A VISUALLY impaired bowler who plays for Tavistock bowling club is celebrating being selected for the disability bowls’ national squad.

Stephen Hartley heard last Friday, at the height of Storm Eunice, that his trial earlier this month for the national squad for indoor bowls had been successful.

He and his guide dog took the train to Solihull in the West Midlands to take part in Disability Bowls England (DBE) trial for its ‘high performance squad’ on February 12.

This team represents England in indoor disability bowls at an international level — and Stephen’s first competition will be in April, when he will be part of the England team competing against teams from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the Para Home Nations contest, also being held in Solihull.

‘I was really surprised to be selected,’ said Stephen. ‘The competition was incredible. I felt out of my depth. I said to myself, “ok this is an experience, use it to do your best.” In the afternoon we had a match with another bowling club. I had a good game and was very pleased with how that had gone and I said to myself, “whatever happens I have played to my best ability”.’

He is now on the list to be called up to play in international contests. He will also continue to play outdoor bowls in Tavistock.

He said he wanted to thank his coach Gilly Ainslie at the Plymouth Life Centre, where he plays indoor bowls. ‘She coached me a couple of times in the week beforehand. She said: ‘I know you can do it.’

Stephen, 50, used to be a dental hygienist in the town but had to give up dentistry when his sight started to fail. He is now almost blind, but curiosity drew him to try lawn bowling with Tavistock’s club.

‘I kept walking past and saying I wonder if I could do that,’ he said.