The idea took root a couple of years ago as a team of seasoned bowlers looked for options. These guys had been bowling for years, but times had changed and the sport wasn't quite the same as in the past. Several issues had to be dealt with.
One was the length of the bowling season. Thirty-two weeks is a long time. It becomes longer the older one gets. Committing to an entire season becomes more difficult. Nagging injuries are harder to ignore. Some of the oldsters like to head south of here for a month or so during the winter. Lining up a substitute for extended periods of time becomes a chore.
To be perfectly honest, another problem for these guys was the younger generation. Some young bowlers look at league night as a party night. Fortified with a couple of drinks, the young guns become, well, loud. I know how noisy it can get, as I witnessed the craziness first hand. There were times when sudden shouts as you approached the foul line made you cringe.
So what to do about all this? Teammates Bob Reinhart, Dick Gabel, Jim Ruess, Paul Gosche and Dan Coppes looked into a different type of bowling league. The folks at the Knights of Columbus bowling lanes had an open evening. When the guys pitched their proposal to them, a new type of bowling league was formed.
Thus the 55 Plus League came into existence. There is no truth to the rumor the league name came from some bowling columnist's waist size. Actually, there are two requirements to bowl in this league - a bowler must be male and at least 55 years of age. Perhaps there will be some ladies who like this concept and may consider forming a league of their own. Maybe a mixed or "couples" league could be on the horizon.
The biggest change in this league is the fact that there are no permanent teams. Each week the guys who show up will draw for teams. That means one week you will be rooting for a fellow to carry a particular hit and the next week you'll be urging that guy's single pin to stand up and fight. Choosing teams each week takes care of one of the major problems - finding a substitute.
If you want to bowl, all you have to do is show up. Not feeling well, stay home. Heading south for a month, again no problem. The honey-do list getting a little long? Take the week off. You only bowl when you want to.
The league takes place Wednesday evenings at 6:30. The turnout varies from week to week, but usually there is some 15 bowlers participating. An odd number doesn't matter. Each bowler has a handicap updated by Bob Reinhart. Each team will have a target score that is 100 percent of its handicap. The winning team will be the most over target.
Each week bowlers throw in $3 for prizes. All the money is distributed each night with winning teams being paid for each game and any amount left over is raffled off.
The league founders say they're having a great time.
"It's fun to bowl with different partners each week," Jim Ruess said.
According to Dick Gabel, "We have one guy that hadn't bowled in 20 years. Now he has bought a new ball, some new shoes and he shows up nearly every week."
The guys have been impressed with the people at the K of C, as they have invited the bowlers to come "upstairs" for sandwiches after bowling. Membership is not a necessity on bowling nights.
As I listened to the benefits of the new league, I couldn't help but wish I could participate. Unfortunately I bowl in Fostoria on Wednesday evenings. That means I will have to forgo one of the perks associated with bowling in this league.
Originally tickets were used to draw teams as names were written on each one. A more permanent feature was added when wooden cubes were brought in. It seems Mr. Ruess has a woodworking shop at home.
"He brought in several and I put a name on them," said Reinhart. Now bowlers have their own personalized nameplate.
So there you have it, all you mature bowling gentlemen in the area. If this sounds like fun to you, stop by the K of C on Wednesday nights. I have it on good authority there are blank wooden cubes still available.
I'm wondering if a certain bowling columnist might just get an honorary
Al Stephenson is The A-T bowling columnist.
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