Seamus Curtin will stand out at this year's bowls nationals and not just because he'll arrive in a flower covered combi-van.
At 12-years-old the Plimmerton Primary School student will be the youngest player among the nearly 1000-strong Open Championship field.
And he might just be the most ambitious after packing up his cricket pads and bat this summer to focus on a sport in which he has quickly made his mark.
"I started when I was 10 and I was pretty serious then, but then my second and third year have become a bit more serious," he said yesterday. "That's [representing New Zealand] my goal now."
In fact, Curtin won the annual rookie players tournament in his first year and has been on the improve ever since.
It's no surprise considering he's been around the bowling greens since he was a three-year-old towed along to his mother Rachel's mid-week practice sessions and weekend matches.
It seems mum's skills, she was a Wellington development player and now passionate youth coach, have rubbed off on her son.
Seamus impressed national men's selector Dave Edwards at a recent national coaching clinic and even managed to make an impact at this year's national secondary schools tournament.
With Rachel coaching an Aotea College team her son found himself called into action when one of the Wellington College's boys pair fell sick and, though not eligible for the finals, helped year 13 partner Felix Sampson, to six wins and four losses.
Now he can't wait to test himself against the country's top adult players.
"Nah, I just bowl," he said when asked if he was intimidated by his older opponents. "I'm quite excited. I want to test my skills against what they have and see what their delivery is like and what I can improve on."
The only difference between him and the other 279 men's singles entrants, as far as Seamus is concerned, will be his stature and the size of his bowls. His Taylor Redline SRs are size two due to his smaller hands.
He will attempt to emerge from section 27 at Hawera in the singles, but failing that has a chance with his dad Con, his regular club and Wellington centre event pairs partner.
"We've won games, but never any [tournaments]," he said. "Dad can be hard to get along with on the green."
Ribbing aside, it will be a family affair for the Curtin's with Rachel, originally from Taranaki, entered in the women's singles.
The trio will pile into a "hippie van" she bought off an older son a few years back and it will help her shuttle everyone to their various venues.
Curtin's not the first 12-year-old to play at the nationals and he need only look at Victoria's Raymond Martin for inspiration.
Martin, then in year 7 at South Wellington Intermediate, featured in The Dominion Post in 2002 when he led for his father Marty at the nationals in Wellington.
At 22-year-old now Ray Martin went on to represent New Zealand at age grade level and will be playing in the singles and pairs at this year's nationals.
- The Dominion Post
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