Ben is making his mark on the green
By GREG WHITE
MAD keen on sport and laid up for months in a hospital bed, Ben Watson cast his eye about for a new recreation.
With contact sport out of the question, he settled on lawn bowls and 15 months later 13-year-old Ben is racking up titles from his West Coffs Bowling Club base.
"For somebody so young he shows talent and composure," his mentor, Trevor Baker, said.
"He picked up his first cheque recently -- $200 for West Coffs 'rookie of the year' and it won't end there."
Ben, a fanatical supporter of Hawthorn and Cronulla, already has a sponsor.
"Henselite came up with a set of bowls in Sharks colours," he said.
"I reckon I'll have to get a playing strip in black, white and blue to match them."
This weekend Ben teams up with senior player Stan Russ in the inaugural West Coffs senior/junior tournament.
"There are three girls in the group of 18 giving the boys a run," Baker said, "and pairing them with someone experienced puts the shine on."
The 'Stan and Ben team' has already come close to a gold strike.
"We formed for the club major pairs and made it to the final," Ben said.
"No win that time but the experience was a thrill."
Last month, Ben made the trip to Warilla for the state junior fours carnival and played lead to Matt Miles, Sean Gaffey and Fletcher Barrett.
"We won our first two games before going down in the third to the title-winner," he said.
Combining coaching, training and playing commitments takes about eight hours of Ben's free time every week.
"I played cricket last year but have to give it up," he said.
"It cuts too much into the time I can spend on the greens."
The card for this weekends event filled quickly and one of Ben's potential opponents is Coffs Harbour Catholic Club/West Coffs CEO Mike Hawkins who's also taken the youngster under his wing offering advice and coaching tips.
Asked how he might go against Hawkins, Ben said without hesitation: "Take no prisoners.
"We'll beat them for sure."
Hawkins wasn't giving up that easily.
"No you won't," he replied.
The mind games between the veterans and rookies has started already.