Irish champion bowls player Tom Sutton had lasting influence on world stage
Tom Sutton was one of the prominent figures within Irish bowls for several decades. His relationship with outdoor bowls began in the Northern Ireland Bowling Association when he joined Carrickfergus Bowling Club.
He immediately enjoyed success as the winner of the NIBA Pairs with Victor McAleese in 1955 and was soon selected to represent the NIBA at Inter Association level.
Having served as President of the Carrickfergus club in 1956 he then decided to move to Cavehill BC, who played in the rival Northern Ireland Private Greens League, in 1959. In a distinguished playing career Tom won three PGL Singles titles and was crowned Irish Singles champion in 1968. He made his outdoor international debut in Cardiff in 1959 at second alongside Roy Fulton (Coleraine) and Jack Webb (Musgrave) on the rink skipped by the legendary PT Watson and continued to represent his country until 1978.
At club level with Cavehill BC he won the IBA Senior cup twice (1962 and 1972), the PGL Senior League twice (1958 and 1961) and the PGL Senior cup once in 1959. He joined another legend of the game, Syd Thompson, to win the City of Belfast Pairs in 1971 and took the IBA Jubilee Pairs with Hugh Montgomery in 1977.
Yet it was to be in the area of bowls administration that he would reach the real heights and have a lasting influence on the world stage. Speak to anyone who knew Tom and they would immediately acknowledge and pay tribute to the benefits which accrued from his incessant work on behalf of Irish bowls. Tom was President of Cavehill BC and of the NIPGL in 1969, of the Irish Bowling Association in 1975 and of the British Isles Bowls Council in 1980. He also served as IBA Treasurer from 1977-1988 and as Treasurer of the BIBC from 1986-1996.
It was for these latter roles that Tom earned particular acclaim from Belfast Telegraph reporter Ronnie Harper in an article published on 5/10/96 (ISN). He referred to "Sutton, a man with the Midas touch when it came to getting sponsorship for the game. While others were talking about what had to be done, he was already doing it. A man who just wouldn't take no for an answer". He was greatly supported by his late wife Doreen, who was herself a leading figure in Irish Ladies bowling.
As Treasurer of the IBA he forged a particularly close link with the CIS Insurance company.
He attracted a host of world stars to prestigious events such as the TSB Masters and CIS Champion of Champions. He became an Honorary Member of the NIPGL in 1987, the IBA in 1988 and of the BIBC in 1996.