Paris Baker, 19-year old Glenfield club bowls champion
North Harbour Bowls with Lindsay Knight
Bowls is a sport with so many variables and fluctuations many might be reluctant to predict a bright international future for any player, let alone one who is still a teenager.
But many in Bowls North Harbour believe that within their midst there is a budding champion in 19-year old Glenfield club member Paris Baker.
At Easter Baker, who is of Tongan heritage, capped what has been a stellar season for her personally by winning the national women’s under 21 singles title in Wellington.
That followed her victory two years in the national under 18 championship and followed a 2017-18 season in which there have been many highlights: winning the Auckland premier singles title, selection in the national development squad for the Transtasman series in Australia and inclusion in both North Harbour’s open representative sides at both Open and one-to-eight year groups.
Remarkably, Paris has been playing bowls for only four seasons, having been encouraged to take up the game by her father, Dave Makasini.
A former pupil of Mt Roskill Grammar, she has excelled in several other sports, notably netball, softball and rugby. She might well have become a Black Fern but after selection for Auckland representative trials she had to withdraw because they clashed with the national under 18s.
Firstly with the Te Atatu club in Auckland, she came under the tutelage of club coach John Mitchell and then Denise Samuel.
Success in the national under 18s in 2016 ensured that bowls would become her primary sporting option and after a switch to Harbour and the Glenfield club at the behest of one of her mentors, Samuel, she has quickly come under the attention of Bowls Zealand.
She has already had considerable counsel from the likes of national selectors and former world champions Peter Belliss and Sharon Sims and has been placed on fitness and training programmes by national development coach Evan Roberts. Each fortnight now she has to report back on her progress and results.
One of the things which Samuel has found impressive about Baker is her mental strength, which might not be surprising for in her young life Paris has excelled academically as well as sporting. When not playing bowls she is studying full-time at Auckland University doing a double major in English and criminology and for one so young is extremely articulate.
Says Samuel: “When things are looking bleak and out of sight she has the ability to dig deep. All coaches and spectators (in Wellington) were amazed at her ability to come back and win four of her nine matches 21-20 when she was 10 or 11 shots behind.”
Bowls’ mental side is one that Paris finds one of its most intriguing and challenging aspects. She says she has quickly come to appreciate the advice from older, more experienced bowlers that this is a sport where winning isn’t always possible and that losses often outweigh the wins.
There is, she agrees, so much more she has to learn about bowls which she says is a much trickier and more difficult game than it appears to most of the uninitiated.
She has no doubt that bowls would be an ideal sport for many of her age-group, though appreciating that with many bowlers aged 60 and upwards some might find the age-gap daunting. This is something, though, that has never bothered Paris. “Actually, I’ve always got on well with older people,” she says.