They'll tell you that they come for the comraderie, the hospitality, and that bowls was the winner on the day.

And they'd be right. But it was hard to escape the fact that a dangling carrot of huge prize money that was up for grabs at a Levin lawn bowls tournament at the weekend might have contributed in some way to ensuring a packed house.

From left, Jhustice Graham, Paul Darbyshire, Cheryl Grogan, Colin Lozell, Scotty McGavin, Terry Hodgson and tournament convenor David Gray.
From left, Jhustice Graham, Paul Darbyshire, Cheryl Grogan, Colin Lozell, Scotty McGavin, Terry Hodgson and tournament convenor David Gray.

The maximum of 34 teams entered the annual $10,000 Wheelhouse Men's Open Fours tournament at the Central Levin Club, with entries from all over the lower North Island for the popular annual tournament.

It's the brainchild of the late Peter Petherick, a former international test cricketer and top bowler who at the time suggested a cash tournament. The idea took off, and since then more teams had pencilled it on their annual calendar.

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It was a Palmerston North side of Scotty McGavin, Colin Lozell, Ted Hodgson and Paul Darbyshire that took home the major spoils, winning all eight games. First prize was $2000, with prizemoney paid down to 14th place.

The home side's hopes rested with a team skipped by the imposing figure of Eddie "The Eagle" Irving, who along with teammates Brian Woolston, Patrick Albert and Gary Wylie didn't disappoint with a good tournament, although they had to settle for third.

Another Central team of Danny Madden, Richard Nixon, Ray Louie and Shane Rogers, who had won their local tournament four times in the last 10 years, had a good tournament but also finished outside the major money earners.

The future of bowls for the club looks bright though, with a junior team of Sam Neill, Dereck Taylor, Ben Bailey, along with senior player Daryl Johnson coming fourth overall, earning $720 for their troubles.

Last year's winners Ray Hudson, Gary Burns, Ian McQueen and Steve Thomas from Central Levin Club were hoping to repeat their efforts but success eluded them this year.

Brian Woolston
Brian Woolston

Many motels in Levin had the full house sign up over the weekend with play starting early on Friday morning. Visitors were entertained at night with meals and visits to the sponsor's bar, and a Calcutta evening.

Tournament convenor David Gray said the majority of the teams were from out of town, including Waipukurau, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Manawatū, Wairarapa, Cambridge and several from the Wellington region.

Gray said despite overnight rain the greens played well and visitors were vocal in their praise for the tournament and "indicated a desire to return next year, which confirms the popularity of the event".