By Matt Stevens
March 4, 2020

Learning the sport of tenpin bowling in the program Bowl Patrol, to now winning tournaments in the space of a year. A 13 year old boy from South East Queensland is thriving in the sport at a rapid rate.

The name of that boy is Lachlan Nielsen. A Bowl Patrol graduate and now the winner of the inaugural Logan City Tenpin Junior Masters at the age of 13 years old.

Logan City Tenpin is a 20 lane registered centre in South East Queensland. In late January 2020 the centre ran their inaugural masters event which was open to all TBA members under the age of 18 years old. Lachlan was one of 21 competitors that battled it out in the handicapped event.

As the top qualifier, Nielsen received a bye through the second round of the finals. Nielsen defeated his first opponent in the semi-final, before winning a nail-biting final match to be named the inaugural 2020 Logan City Tenpin Junior Masters Champion! Lachlan averaged 130 with a high game of 168.

2020 Logan City Tenpin Junior Master Winners

Quite the achievement accomplished in a little over a year after graduating from the Bowl Patrol program that first introduced him to the sport and opened his eyes to the participation pathways.

Bowl Patrol is Australia’s only national ‘Learn to Bowl’ Tenpin Bowling program. Designed for primary school children – but suitable for participants of all ages and ability, it’s an 8 week program that typically starts the second week of each school term.

Like many children, Lachlan enjoyed the sport at a social level. Enrolling into Bowl Patrol was an opportunity to develop further in the sport.

“He enjoyed bowling and there was just something about the sport that drove him to keep improving” said Lachlan’s mum Debbie Nielsen.

The grade 8 student had tried other sports like soccer and little athletics but found these sports fell short of the fulfilment he experienced with bowling.

“Lachlan likes the way it allows you to better yourself as both an individual and team sport” said mum. “The fact that it is an even playing field as far as size and strength are concerned is another positive”.

Bowl Patrol uses carpets to get participants closer to the pins

First hearing about the program through school, Lachlan’s parents just wanted to let him try something different. An indoor sport and an activity that would get him out of the house. Bowl Patrol satisfied those requirements!

Bowl Patrol starts participants on 9 metre carpets taking them approximately halfway down the lane and then progressively moves them to 6m, then 3m and finally onto full length lanes. The idea is for participants to focus on technique through being closer to the pins without the aid of bumpers. Once a bowler improves, carpets are progressively removed, placing the participant further away from the pins. The gradual improvement and recognition in the program plus a fun atmosphere proved to be a winning combination.

“Lachlan enjoyed the progression of the mats and the feeling around the program was that it wasn’t about competition but just getting out there and giving it a go”.

One of the leading centres in the country running the national participation program, Logan City Tenpin are great supporters of Bowl Patrol. Winner of both the 2019 Queensland and National Bowl Patrol Centre of the Year award, Logan City Tenpin have had more than 100 patrollers come through their programs since running an initial pilot program in September 2016 with 10 participants.

“I know that if I didn’t have Bowl Patrol I wouldn’t have approximately 20 of my juniors that have come from the program” explained centre manager Janine Buckingham.   “I have noticed a real difference in skill level of juniors that have started with Bowl Patrol as compared to the juniors that haven’t done the program. Bowl Patrol is also very easy to explain to a parent that does not bowl which is very important”.

As with all introductory programs, it doesn’t start and finish with the program itself; it requires effort and strategy from the centre to ensure continuation in the sport.

“After the 8 week Bowl Patrol program they move into our ‘Have a ball Rangers’ league where they bowl for 15 weeks and then they receive their first bowling ball” said Buckingham. “We appoint a coach to them to continue to develop their skills and knowledge – We then try keep them in that league for a year before sending them to a league which best suits their bowling ability”.

A feature of the Bowl Patrol program is rewarding gradual improvement throughout the program.

“Watching the kids receive their wrist bands and coming up to tell me that another carpet is coming off is my favourite thing about Bowl Patrol” said Buckingham. “It shows me that the kids can see themselves getting better which is very hard to measure in a lot of sports”.

Bowl Patrol session at Logan City Tenpin

These are all elements that have proved to be important for a participant in choosing whether to continue in the sport.

“Lachlan felt he was competitive in the sport and the little wins along the way helped drive him to keep going” said mum Debbie Nielsen.

Witnessing success stories like Lachlan’s gives the centre of Logan City confidence they are doing things right.

“It makes us realise that we have done Bowl Patrol justice and it does work!” proclaimed Buckingham. “It’s not easy at first and you need to have good lane rangers – I am lucky to have Emily Bottomley and Jesse Ellis running it. The Bowl Patrol kids see them as an example of a bowler to strive towards”.

Lane rangers are qualified instructors that conduct the Bowl Patrol programs.  Both Emily Bottomley and Jesse Ellis are outstanding bowlers and are part of TBA’s National Youth Training Squad. As young athletes,   the kids can relate to them and provides a glimpse of what they could aspire to be in the not too distant future.

“I love the innovative idea of the program and was encouraged by centre management to be a part of the trial program” explained Bottomley. “As someone who had always wanted to be a teacher, the program allowed me to combine two of my favourite things – bowling and teaching – and I loved it!”

The opportunity to coach and introduce kids to a sport you love has been highly rewarding for the lane rangers at Logan City.

“Seeing little successes in the kids when they apply the skills taught to them during the Bowl patrol lessons and then seeing how much they learn and grow as a bowler by the end of the program is eye opening” explained Jesse Ellis.

“It is incredible to see their little faces light up when they bowl a new PB or receive their band for levelling up or even just bowling their first strike” explained Bottomley. “It is incredible to see the passion you have for the sport reflected in the bowl patrollers”.

Lane Rangers Emily Bottomley and Jesse Ellis passing on their knowledge to young bowl patrollers

Since the first pilot program in September 2016, the Bowl Patrol program has evolved over time and so has the participants that are enrolling.

“Over the years I have watched our program develop from attracting mostly children that come out of league bowling families or from a bowling background to drawing kids with absolutely no prior experience of the pathways available in tenpin bowling” explained Bottomley. ‘The ability this program has to transform these children who have had no prior experience into competitive league bowlers is commendable”.

The success stories that are starting to develop from the Bowl Patrol program are beginning to be revealed. The success that Lachlan Nielson has accomplished in such a short time is testament to this.

“I am privileged to be a part of Lachlan’s journey from Bowl Patroller to his recent success. However, I also recognise the fact that it takes ‘two to tango’ and without his desire to be better and improve he wouldn’t be where he is today – just over 1 year on from graduating Bowl Patrol” said Jesse Ellis.

“There is no better feeling than seeing these kids succeed and achieve their goals.  To feel as if you have played a small part in that success is incredibly humbling” said Bottomley. “I love this sport and have been so lucky to have had the opportunities I have had so far and hope only to provide the same opportunities and more for these kids to experience”.

Term 1 Logan City Tenpin Bowl Patrol is under way

Graduating from the Bowl Patrol program and following it up with his success at the Junior Masters event proves Lachlan may have found a sport for life.

“He is really passionate about his bowling, something he doesn’t want to miss!” said Mum. 

Does mum think he would have tried bowling without Bowl Patrol?

“No, we wouldn’t have even considered it. If Bowl Patrol hadn’t come to Lachlan’s school, we probably would never have started him bowling”.

Bowl Patrol teaches the fundamental skills of the sport and improves co-ordination and balance. Bowl Patrol is FAST, FUN and ACTIVE and promotes skill development, a sense of achievement, socialisation and teamwork. For more information on this program and how to get involved, head to