ST. GEORGE — The sounds of sparkly and neon-colored bowling bolls rolling down the lanes and clinking into pins echoed behind the cheers of Huntsman World Senior Games athletes at the Sunset West Bowling Center Wednesday morning during qualifying rounds.
Of the original 373 bowling participants, about half of each division in five categories qualified for finals which continue through Saturday evening. Though, it’s not just about competition for the seasoned bowlers, it’s about revisiting old friendships with people from all corners of the country.
Sue Brooks, 68, of Harrisburg, has been bowling since she was in high school and serves as the secretary for the Elks and Friends bowling league and as the vice president for the Mixed Nuts bowling league.
“It’s a very special thing. People come from everywhere and it’s fun to see people we never see,” Brooks said. “I’ve been doing Senior Games as part of the bowling director’s team for five years. I don’t usually bowl in the games, but last year a lady hurt her knee, so I bowled for her. We did win a medal last year. I’m really just out here to make sure everyone has a good time.”
Annette Chugg, 64, got her start with bowling watching her parents bowl when she was a child. She didn’t begin bowling herself until she was 19 and it quickly became her stress reliever. Her family used to joke with her that she inherited the “bowling gene.”
“Bowling is something I enjoy,” she said. “About eight years ago I was one of the top bowlers in the area, but I lost interest for awhile. I’m not as good as I used to be. I’m trying to work it back because, you know, like any sport you have to practice. Bowling is a very mental game. Sometimes you’re in the zone and every roll is smooth. Sometimes somebody a couple lanes down will get in your head — sometimes you get in your own head — and you just have to refocus and get your head back in the game.”
This year is Chugg’s eighth year competing in the Senior Games, but she said if anything happened to her right arm she would be done with bowling for good.
“I would not attempt with my left arm.,” she said. “Some people do that. They get an injury and relearn how to play with their other arm. I couldn’t do that. My ego wouldn’t be able to deal with it.”
This year marks the eighth year of the HWSG for Ray Malinski, 83, of St. George, who has won 14 medals, many gold, in bowling. He plays in three leagues: the Elks and Friends on Monday, Mixed Nuts on Thursday and Senior Tidy of Friday.
“I love the game, I love the people and I love the exercise,” Malinski said. “Good Lord willing, I’ll play in next year’s games.”
Of all the competitors, Frank Vito, 91, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Eva Sorensen, 91, of Alexandria, Va., are the oldest in this year’s senior games.
The mixed doubles and team finals are held Friday, followed by the Strictly Scratch finals Saturday held at Dixie Bowl and Recreation Center, located 146 E. City Center Street in St. George, and Sunset West Bowling Center, located at 1476 W. Sunset Blvd. The silver, gold and bronze winners will be invited to the 2015 National Senior Games, among other winning senior games athletes, which will be held in Minnesota in the cities of Bloomington, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
For a full bowling schedule and results, click here.
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