Civil engineer bowls his way to world championship

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
A cool, spring wind swept over the athletic field at Royal Air Force Alconbury March 23, as the reigning Bowls world champion reached down to pick up a weighted, scarlet ball from the grassy turf.

Balancing the weight in his right hand, Nick Brett, the water and fuels shop chief for the 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron, guided the ball, or "bowl," back before skillfully rolling it toward a smaller white ball, also called a "jack."

Eighteen days ago, a similar action, which makes up the fundamentals of a sport called Bowls, earned Brett the title of number one indoor bowler in the world, when he faced off against, and defeated, six-time world champion, Alex Marshall.

"It was an absolutely indescribable feeling," Brett, affectionately referred to in the bowling world as "The Ginger Ninja," said. "I've played for 28 years, and it all culminated when I was ranked number one in the world."

For Brett, his journey to the top began before he was born, as both his father and grandfather were avid bowlers. Growing up, Brett said he would watch bowls on TV and during matches his father participated in. He quickly picked up the basics of the sport, which has its origins dating back to the 13th century. Brett would watch his father deftly roll the bowls so they would stop as closely as possible to the jack.

"One day my dad was playing in his league," Brett said. "They were short a player and asked me to come in. I didn't do too badly, and kept progressing from there."

Progress, for Brett, meant playing in leagues and entering tournaments where he competed against thousands of others, with several vying for advancement to the next level, and ultimately the world championship. During the 2015 Co-operative Funeralcare Open, which also served as the world championship for Bowls, Brett's dedication to the sport paid off when he beat Marshall 12-4, 9-8 and earned enough ranking points to pass fellow indoor bowler, Paul Foster - who previously held the title of world indoor number one.

"The pressure was there," Brett said. "But, I managed to play pretty well."

Looking forward from his victory, Brett said he is already preparing to defend his title next year.

"You have to do it all over again," he said. "A week after I won the open, I won for England when I played against Ireland, Wales and Scotland."

The aggressive pursuit of his goals translates to his bowling strategy, and is what earned Brett his unique nickname.

"Bowls is typically a sedate game, but I'm more of an aggressive player," Brett said. "Although, I haven't had much patience over the years, the buttons just clicked lately. I went into the open thinking, 'whatever will be, will be.'"

Although Brett's newfound patience helped him secure his ranking, he said his newfound status has only reinforced his commitment to the sport.

"You have to be dedicated," he said. "You have to put the time in. No one can expect to turn up for the first time and be brilliant. There are a lot of lows before you hit that high."