Berkeley lawn bowling prodigy, 18, is national champ

Jon Burnoski, 18, at the 2012 National Championships: proving that lawn bowling is “not just a pastime for old folks.” Photo: Jon Yee

By Jim Corr

Jon Burnoski, a member of the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club, triumphed against top bowlers from across the nation at the US Lawn Bowling Association’s National Championships in San Diego on Sunday. In doing so, Jon, who is 18 years old and a freshman at Skyline College in San Bruno, became the youngest lawn bowls singles champion in US history and the first from Northern California to take the US crown in 14 years.

The four-day tournament pitted representatives from the USLBA’s eight regions against each other in a round robin format in which each bowler played one game against each of the other contenders. Jon represented the Pacific Inter-Mountain Division, which includes Northern California, and won six of his seven games. His final points differential of 39 edged out former national champion, Bob Schneider of the Central Division, by five points, a razor-thin margin in this tournament.

Jon (in blue shirt) eyes the position of his bowls in a championship game. Photo: Jon Yee

Jon has been bowling competitively for about 10 years, and this was his fourth time at the nationals. His brothers, Josh (15) and Matthew (12), are also successful at the sport, all of them trained by their dad, Tom. All are members of the Berkeley club. Not so coincidentally, on Sunday Tom was bowling one green away from Jon — in the National Pairs Championship, with partner Jon Yee who comes from the Palo Alto Club. (Tom and Jon came in sixth in their event.)

“This is a fantastic achievement,” said Geoff Chandler, President of the BLBC.  “It’s a great boost for the club as well as a huge personal success for Jon. It illustrates what we have always said — that far from being a pastime for “old folks,” lawn bowling is truly a game for all ages.”

Jon is now being mentioned as a potential member of Team U.S.A., representing the U.S. in international lawn bowling competitions. “It is a wonderful honor, of course,” his dad says, “but the reality is that international tournaments involve considerable expense, well beyond the means of a college student. We will have to see whether there are individuals or organizations out there that would be willing to sponsor Jon’s international career.”

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club is located at the corner of Bancroft and Acton in West Berkeley. It offers free lessons on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon. For details, call (510) 841-2174 or check out the club’s website.

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  • PC McD

    Brilliant news! It is great to see at least one young chap using the bowling green for bowling, rather than breakdancing (fed up of the grass getting worn away by kids spinning around on their heads)  

  • Just Sayin

    Respect! Berkeley Lawn Bowling gonna take over the world son!!!

  • cdinnean

    As another member of the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club, I congratulate Jon for this achievement and for doing us proud! While most of us bowl casually for the fun and the sociability, it’s nice to see a young bowler master the skills necessary to become a champion. 

  • guest

    Well done, Jon!