Meet 12-year-old Sussex boy some say is 'the future of bowls'
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Vinnie Minter has been selected for an under-19s talent identification day at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, even though he is aged only 12.
But Vinnie is unlikely to be overawed when faced by older and more experienced bowlers. He became an internet hit in January when the chairman of Bowls England asked him to roll a wood during the preliminaries for the men's final at the professional world indoor championships.
Once the finalists, Les Gillett and Paul Foster, had completed their trial end to assess conditions on the rink, Vinnie stepped up and bowled a wood closer to the jack than either of the elite players had managed.
That was quite some achievement, especially because he was standing on the world championship rink for the first time, using a wood he had never handled before. He had been taken to the championships in Norfolk as a birthday treat by his father, Danny, expecting only to look and learn from the best in the business.
While sitting in the packed audience, Vinnie was picked out by one of the BBC camera crew and asked to have a go. "My legs were shaking so much I thought I'd fall over," he said later . . . Not that any of the spectators realised he was nervous, cheering him to the rafters when his wood rolled unerringly towards its target.
Watching at home in First Avenue as he stole the show were his mother, Cheryl, his brother, Harley, and sisters Jade and Tegan.
A pupil at Sir Robert Woodard Academy, Vinnie has been bowling for five years, first at Lancing and since last year at Worthing Pavilion. He has won singles trophies at both clubs and is a member of the Sussex under-25 team. He also represents Pavilion Bears in Division One of the West Sussex League.
Andy Clarke, manager of the under-25s outdoor team, said: "Vinnie has an awful lot of natural ability and with the right support could go a long way in bowls. He's very keen and wants to play in everything."
He is also a member of the development centre at Worthing FC, whose Woodside Road ground backs onto the Pavilion rinks, and plays for Lancing Colts. "His youthful enthusiasm can take him from running around the football pitch to a 21-end game of bowls, all in one evening," Clarke added.
Vinnie is the only bowler from Sussex and the second-youngest of the 71 boys and girls invited to the talent day at Leamington Spa on Sunday[JUNE 19]. He will compete in various formats of matchplay on the town's Victoria Park rinks, which stage the Commonwealth Games bowls competitions next month.
There will also be theory sessions, time with a sports psychologist, a briefing by the Bowls England media team and practical tips from one of the current Commonwealth Games squad. The youngest squad member became a junior international aged 16 and was playing for the senior England team only two years later.
Among the luminaries watching the young bowlers will be the national head of coaching, the England selectors and the managers of the under-25 team.
Vinnie will hope to impress them all and receive further national recognition, which would be a heavy blow to England's oldest sporting adversary. When many programmes were suspended during the worst of the Covid pandemic, Vinnie caught the eye of the Scottish bowls authorities and was asked to visit their headquarters in Ayr. He politely declined to switch allegiance.
Whatever the future holds, all his friends at Worthing Pavilion know Vinnie Minter will give it his best shot.