Ed Pilolla

Hermosa Beach lawn bowler in world championships in Australia

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After a year living in Hermosa Beach, Aaron Zangl happened to walk past the Hermosa Beach Lawn Bowling Club two blocks from his home and stopped to watch.

“I was invited in to give it a try — like we do to all that stop and look — and I was hooked,” Zangl said.

Aaron Zangl. Photo contributed.

That was six years ago. Zangl, bar manager at the Lighthouse Café, traveled to Australia this week to represent the United States as part of a five-man team in the World Bowls Championship.

“I hope to win the gold,” said Zangl, 37, a former Spanish teacher.

The two-week long 2012 World Bowls Championships begins Nov. 24 on the south coast of Australia in Adelaide.

Zangl said he has enjoyed his stay as a tourist in Sydney but will soon be heading to Adelaide for the big tournament.

“I am getting anxious and definitely ready for the tourney to begin,” Zangl said on Saturday. “I also have been trying to understand cricket and wanting to see a kangaroo, no luck with either so far.”

Teams from 27 countries will compete in the tournament held every four years.

Zangl was born and raised in Wisconsin. In fact, Zangl lived just a few blocks from a bowls club in Milwaukee and never knew it was there for more than five years. Other than lawn bowling, he also loves to surf, he said.

Zangl spends at least 15 hours a week practicing on the bowling green, not including the time he spends with different visualization and meditation techniques.

“I love the sport because it requires so much mental focus and because of all the strategy that is involved,” he said.

Lawn bowls weigh about 4 pounds and are elliptical in shape, which produce a bias or curve when they are rolled on the green toward the small white target ball called the jack. A team scores a point for each bowl that is closer to the jack than the nearest opponent’s bowl.

Teams of doubles or triples are usually played. The sport is often compared to bocce ball, though Zangl disagrees.

“I say bocce is like bowls as checkers is like chess, especially at the top level of the game where it is 90 percent mental or maybe more,” he said.

Zangl has been selected to represent Team USA in Tiger Bowls in Hong Kong, The Atlantic Championships in Paphos, Cyprus, and The North American Challenge in Victoria BC Canada. Last year, he was a U.S. National Champion winner in Seattle.

He said the memorable moments of his bowling career include his first lesson from Hermosa Beach Lawn Bowling Club member Yvonne Barton and carrying the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony of international events.

The Hermosa Beach Lawn Bowling Club, located at 861 Valley Drive in Hermosa Beach, was founded in 1936 when Mayor John Clark obtained the approval of the City Council to install a green at his own expense. In 1958 the clubhouse was donated, and the club now has more than 70 members.

The club bowls on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:45 a.m. and on Saturday at 10 a.m. Visitors are invited to any session, which lasts about two hours. Prospective players are asked to wear rubber soled shoes to protect the green, but don’t have to wear white clothes.

“Come down to the club and have a roll. Everyone is always surprised how fun the game is,” Zangl said. “The game can be enjoyed socially or taken to the next level and enjoyed for a lifetime. Many people feel that it is a retirement sport, but that is a huge misconception.”