Bowling — a good hobby for this guy.


I started bowling back in sixth grade in the junior league at the Plaza Bowl in Virginia, Minnesota.  I held the ball wrong at first, wrong fingers in the holes, but I manage a 93 for my first game ever.


My team was a bunch of guys from my home town – and we bowled together, all five of us, Jim, Mark, Dave, John and me for six years.  We sometimes had good years, we sometimes had not so good years.  I bowled against other kids – some were better (The Bombers, for example) and guys with names like Gary, Scott, Dixie and Worm  — and girls Toni, Leanne, Janet, and Louanne.  And that’s just a few of them.  Bottom line: we were competitive and had a good time.


In tenth grade, I was also part of a team from Gethsemane Lutheran church – church bowling league, Thursday nights at the other lanes in town, called the Bowling Gardens.  The cool thing here was that it was pretty much father/son type stuff – my dad had by now taken up bowling, so we spent Thursday nights together, along with a few other guys from church, and again, had a good time.


The peak of those early years: when I was a junior in high school, I got in the groove.  The first half of the year I was okay, but all of a sudden, it seemed I got in the zone and bowled far above my head, earning my way first to the regional rolloffs in Duluth and then gaining a spot in the state junior tournament.  That was a great feeling – and I passed it up to go to my high school prom.  NO regrets, that’s for sure, but that’s what happened.


After high school, I never bowled in a league for decades.  I did indeed bowl socially a few times, but mostly with relatives as a diversion after a turkey dinner during one of the holidays.  My ball sat in the closet, waiting and waiting for its chance to do some magic again.


And along came retirement.  I took the chance and showed up at the bowling establishment in Brainerd (Jack’s House) and got assigned to a team that needed a one more member.  So there I was, bowling every Wednesday afternoon with Lois, Mike, me and a guy who came and went as the year passed along.  We finished dead last, I used my ball from my high school days, and had a fine time getting to know the folks in that league.  By the way, I was probably the youngest guy in the house.


Year two, and holy moley, did we ever turn it around.  That guy who came on and off was gone, and now we had Frank bowling with us… and we took (take a deep breath and enjoy the thought) first place!  I now have my first athletic trophy of all time!  I do have to say that part of the reason is that I got myself a new ball – my old rubber ball just was out of date.  Technology had changed over the years, the lanes were different, so my old ball no longer held any advantage. My new ball is a hard plastic, and its benefits showed up by immediately by raising my average ten points by the end of the season.  Well, since the first half of the season I had averaged 152 but was now hitting 162 regularly, my handicap ended up being quite the benefit to the whole team – and hence, such a good finish.


Year three – and back to last place, thank you very much.  I ended up at an average 0f 162 again, but my handicap therefore followed – and ergo there went the advantage.


This year has started out right there – a few Wednesdays off for a trip and a pulled muscle in my arm, but it has been good to get back to the lanes.