Jamie Walker is hoping to banish his Commonwealth Games heartbreak of three years ago by firing Team England to glory in Birmingham next summer.
The 29-year-old narrowly missed out on selection for the Gold Coast in 2018, despite having claimed World Championship triples gold two years earlier, and the national singles title in 2017.
Since then the Northampton West End star has notched Atlantic Championships singles and pairs gold, and is now among the front-runners to drive a serious medal haul on home soil.
“You don’t realise how much it means to you until you don’t get picked,” said Walker, who is supporting Bowls’ Big Weekend, a nationwide campaign taking place from May 28-31.
Walker believes the Bowls’ Big Weekend initiative is a crucial tool in engaging people in the sport following the Covid-19 pandemic, with his brothers Danny and William also involved in getting things set up at their home club.
Over 600 clubs across the country have signed up to open their doors to the public on Bank Holiday Weekend, allowing individuals of all ages and backgrounds to try a new sport, have fun and meet new people.
Walker added: “Programmes like Bowls’ Big Weekend are massive for clubs like ours – that are a bit hidden away – to try and get people involved and see what the sport’s all about.
“With Birmingham not too far away and the Commonwealth Games coming soon, now is a great time to celebrate the sport and try to engage as many people as possible.”
“It’s definitely spurred me on to make the team for next year, and it would mean everything to me if I do. Positive results are the only way I’m going to get selected, so that’s what I’ll keep striving towards.
“A lot of the major events are played in the southern hemisphere, so I think being able to play in Leamington will be a big advantage for whoever makes the England squad, and we should be looking to medal in every aspect.”
While Covid-19 somewhat stuttered his growing momentum on the bowling green, self-employed builder Walker has kept himself occupied by ramping up his workload.
Having spent what time he could on the golf course as well, he is now focused on rediscovering his finest bowls form and enjoying a fruitful season in the months ahead.
“I was playing well when Covid-19 hit and it meant I missed out on last year’s World Championships which was a shame,” said Walker, who is one of only three bowlers – alongside Sam Tolchard and Edward Morris – to have secured both the men’s two-wood and singles titles at the National Championships.
“Everything stopped work-wise for a couple of weeks but since then I’ve been busier than ever. Since people have been spending more time at home they’ve seemed to have wanted more work doing.
“It was nice to have a bit of a break from the green initially, but I missed the social aspect. It’s good to be back now and working hard to get back into the full swing of things.”
Find your nearest Bowls’ Big Weekend participating club at www.bowlsbigweekend.com