Forty-four years non-stop - that's how long Ian Mason has proudly waved the Hawke's Bay flag as a representative bowler.
"There probably aren't too many people in any sport who have represented their province for that long," says Mason before captaining the Hawke's Bay Black team in the representative fixture against Gisborne/East Coast to be staged at Bowls Napier this weekend.
The 76-year-old retired businessman from Waipawa says the fires of passion are still burning and he's still footing it at the top level. He made it to the PBA semifinals at Bowls Hastings last August.
Bowls, though, is locked in the X and Y chromosomes of Mason and he realised it early and acted relatively quickly well before the turn of last century.
His parents, the late Eunice and Ivan Mason, were exponents of the code, not just as players either - his father also left his mark as an administrator with the Whakatu BC and then the Karamu BC.
"There were three of them who hatched this idea," Ian Mason says of his father, who was instrumental in buying the Heretaunga Chartered Club which used to be located somewhere between Kings and Russell Sts.
The trio had bought the Newbigin family's house which used to be the site for operating Leopard's Brewery, at the corner of the current Harvey Norman's premises opposite a bakery.
"When they moved there, there used to be an expensive garden, so my father said, 'Why don't we put a bowling green in there?', so it was sort of hatched from that."
Mason says that's where the New Zealand Professional Bowls Association competitions are played at the indoor complex now. It had germinated as Karamu Bowling Club, evolved into Bowls Heretaunga and stands majestically as Bowls Hastings and Clubs Hastings Inc.
Since that time, Ian Mason has preserved the full membership of his original club - Karamu/Heretaunga/Hastings.
When the chartered club was based at the Newbigin's house, Ivan Mason had his vision of creating a bowling green.
Mason was only a teenage tennis player when he caught a glimpse or two of his father playing bowls at Whakatu BC because of the tennis lawns situated adjacent to the bowling greens.
"Between games, I used to go to the bowling greens and watch him so I got a little bit of interest from him then."
Mason, who used to play minor-grade rugby for Hastings High School Old Boys, is also a former New Zealand roller hockey representative.
He was often caught flirting with tennis and darts in his spare time during his formative years.
Mason first rolled out a mat in 1971 and became an instant hit when he won the Karamu club junior singles. That certainly wasn't a flash in the pan or something passed off as beginner's luck.
The following year, he etched his name on the Tong Cup (with Barry Stowe) and that caught the eye of the Bay selectors. The rest, as they say, is history.
"I always had a feeling I could play it and my father was still playing so I just started with him," he says of the time he was 30 years old.
Mason chuckles when asked if he raised eyebrows entering the domain of middle-aged people and senior citizens.
"At that time, I was by far the youngest person there but, of course, that happens quite often now," he says, emphasising that high school pupils not only compete but a few years later go on to dominate the sport, not just in the Bay but around the country.
Mason says his presence didn't always go down well but it helped immensely that he had shown some promise, so his initiation to the bowling community wasn't as turbulent as it may have been for others in that era.
"Yes, initially it was, 'Yeah, what are you doing here?' "
Ian's mother, Eunice, a former member of the Hastings BC, was recognised as one of the country's foremost exponents of the singles art.
Her record was second only to the late legendary Cis Winstanley.
"Considering that both these women bowled in the same era, Eunice's list of accomplishments is remarkable," says Bowls Hawke's Bay publicity officer Colleen Ferrick.
Eunice Mason had clinched 28 Hastings club titles, including the singles on 14 occasions.
"Singles was clearly her forte, providing four of her five champion of champions victories, as well as three times as runner-up in the same event ... A force in the national singles events and prestigious masters events, Eunice's glittering catalogue of achievements came about after a career spanning a long period of time," says Ferrick.
Ian Mason attributes his mental fortitude to his early mentor, the late Ritchie Morris, of Kia Toa club.
"He did a lot for me and, unfortunately, he died very early in his life and we lost a very good bowler," he says of the Aucklander who had moved down to the Bay.
"He was so good that he became very unpopular," he says.
"Like any sport, we help people to get to the top but when they do, we try to cut off their legs."
With 13 centre titles and 28 club ones, he claims he can still hear Morris telling him what to do to win the game.
Mason built a new house in Havelock North in 1979 so he joined the village club, where he assumed the mantle of club and provincial selector. He was also was part of one of the strongest fours teams here with Brian Barker, who has now returned to Canterbury.
He and wife Pauline moved to Waipawa, where he helped resuscitate the club competitively, culminating in winning the first HB Centre Fours for decades. The CHB Sports Team of the Year award followed.
The couple are back building a house in Waipawa after moving from the village in 2008.
The Bay are holders of the Challenge Trophy held at Kahutia BC last year but Gisborne/East Coast won it in 2015, breaking the purple patch the former had for several years.
Play begins at Bowls Napier at midday today and from 8.30am tomorrow.
All disciplines will be played over four rounds - two this afternoon and just as many tomorrow morning - singles, pairs, triples and fours.
■ Women White: Elizabeth (Liz) Fitch, Lynda Francis, Heather Leyland (c), Coral Lukies, Mere Nepia, Shirley Passey, Cheryl Simpson, Diana Wood.
■ Women Black: Elizabeth (Liz) Campbell, Barbara Exeter, Patricia Fraser, Michelle Robinson, Linda Sowersby, Chris Telford, Lillian Tukiri (c), Sheryl Viggers, Selector Liffy Law.
Manager: Colleen Ferrick.
■ Men White: Neil Barron, Dean Drummond, Murray Glassey, Tony Terry (c), Paul Viggers, Barry Wakely, Phil Young.
■ Men Black: Michael Brown, Fred Ellison, Jack Philip, Denis Biggs, Patrick Golder, Shane Kingston, Ian Mason (c), Pat McCleary, Paul Sorensen.
Selector: Bruce Ferrick.
Manager: Frank Golder.
Match convenors: Bill Smoothy and Lorraine Beaufort.
Umpires: Barbara Koller, Maurice Johansen, Barry Fuller and Ray Zajonskowski.