Greenkeeper impresses with magic touch

SOUTH PACIFIC CARNIVAL

Hundreds of bowlers will stroll across the three Fairy Meadow Bowling Club greens during the 10 days of the South Pacific carnival but nobody knows the greens better than Pat Heffernan.

The son of the club's legendary greenkeeper Allan, who has the main green named in his honour, Pat has been preparing the greens for 36 years and been head greenkeeper since 1994.

He's seen the South Pacific carnival virtually flooded from eight days of rain in 10 days in his first year in charge, to several summer scorchers when the only thing faster than the green itself was the players racing to the bar to cool off.

This year is Heffernan's fifth carnival as the headquarters' greenkeeper and while he admits it's been hard work it's also rewarding.

"Since September it's been full on preparing the greens," Heffernan said.

"It's countless hours work but it gives you a sense of pride to be in the spotlight a little bit.

"You want everything to look good, for the greens to play well and to have a great carnival."

Long before the first players arrived this week, Heffernan has been working pre-dawn under floodlights to have the greens in pristine condition.

Among his many highlights of being in charge of the greens during a South Pacific carnival, Heffernan recalls watching champion Fairy Meadow bowler Keith Gardiner win the singles crown in the 1979-80 tournament.

"That was a big win for me.

"My dad Allan was my mentor and his time here goes back to 1971, while Keith taught me how to play bowls and got me into the playing side of things."

Heffernan has been a longtime player in Fairy Meadow's top pennant team, while at this year's South Pacific he played in the fours with some of his mates from his hometown Cootamundra.

He's glad there hasn't been a repeat of the deluge of 1994 and with the forecast for mild weather over the final four days of the carnival, bowlers won't have to worry about the greens.

And when you play that first bowl say a quiet thanks to the bloke who spent months preparing it for Illawarra's biggest bowls week of the year.

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