 ½ to 5 ½ overall score, thereby retaining the Meat Axe trophy for yet another year. Which was just as well, since we had “forgotten” to bring the plaque with us to the southern climes.

Thanks and well done to all the BLBC players!

BLBC 2021 Pairs Tournament—Final Results

Finalists for the BLBC 2021 Pair Tournament: Bob Schwarz & Ian Cameron (2nd Place) & Champions Cris Benton & Dan Gorelick

The finals of the BLBC 2021 Pairs Tournament were held on Saturday, June 19 involving the eight teams who had qualified from the preliminary round robin stage, seeded according to their overall results in round robin play. At the finals, the format consisted of elimination play in quarter-finals, semis, and the final game itself.

In the quarters, the teams of Jim Corr/Sal Garcia-Lemus, Daniel Gorelick/Cris Benton, Frankie Napoli/Russell (“Rolly”) Coe, and Ian Cameron/Bob Schwartz overcame their corresponding opponents: Hugo Deaux/Sarah Allday, Phil Grattan/Peter Martin, Ethan Bortman/Stephen Ng, and John Hooper/Lennon Hamilton.

Gorelick/Benton dispatched Corr/Garcia-Lemus 17-9 in the semis and Cameron/Schwartz defeated Napoli/Coe by a similar result of 15-7 to set up a strong final.

The Gorelick/Benton duo showed their intent by overcoming the handicap differential of 2 points in their first end out the gate and essentially never looked back, building up a substantial early lead. There was fine bowling all round, meriting constant applause by the “peanut gallery” of observers, and bit by bit, Cameron and Schwartz fought their way back into the game, narrowing their opponents’ lead to four points by the 13th end of the 18-end match. But Gorelick/Benton held on and surged further in front in the closing stages for a comfortable 21-12 victory, thus going one better than their second-place performance last year and claiming the 2021 Pairs crown. Congratulations to Dan and Cris!

And thanks to all participants as well as all those who helped in one way or another throughout the tournament, with a special shout out to Annie Brillhart, who rolled the green twice on the morning of finals play among many other forms of support.

Those who are interested can view the complete set of results from round robin to finals here.

BLBC 2021 Vet-Novice Tournament

On Saturday, May 8th, 2021, BLBC held what may not have been its first-ever Vet-Novice Tournament, but was the first in this writer’s memory covering 10+ years of membership.

The event was initiated by Club President, Ethan Bortman, who felt it would be an excellent way to start the 2021 Tournament season and get the newbies more wholly integrated into the Club and the sport of bowls. So, all current Novices (novice = less than two years membership in a recognized bowling club) were invited to sign up and six were able to do so on one of the date options available. Jim Corr, as acting Tournament Director, then found six of the Club’s leading Skips to join the fun—that offer was oversubscribed—and the teams were selected by random draw.

The format provided for each team to play three 12-end games, quite a demand on some of the newer bowlers who had not played more than one draw game in a day. Fortunately, the weather cooperated nicely and made for a very pleasant day of bowling throughout.

After two rounds, the teams of Ian Cameron/Jim Audas and Hugo Deaux/Sal Garcia were in contention for first place, being the only ones to have won both of their earlier games. In a hard-fought contest, Ian & Jim prevailed 13-8 over Hugo & Sal to “bear the gree,” as Robert Burns would have put it. Check it out. Congratulations to both and especially to novice Jim who literally “led the way,” and thanks to all participants as well as those other veterans who showed up to provide friendly but neutral advice and guidance  to any Novice who might have been uncertain about a technical issue or some of the more obscure Laws of the Sport.

And to top it all, the day was kicked off with the ever-popular “Spider,” with Jim Audas winning that and its prize of a bottle of wine too. When you’re hot, you’re hot!

Bowling in the time of COVID: BLBC 2020 Singles and Pairs Tournaments


As MARCH 2022 of the club’s COVID protocols have been relaxed as the Omicron phase of the pandemic has waned.


This has certainly been a year to remember—or forget. And it ain’t over yet. The country is still in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century, hurricanes and windstorms have pounded the Gulf coast and Iowa, and wildfires have laid deadly waste to vast swathes of the west, cloaking the skies with lung-threatening ash. And that’s just the natural disasters. Socially, our psyches have been shaken by the ongoing lockdowns and restrictions as well as the racial injustice exemplified in the shootings of Black Americans at the hands of the police. Some of the countervailing protests have also ended in violence. Not to mention the election, now finally underway, after more twists and turns than a Stephen King novel, but equally scary with the possibility of even further polarization of the nation as ballots are counted and recounted (if the Postal Service is even allowed to deliver them) and scenarios of armed “militias” disputing results they oppose.

Against that setting, organizing a lawn bowling tournament is either an act of trivialization or an attempt to find some minimal normalcy in a world gone astray. I’d prefer to think it was the latter.

A bit of background: with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club (BLBC) closed its green ahead of the official lockdown. Some weeks later, as a few outdoor activities were beginning to be allowed, we applied to the City’s Health Department for a limited re-opening, which they granted under the strict conditions laid out in Protocols developed by the Club’s Board (see box for examples of the restrictions).

The result was remarkably like lawn bowls. It  was a definite boost to the psyche to be back in the open—prior to the choking air mentioned above. In fact, it was so like lawn bowls that before too long the cry went up: “Let’s have a tournament!” In the absence of our regular Tournament Director, Andy Vevers, who had withdrawn for personal and work-related reasons, yours truly offered to organize the 2020 Singles Tournament on a strictly one-off basis, having no desire to take on the job permanently. Spoiler alert—his rubber arm was soon twisted to set up a Pairs Tournament later.

Seventeen bowlers signed up for the event, which was organized into an initial round robin consisting of three groups of  four players and one group with five. The winners of each group proceeded to an elimination round of semifinals and final, with a playoff for 3rd and 4th place. In the round robin phase, games were to 18 points or to 1 hour 50 minutes, so as to remain within the COVID protocol of a maximum of two hours on the green. And games were scheduled, over a roughly two-week period, in an ad hoc manner by the opponents themselves through the “master scheduler” rather than being stipulated by the TD. On the finals day, with the green being reserved for the tournament only, we were able to play to the traditional 21 points for singles. The end result? Gareth Cole, Frankie Napoli, Rob Hoey, and Hugo Deaux won their respective round robin sections. The semifinals matched Gareth against Hugo and Rob against Frankie, with Gareth and Frankie winning through to the final. In a spirited match of some really high-quality bowling, Frankie prevailed to become the BLBC 2020 Singles Champion. Overheard from Gareth at one point in the game: “It’s not that I’m playing badly—it’s that he’s playing better.” The playoff game saw Hugo defeat Rob to take 3rd place.

As hinted above, the event went so smoothly and was enjoyed by all participants, that the finals were not over before the idea of a Pairs Tournament was being spoken of.

With the experience of the Singles event behind us, the Pairs involved a broadly similar format. Twenty bowlers participated, allowing 10 teams, divided into two groups of five for the round robin phase. The top two teams in each section would proceed to the finals. The major difference was that since Skips and Leads were to be matched randomly—bowlers signed up individually, not as a pre-set team—an ad hoc six-person Handicap Committee was established to assign players to the Skip or Lead position and to set a handicap number that would, in principle, help level the playing field. The resulting handicap numbers were based on the average of the handicaps assigned by the six members of the committee.

For a change, fortune smiled on us and the air cleared, allowing the round robin phase to proceed with time to spare. Since matches were arranged ad hoc and not on a pre-established timetable, scheduling the times when four bowlers could get together proved trickier than the two-bowler set up for singles, but was managed with an extension of the originally planned date for the finals. The teams of Rob Hoey/Arthur Stuart and Daniel Gorelick/Cris Benton placed first and second in Group 1, with Hugo Deaux/Leslie Engler and Jim Corr/Ian Cameron likewise in Group 2, setting the stage for a very competitive final round.

The semifinals and finals were played to 18 ends with no time limit. After a runaway start by Hugo & Leslie in their match against Jim & Ian, the game tightened sharply. However, on the 16th end, ahead 19-17, but with Jim holding shot, Hugo came through with a wicking bowl that took out the shot bowl and rolled in for 4, putting the game not quite out of reach technically, but enough to ensure a final score of 23-20. The other semi was equally hard fought and was a one-point game with two ends left. Daniel & Cris took both the remaining ends for a 20-15 victory.

In the final, Hugo & Leslie were pretty dominant running up a win of 19-12 over Daniel and Cris. Jim & Ian won the 3rd/4th place playoff against Rob & Arthur, with Jim’s final bowl enough to ensure an 18-16 victory.

So, despite the social and environmental challenges of an unprecedented year, we pulled off the two events and 2020 will generate at least some positive memories for BLBC members. Congratulations to our 2020 Champions: Frankie Napoli in Singles and Hugo Deaux and Leslie Engler in Pairs. This is Hugo’s fourth Club pairs win in four years, with three different partners, quite a feat.

Berkeley Keeps “Lock” on PIMD Women’s Singles Championship

The PIMD Women’s Singles Championship is a chance for the region’s women bowlers to show how it’s done and for three years in a row now, one of BLBC’s own ladies has won the bragging rights.

The event was held at the BLBC on Saturday, May 11, and Annie Brillhart regained the crown she had won in 2017 after ceding to another Berkeley bowler, Cathy Dinnean, last year.

The weather cooperated for a lovely day on the green, at the end of which Annie edged out a fine performance by novice bowler Elizabeth Mulenga (Palo Alto). Both of whom were the only players to win all three of their games, but Annie had a slightly better differential. Reggie Banares, veteran bowler and winner of many past events in the Bay Area and beyond, came in third.

The road to victory was not easy, however, as Annie had to face her good friend and current title holder, Cathy, in the third match. Down 4-12 on the eighth end, Annie told herself to slow down and just get the point. Which she did, so that by the 17th end, Cathy’s lead had been cut to 13 -12. With three points on the 18th and final end, Annie showed the truth of that old saying: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Congratulations to Annie on her win (again) and thanks to all who laid on the hospitality and volunteered as markers. In an added kudos—for both Annie and the Club—BLBC garnered at least two new Dual Members! This couple felt our green was bowling so well and looked to be in such good condition that they signed up on the spot. Many compliments from others, accompanied by hints of potential membership, came our way on the state of the green, which is mostly attributable to the efforts and dedication of newly-retired previous Greenskeeper, Annie herself. The challenge now is to keep up her good work going forward

PIMD 2019 Women’s Singles Championship: From l-r, Elizabeth Mulenga (Runner Up), Annie Brillhart (1st  Place), and PIMD legend Reggie Baneres (3rd Place)

PIMD 2018 Novice Tournament

Berkeley Hosts PIMD 2018 Novice Tournament—Jeff Schaper (Rossmoor)Wins

By Jim Corr

The PIMD Novice Tournament is always a fun event, and a chance to see potential future champions in the making as those new to our sport strut their stuff, some entering their first tournament at this event.

The 2018 contest, hosted by Berkeley LBC on October 6-7, was no exception. Twelve novices representing seven clubs competed over two days, with Jeff Schaper of Rossmoor LBC taking top honors. As a bonus, eight volunteer markers from five clubs helped keep the proceedings move smoothly.

On Day 1, each novice played three games in singles format. The goal: be the first to win 16 points. By the end of the afternoon, three bowlers—Rose Selby, Andrew Keeler, and Jeff—had won all three of their games, with Ian Cameron of Berkeley rounding out the top four after a nail-biting 15-16 loss to Jeff in the first match-up and a come-from-(well)-behind victory in the third game.

Sunday’s format was a round robin, played in very hot and windy conditions. Again, Jeff was on top form, edging out Ian (again) 16-14 in the first match and going on to register victories over Rose and Andrew, thus being the only bowler to go undefeated over two days. Congratulations Jeff!

As always, events like this cannot be run without the contribution of many, including PIMD Tournament Director Bud Birkenseer, greenskeeper, Annie Brillhart, the markers, and, some might say most important (!) the hospitality crew who prepared the clubhouse and the green and supplied the coffee and tasty snacks for bowlers and spectators alike. Thanks to all.

BLBC Dominates!

BLBC Bowlers Take Top Prizes in 2018 Regional Singles Tourneys

The weekend of July 14-15 saw the annual Singles Championship Tournaments for both men and women in the Pacific Inter-Mountain Division (PIMD) and Berkeley bowlers stood out in each of the events.

First up was the women’s event, a one-day competition on Saturday involving three matches in gusty wind conditions. Three Berkeley bowlers entered—and swept the board, taking 1st (Cathy Dinnean), 2nd (Ann Brillhart), and 3rd (Giulia Gallo) place.

The men’s tournament ran over two days, with three of Berkeley’s six entrants making it to the knockout round on Sunday—Cris Benton, Jim Corr, and Rob Hoey. Unfortunately, the luck of the draw meant they ended up playing each other, so they couldn’t quite emulate the women’s feat, but Jim Corr took 3rd equal place and Rob Hoey came out on top, beating Larry Collaco of Sunnyvale in a nail-biting final.

PIMD singles scoreboard
PIMD singles scoreboard

Rob initially ran up an early substantial lead (11-1) but Larry would not have it and steadily chipped away in small increments, to pull ahead to 17-14, with 18 points being the ultimate goal. But in a stellar final end, Rob put in four shots within a couple of feet of the jack and took the honors by the narrowest of margins, 18-17.

Congratulations to all!

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2018 PIMD Women’s Singles Championship (l-r): Ann Brillhart (2nd Place), Cathy Dinnean (1st Place), Giulia Gallo (3rd Place)

Berkeley bowlers in Day 2 of 2018 PIMD Men’s Singles Tournament: (l-r) Cris Benton, Rob Hoey (Ist Place), and Jim Corr (3rd= Place).

Andy Vevers Wins 2-Bowl Singles

The annual 2-Bowl Singles Event is a tournament unique to Berkeley, at least in the Bay Area. It offers a particular challenge, with little margin for error or correction, given the limitation on the number of shots available. This year’s event was no different. Andy Vevers, a relatively new BLBC member (but not a new bowler—San Francisco is his other club) topped a strong field of 12 players to become the 2018 winner.

Our new Tournament Director, John Hooper, experimented with the format a little, dividing the 12 participants randomly into three groups of four, with each group playing a mini-round robin in the morning. The rules provide that the top player in each group, plus the best second placed player overall, would proceed to the semifinals. All matches were played to 12 ends.

By lunchtime, Shawn Roney, Jim Corr, and Andy had emerged as winners of their respective groups and Rob Hoey was the best placed second player. The semis matched Shawn against Rob and Jim against Andy. Both semi-finals were close fought, resulting in a final match-up of Shawn v Andy. Well, the spoiler alert has already been given. Through the steady, consistent bowling he had shown all day, Andy pulled away and is this year’s well-deserved champion. Congrats to Andy and thanks to all who made the event run smoothly, not least our volunteer markers and the always-appreciated Hospitality Committee who made sure there were sufficient “goodies” to keep participants supplied with nourishment throughout the day.

BLBC 2018 2-Bowl Singles Winner Andy Vevers


Sixty-Year Rivalry Not Phased by the Weather

Seasonally late rains had been washing over the Bay Area all week, and it looked like touch and go whether the annual Berkeley-Palo Alto Meat Axe Tournament would be rained out (as had PIMD’s Opening Day just one week before). But the weather gods relented at the last minute, albeit with an unseasonable chill in the air, allowing 5 Triples teams from each club, including several novices, to assemble on Berkeley’s green March 24 to renew this now vintage competition.

The conditions, however, did not hinder a morning of fine bowling all round, at the end of which Berkeley led by 4 games to 1 and looked comfortably in control. However, Palo Alto wasn’t giving up that easily. As the afternoon games finished one by one, Palo Alto took three of them, resulting in a 5-4 position in Berkeley’s favor as the crucial final game drew to a close.

When the skips took to the mat, Berkeley was up by three points in the game, but down two in the head with two excellent bowls by PA’s lead (and a novice), Rose Selby, sitting within inches of the jack. But Rose soon learned the eternal fate of leads everywhere as John Luster, Berkeley’s skip, rolled a perfectly weighted bowl to exactly the right place even closer to the jack and leaving Bud Birkenseer, skip for Palo Alto, few options. Despite valiant efforts, Bud could not dislodge John’s bowl, and the much-coveted trophy reverted to Berkeley again with a 6-4 victory on the day.

Palo Alto took the loss with graciousness and bold cries of “See you next year!” when they will have the home advantage. All agreed that it was good to get back on the green and looked forward to a highly competitive season–in hopefully better weather–in the months ahead.

[Contextual note: The Meat Axe Tournament between Berkeley LBC and Palo Alto LBC began in 1958 as a bowling equivalent of the “Big Game” between Cal and Stanford. One of several traditions surrounding that match-up is that the victors get to carry off the “Stanford Axe” at the end of the game and hold it for the coming year. We bowlers have carried on that theme with our butcher’s cleaver mounted on a plaque highlighting each year’s winner. While we don’t (yet!) have our own Wikipedia page, the trophy is cherished with no less intensity than its footballing archetype.]

Berkeley Team Celebrate 2018 Meat Axe Victory

Palo Alto Team for the 2018 Meat Axe Tournament.

BLBC Pairs draw tournament

It started as a chilly foggy morning when a field of twelve bowlers took to the green  in today’s 2017 BLBC Pairs draw tournament. As the day progressed into a warm sunny afternoon, three twelve end games were completed. After tight competition, the scores were tallied and two teams moved on to the final match. Rob Hoey & Ann Brillhart played against Hugo Deaux & Dave McMullen. Hugo & Dave pulled ahead early in the game. Not to be held back Rob & Annie tied it up at the completion of eleven ends. Ending with a two point advantage Hugo & Dave won the final.
Congratulations to Hugo & Dave our 2017 Pairs Champs! Thanks to tournament director Shawn for hosting a great event and to everyone who came out to compete today.

Hugo Deaux and Dave McMullen