Tucked next to the John D. Spreckels Center, which serves those 50 and older, the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club rarely attracts youngsters.
Given that the average age of a lawn bowler is 55, and known to be a sport of patience and precision, it’s not difficult to see why 18-year-old Angel Gomez may be an outlier.
Gomez, who grew up on the island and now studies at Point Loma Nazarene University, is the youngest certified coach for Bowls USA after getting certified before he could even register to vote.
However, this story begins long before Gomez’s teenage years.
Discovering lawn bowling at a young age
According to Gomez, he was 7 when his family discovered the sport.
A “Free Family Bowling Night” out on the lawns prompted the Gomez family to try out the unfamiliar sport, and after that Gomez and his dad, Javier, were hooked.
“Over the next few years, I watched my dad practice and compete. We had the opportunity to travel to other greens for his competitions, and I got to watch his hard work pay off and I wanted to do the same,” said Gomez.
In summer 2020, after years of seeing his dad’s success in a competitive lawn bowling setting, Gomez stepped onto the scene.
More than a hobby
In three years, the game has become more than just a hobby for Gomez.
To name just a few of Gomez’s accolades: He was the first person to represent the U.S. in the under-25 division for Lawn Bowls, won first in the second flight of the U.S. Fours Open with his dad and two others, and most recently won the Southwest Division play downs to earn him a spot in the National Championship later this fall.
According to Gomez, the success he has had in these major tournaments has reaffirmed his love for the sport and desire to get better.
“It [U-25 Championships] was an incredible experience that has fueled my training over the course of this year, where I will return to the U-25 international indoor championship next month in Scotland,” said Gomez.
Balancing college life
The college freshman has gained a great amount of momentum in the sport, but with all these achievements comes balance.
According to Gomez, navigating college life and his commitment to bowling has come with certain challenges.
I’m in a difficult major [biology] and I know that school comes first, so juggling my dedication for school and my passion for lawn bowling is something I’m working on balancing.”-Angel Gomez
“I’m in a difficult major [biology] and I know that school comes first, so juggling my dedication for school and my passion for lawn bowling is something I’m working on balancing,” said Gomez. “College is one roadblock for younger people in the world of bowls, but I hope the sport and universities figure out ways to be more inclusive of these kinds of situations.”
Point Loma Nazarene has a mandatory attendance policy for freshmen who also are prohibited from bringing a car on campus.
Gomez said these challenges have made it harder to practice, and traveling to competitions he’s dreamed about for years now comes with the price of breaking the rules and missing class.
Trailblazer of the sport
Berie Grobe, former president of the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club, has known Gomez since his beginning days in the club, and she calls him a trailblazer of the sport.
According to Grobe, Gomez has accomplished so much in the sport in such a small amount of time, and she is confident he will remain a familiar face in the lawn bowling world thanks to his calm demeanor and dedication to lawn bowling.
“With coaching from his father and watching his father’s successes, Angel developed the mental focus that improved his performance and allowed him to acquire strategy. Angel is also an accomplished chess player, which likely contributes to his ability to remain focused,” said Grobe. “Besides the upcoming championships in Florida and Scotland, my hope is to see Angel represent the USA in the 2032 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia where lawn bowling will debut as an Olympic sport.”
But according to Gomez, it’s not always about winning.
He wants people his age to appreciate the sport as much as he does, and he said he cares more about young adults growing in lawn bowling than the trophies he can stack on the mantle at home.
“I always try to remember that no lawn bowling game is above camaraderie and there is an abundance of respect and admiration between players. Regardless of a win or loss each game is a good game,” he said.