Lea Blackham makes his debut in the World Indoor Bowls Championships next week — and it really could be a baptism of fire.
Blackham, 67, from Polstead, faces a first-round match against defending world champion and top seed Paul Foster in the competition at Potters Leisure Resort in Norfolk.
“It’s quite a privilege to play against the defending champion and hopefully it will be an enjoyable occasion. But I won’t be going there just to give him the game,” he said.
The Championships are being televised on BBC2, and Blackham’s match is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
There are 16 seeded players and 16 non-seeded players in the competition. There are four English qualifiers among the non-seeded entrants, with other qualifiers from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the rest of the world.
Blackham, who took up the game at the age of 53 at Sudbury Bowls Club, is the oldest English qualifier, having made the Championships after a one-day tournament in Bromley, playing five games in a knockout competition.
He said: “Anyone can enter the qualifiers. A subscription to the Professional Bowls Association allows you to enter any one of the four qualifying competitions held in England.”
Blackham feels that some of the qualifiers could spring a surprise. “There is a very high standard among the qualifiers, and more and more people are reaching that standard,” he said.
“In bowls you do stand a chance, no matter who you play against. Nobody can play brilliantly every time.”
“Hopefully I can start reasonably well, and play my A game. I will go there and play the best possible game I can, and who knows? Hopefully it will be a lovely occasion.”
Blackham, who is chairman of Boxford Bowls Club, and a member of the Ipswich Indoor Club, has been getting in plenty of practice.
He has been keeping sharp by being involved in a number of national competitions, and won the National Over-60s Singles four years ago.
Much of his practice has been taking place at Sudbury, where he is no longer a member.
“Playing competitions for two clubs demands a lot of time,” he said. “But Sudbury have been very kind and allowed me to practice there.”