Lawn Bowls Steps into Sport Focus

May 5, 2020

One of six sports contested at the first Commonwealth Games in 1930 and one of Team Scotland’s most successful sports ever since, Lawn Bowls is next into our ‘Celebrating Our Past, Building Our Future’ Sport Focus spotlight, as we continue to feature each of the 25 sports in which Scotland has competed at the Commonwealth Games.

Look out for all things Lawn Bowls on Team Scotland’s website and social channels this month as we delve into the archives for tales of past success and also look ahead to the rising stars of the sport who could be representing Team Scotland at Birmingham 2022.

Lawn Bowls at the Commonwealth Games

Lawn Bowls is a core sport in the Commonwealth Games for men and women and has been included in every Games programme with the exception of Kingston, Jamaica in 1966 where no acceptable bowling greens were available. The first para-sport to be included in the Games, Para-Bowls is now also a core discipline and featured in 1994, 2002, 2014 and 2018.

From 1930 until 1978 the events on offer were Men’s Singles, Men’s Pairs and Men’s Fours. The first women’s event, a Triples tournament, was included in 1982 and was won by Zimbabwe, Scotland’s Jessie Adamson, Janet Menzies and Jessie Lawson finishing 11th. Edinburgh 1986 was the first Games with a women’s programme to match the men’s with Singles, Pairs and Fours. Men’s and Women’s Triples were added in 2006 and have been contested ever since.

Scotland has found success in the sport throughout its history winning 37 medals: 18 gold, 10 silver and 9 bronze, Scotland’s only sport with a higher gold medal tally than any other colour (barring Tennis with one gold as its only medal). Scotland were the top bowling nation at Brisbane 1982, where they won two of the four gold medals on offer, and Victoria 1994 where they won three gold and one bronze.

With eight Games for Scotland between 1966 and 2010, bowler Willie Wood holds the record for most Games appearances in any sport and is also Team Scotland’s oldest competitor to date, age 72 at his final Games. He won two gold , one silver and one bronze across his Commonwealth career.

With five gold and one silver medal, Alex Marshall is not only Team Scotland’s most successful bowler, but also tops the all-time list of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games medallists across all sports. Third place on that list goes to Marshall’s long-time Pairs and Fours team mate Paul Foster, just behind on four gold and one silver.

Lawn Bowls has featured twice at the Commonwealth Youth Games, making its debut at Bendigo 2004 followed by an appearance at the Samoa 2015 Games.

Find out more about Lawn Bowls in the Commonwealth Games on our dedicated Lawn Bowls page.

Scotland’s Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists

Following bronze in the Men’s Fours for David Fraser, John Orr, Thomas Chambers and William Campbell at the first Commonwealth Games in 1930, Robert Sprot became Scotland’s first Lawn Bowls gold medallist four years later in London, going undefeated across all nine rounds. Sprot, Scottish Singles champion in 1910, 1920 and 1929, had a good pedigree, his father George twice a former Scottish Singles champion, including at the inaugural tournament in 1894.

Despite Pairs bronze in 1954, silver in all three events on offer in 1962 and Fours bronze in 1970, it was a full 40 years before another Scot stood on top of the Bowls podium at a Commonwealth Games. Played in round-robin format, Alex McIntosh and John Christie took Men’s Pairs gold at Christchurch 1974 by the narrowest of margins over John Evans and Peter Line of England. The Scottish pair’s record of 11 wins, one draw and one loss just bettered that of their English’s rivals on 11 wins and two losses. McIntosh went on to win silver four years later alongside Willie Wood in the Men’s Pairs, Scotland’s only Bowls medal at those Games.

Gold for Willie Wood in the Men’s Singles and John Watson and David Gourlay in the Men’s Pairs at Brisbane 1982 marked the start of an incredible run of Scottish champions over the next six Games. George Adrain and Grant Knox were convincing Men’s Pairs winners in 1986, undefeated across 12 matches of round-robin, Canada taking silver with nine wins. These Games also saw Senga McCrone become the first Scottish woman to win a Bowls medal with silver in the Singles, missing out on gold by the smallest of margins. Tied on nine wins and two losses with England’s Wendy Line, gold went to the Englishwoman by virtue of two shots.

At Auckland 1990 Willie Wood and Geooge Adrain took their second gold medals as they combined with Ian Bruce and Dennis Love to win Scotlad’s first ever Men’s Four title while Victoria 1994 was a historic affair as Richard Corsie won Scotland’s first Men’s Singles title for 60 years, Sarah Gourlay and Francis Whyte became the first Scottish women to win gold as they took the Women’s Pairs and Robert Brand won the first ever Para-Bowls gold medal in the Men’s Visually Impaired Singles.

Margaret Letham and Joyce Lindores retained the Women’s Pairs title for Scotland four years later in Kuala Lumpur beating Namibia 31-8 in the final. Manchester 2002 saw more Para-Bowls success for Scotland as David Heddle, Ivan Prior and John Robertson took gold in the Men’s Triples and these Games also saw a 35 year old Alex Marshall win the first of his six Commonwealth Games medals with gold in the Men’s Pairs alongside George Sneddon. Mashall retained his Pairs title four years later in Melbourne, this time with Paul Foster and, after the disappointment of no Scottish medals in Bowls at Delhi 2010, the team rallied back with a record-breaking Games at Glasgow 2014.

Marshall and Foster won back their Pairs title in Glasgow in impressive style, undefeated through the pool stages and beating Malaysia 20-3 in the gold medal match, having emerged victorious 16-15 from a close battle with England in the semi-finals. A second gold for Marshall and Foster alongside David Peacock and Neil Speirs, as well as gold for Darren Burnett in the Men’s Singles, saw every member of the men’s team come home from the Games with a gold. Silver too for the Para-Sport Mixed Pairs B2/B3 made this Scotland’s best Lawn Bowls result at any Games to date.

Gold Coast 2018 saw a new record tally with five medals, including gold for both the Men’s Triples and Pairs. Ronnie Duncan and Derek Oliver at their first Games took home two gold medals each, while gold in the Fours and a silver in the Pairs cemented Alex Marshall as Team Scotland’s top Commonwealth Games competitor of all-time and put Paul Foster into third place behind sprinter Allan Wells. Silver in the Women’s Triples and bronze in Women’s Pairs completed an incredible nine days for Scotland’s bowlers, with 10 of them returning home with medals, to become the most successful nation of all-time in Commonwealth Games Lawn Bowls.

Birmingham 2022 will see Lawn Bowls competition take place at Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa, a World Class venue which has played host to a wealth of national and international competition for the past 40 years including twice hosting the Women’s World Championships.

Team Scotland Lawn Bowls Gold Medallists
London 1934 Robert Sprot – Men’s Singles
Christchurch 1974 Alexander McIntosh, John Christie – Men’s Pairs
Brisbane 1982 Willie Wood – Men’s Singles / John Watson, David Gourlay – Men’s Pairs
Edinburgh 1986 George Adrain, Grant Knox – Men’s Pairs
Auckland 1990 Willie Wood, George Adrain, Ian Bruce, Dennis Love – Men’s Fours
Victoria 1994 Sarah Gourlay, Francis Whyte- Women’s Pairs / Richard Corsie – Men’s Singles / Robert Brand – Para-Sport Men’s VI Singles
Kuala Lunpur 1998 Margaret Letham, Joyce Lindores – Women’s Pairs
Manchester 2002 Alex Marshall, George Sneddon – Men’s Pairs / David Heddle, Ivan Prior, John Robertson – Para-Sport Men’s Triples
Melbourne 2006 Alex Marshall, Paul Foster – Men’s Pairs
Glasgow 2014 Darren Burnett – Men’s Singles / Alex Marshall, Paul Foster – Men’s Pairs / Alex Marshall, Paul Foster, David Peacock, Neil Speirs – Men’s Fours
Gold Coast 2018 Ronnie Duncan, Derek Oliver, Darren Burnett – Men’s Triples/ Ronnie Duncan, Derek Oliver, Paul Foster, Alex Marshall – Men’s Fours
Click here for a full list of Team Scotland’s Lawn Bowls medallists
Scotland at the Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games is the only occasion where Scotland gets to compete in a multi-sport event as a nation in its own right and is one of only six countries to have competed in every Commonwealth Games since their inception in Hamilton in 1930. Represented by 15 athletes participating in six sports at those first Games, winning a very creditable 10 medals, Scotland have gone on to win medals at every Games since.

Edinburgh became the first city to hold the Games twice in 1970 and 1986 and also became the first city to host the Commonwealth Youth Games.

Scotland hosted the Games for a third time when Glasgow welcomed athletes and officials to the XXth Commonwealth Games which was held from 23rd July – 3rd August 2014. Team Scotland celebrated their most successful Games in history, winning a total of 53 medals and went on to record their highest overseas medal tally ever at Gold Coast 2018.

Find out more about the Commonwealth Games and Team Scotland’s past success in our Past Games section.

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