Paul’s on the money

2023 Person of the Year

 


Paul Walker – the ultra-unassuming winner of this year’s Te Awamutu News Person of the Year award.

If you want to get a kid to do something, dangle the dosh… that could be the mantra of Te Awamutu News’ Person of the Year for 2023.

Paul Walker is driven to get a new generation of players involved in indoor bowls.  While the game might never be as popular as in its heyday, he hopes to rekindle interest by encouraging parents to join their children in playing.

“The number of players nationally has been declining since its peak membership of 73,100 in 1973.  It is currently at just over 4000,” he said, “but I haven’t given up hope of a revival.”

Paul loves the game as much for its dexterity as for its sociability.  Such is his passion for it that he has launched several initiatives and adopted some nifty ideas aimed at holding youngsters’ interest.

“I’ve been known to put a $5 bill under the jack with the challenge to draw your bowl to stop on the money. If they’re successful, they keep the cash.  You’d be surprised at how it focuses their attention,” he said.  “I’ve had to pay up quite a few times over the years.”

Paul has been bowling for more than 45 years.  He started playing at the Pyes Pa club in Tauranga in 1978, mainly because playing at night freed him up for daytime family commitments.  He is a life member of the Te Kuiti Indoor Bowling Club, currently playing at both the Pokuru and Waipā clubs, and has been district coach for many years.

In 2022 he resurrected the King Country Junior Singles Championship – the first time it was played in 15 years, and he has held numerous official posts with the King Country Indoor Bowls Centre, also representing them at several New Zealand Indoor Bowls annual meetings in Wellington.

Central to it all is his fervour for building the ranks of junior players.  He took the game first to pupils at Te Awamutu Intermediate.  Covid scuppered plans for the establishment of an interschool competition, but in 2022 and with some assistance, he got Wharepapa South and Paterangi schools into a coaching programme. This year, he finally established a junior club based at Te Awamutu Intermediate, and six of the pupils under his tutelage took part in September’s Aims Games in Tauranga, where 186 Year 7 and 8 pupils played in the singles.

Next, he hopes to work with Special Olympics Te Awamutu in the running of a 24-week programme of six weeks each in Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Ōtorohanga and Te Kuiti in an effort to revive indoor bowls locally at Special Olympics level.

Born in Tauranga and educated at Eketahuna and Marton, via Hunterville, Paul entered the banking sector and worked primarily in city roles before returning to his rural roots and settling with his wife Marlene and family in Te Kuiti for 34 years.  It was in 2014 that they moved to Te Awamutu.

You don’t have to look far to find the origins of Paul’s volunteering gene.

“My mother was still driving people from Hunterville to Palmerston North for their medical appointments at the age of 90… she was playing golf, too,” he said. “She also coached three generations of families to swim.  Many of my siblings either volunteer or help support their partners who do.”

Aside from his indoor bowls activities and enjoying his seven grandchildren, Paul also volunteers with the Hato Hone St John op-shop in Te Awamutu.

Grateful for the help he has received in growing indoor bowls among the young, he said: “I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I have without their help.”

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