Forever young Zelda Bridgens is not yet ready to end her love affair with bowls at Milford Bowling Club even after 40 years on the greens and a 92nd birthday looming.
Zelda, mother of twin boys now aged 69 and a widow for 30 years, stopped playing competitively two years ago due to arthritis but continued her administrative and social roles as she always has done.
“I am absolutely frustrated now I can’t do all I would like – to get back on the greens and play again,” she says. “I have totally enjoyed everything I have done in bowls and still love being involved in the social side with all the friends I have made. “I have no plans to give up my involvement with the game – I will always be there.”
Zelda began an athletics career in her late teens, winning Auckland and national titles in hurdles and long-jump before working in Auckland Athletics Association administration and managing the New Zealand women’s athletic team to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Zelda and her late golfer husband Frank – whose home overlooked the site for the then-planned Milford Bowling Club – attended a 1975 public meeting to discuss the club’s formation and she was elected to the establishment committee of 12 chosen from the 145 attendees.
Milford opened in 1984 with its two grass greens and was soon merged with the Waitemata Women’s club for a total membership of around 180.
She has served at Milford as chair, board member and on many committees and in voluntary positions including club bar license-holder for 20 years, she also became a Bowls New Zealand accredited coach.
Zelda worked with Auckland’s paraplegic, disabled and blind communities to pass on her bowls skills and also coached blind athletes in shot put, discus and sprint. She took Auckland teams around New Zealand to blind championships and was escort-coach to similar events in Australia and Holland.
At Milford she continues to help organise the twice-weekly roll-ups and advises young and new members on their technique. She had been rated as a “very good” bowler, winning the Massey University and Sport North Harbour Excellence in a Chosen Sport trophy, selected for the Waitemata Women’s Representative Squad and last month presented with the Bowls North Harbour Lifetime Achievement Award. “I have been a winner or runner-up in 34 club championships and tournaments – so I wasn’t too bad,” Zelda says. “But I have always enjoyed the off-field activities as much as playing – being involved is what matters in bowls, whether it’s on committees or making the tea.”