DAN Bluett has made rapid strides as a bowls official and in just under three years the Westlecot member has gained his World Bowls Tour card as an umpire, writes DAVE EATON.

The 44-year-old computer programmer, who works for Capita in Swindon on the Zurich Insurance Company contract, has only been bowling since 2000 and officiating since May 2010.

He took up the sport originally after a divorce and started playing bowls at Wanborough and then Wootton Bassett before settling at Westlecot a few years ago.

He is a good club bowler, plays regularly in the Westlecot Swindon and District League side and occasionally in the Wiltshire League team, and is the club’s outdoor treasurer.

“I decided to become an umpire when I realised my dream of appearing as a player on the greens at the national championships at Worthing probably wouldn't happen,” admitted Bluett.

“Also, a bet with my friend and bowling buddy, John Anderson, as to who would get to step on the green at Worthing first - as an umpire I'd have more chance of making it before him.

“Yes I've beaten him to it - although his son, Kyle, beat us both.”

Bluett took up umpiring and qualified with the English Bowls Umpires Association (EBUA) as a county grade umpire in May 2010 and has made extremely rapid strides since.

He first officiated at the English Indoor National finals in March 2011 and a few months later at the outdoor championships and national finals at Worthing in August. And at both again last year.

Bluett was upgraded to a national grade umpire with the EBUA in September 2011 and was invited by John Davies, secretary of the Professional Bowls Association and World Bowls Tour, to the World Indoor Bowls Championships at Potters in January last year to be assessed for potential to join the ranks of tour umpires not in the international arena.

“That went very well in January 2012,” said Bluett. “I was invited back again for this year’s championships which are currently taking place at the moment for international arena experience. “I was assessed this week in three matches as I marked the game between Robert Weale and Ray Pearse.

“Then on Monday in front of the television cameras on the red button I umpired the match between world champion Andy Thomson and qualifier Phil Bennett who caused a big upset.

“And finally on Tuesday on television marked the incredible game between Stewart Anderson and Steve Allan that went to a tie breaker and was finally won by Anderson with his last bowl.”

Bluett continued: “After the assessments I was very pleased and absolutely delighted when the organisers told me that I would be one of their six umpires for the World Bowls Tour this year.

“I am not sure at the moment what else it might involve like PDA tournaments as there are plenty of those qualifiers during the year.

“But one thing is for certain it does not pay enough to pay the mortgage so I will be continuing in the day job and still be bowling up at Westlecot both indoors and outdoors.”