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Seniors let good times roll in Ronan

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Senior bowlers who converged on Lucky Strike Lanes in Ronan during the last three weekends to participate in the State Seniors Championships claimed some $3,200 in prize money but took more than cash from their experience.

Of the 27 in-state bowling associations represented, Missoula had the highest participation in the women's event with 16 of the event's 161 total entries.

According to Tim Corbett, the center's manager, women's participation was dominated by bowlers 70 years and older who comprised more than 38 percent of the field, which had four age categories.

Serena Streeter of Bigfork claimed the C Division title (ages 60-64) with 1,351, the highest handicap total of the four divisions, while on the men's side Chuck Martin of Great Falls, also in the C Division, was far and away the leader registering a robust 1,519 six-game handicap total.

Bigfork boasted three of the women's champions as Susan Metzgar claimed the B Division (ages 65-59), and Lou Pickavance won the D Division (ages 55-59) with a 1,289 series.

Metzgar's husband, Larry, was just a pin back of Gary Enghusen of Shelby in the A Division with 1,395. Joe Degraw was the only Missoula placer, grabbing third in the B Division with 1,363.

Corbett said senior bowlers, who start tournament play as early as 8 a.m., are anxious to get going once they arrive at the bowling center, which sometimes is an hour before the first shift gets under way.

That presents a bit of a challenge, said Corbett, for bowling employees who close the business, then need to have it up and running first thing in the morning. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that took him back to days gone by when the social aspect of the game was why you played.

"It brought me back to days when people were just happy to bowl," he said. "It was quite a change … It gave me a whole new lease on bowling for a while."

Corbett said bowlers from Libby to Laurel often stuck around after their shift was over to watch other seniors they knew from other such tournaments bowl.

"It was so refreshing," he said about the camaraderie.

Ronan area senior bowlers who haven't traveled to tournaments now are considering making the trip to Billings next year.

Participation in senior leagues and tournaments has steadily increased in recent year,s but in most cases participation is a social occurrence built around fellowship and camaraderie.

At Westside Lanes, for example, senior participation has increased this year after dropping off a bit recently, according to Robyn Barker.

"Our (Friday) senior league went from 22 to 24 teams this year," she said. "I see a lot of new faces. The last couple years, to be honest, we lost quite a few, illnesses or death or they lost their husband or wife."

Senior leagues are plentiful at all three bowling centers with some veteran bowlers taking in the festivities at more than a single establishment.

While Friday's league is structured at Westside Lanes, Monday's senior session is casual, not requiring a weekly commitment.

Last week the group loaded refreshments on to a bus to Helena where they joined senior counterparts for morning bowling followed by lunch.

"Strictly for fun," Barker said, "then in a month or so their seniors will come here on a Monday and bowl with our seniors."

Barker believes participation in senior leagues also is getting younger.

"I would say more of them within the age of 55 to 60," she said. "We have a lot of the younger group."

"I have a hard time calling them seniors," added Barker. "You just don't think of them bowling on the senior league."

Reporter Mick Holien can be reached by e-mail at mholien@missoulian.com.

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