I believe this lady gets my vote for the 2013 bowler of the year

It’s just my opinion, of course. I suppose any number of bowlers, professional or amateur, could be in the running for the award. But let me share the story of Mini Tvaska with you. Then you can decide for yourself if she is worthy of such an honor.

Mini Tvaska came to my attention just a few days ago as I was scrolling through the TV channels. She was on a news show of some kind along with her bowling teammates. I watched, was mesmerized, and soon was digging on the Internet for her amazing story. That story culminated this past May as Mini received a plaque for bowling in her 67th consecutive United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships in Reno, Nev.

Her story begins however, in Dearborn, Mich., at the age of 18. That’s when Mini and a group of her female friends decided to give bowling a try. In the 1930s that was a daring adventure. Bowling alleys were considered seedy joints back then, where men went to drink and smoke without their wives and children. That may be hard to believe considering the family atmosphere that permeates bowling establishments today, but it took some time for women to be accepted as legitimate bowlers. In fact, after Mini married her husband Charles in 1940, her mother-in-law referred to her and her friends as “a bunch of bums” whenever they went bowling.

She was soon hooked on the sport however, and started bowling in a league at the age of 22. Mini was a riveter for the Ford Motor Co. during World War II and it was shortly thereafter that she attended her first USBC national tournament which was held in nearby Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1947. She has not missed one since.

Now would be the time to tell you about all her high scores over the years, but I really can’t do that. Her all-time high score was a 232 game.

“I’ve never been a good bowler. I just love doing it,” says our award winner.

In her younger days she averaged around 160 throwing a 16-pound ball. These days the average is nearer 100 and an 8-pounder is all she can manage to throw. Still, at age 95 and suffering from macular degeneration, being able to bowl at all is impressive. When she stands on the approach all she can see is some blurry white spots at the end of the lane. Because of her failing eyesight, her teammates have to tell her which pins are left after her first ball.

All of this will not keep Mini from her favorite pastime. Though she may not see like she used to, she loves to hear the sound of the pins falling. After moving to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2001 she quickly found a bowling center. She bowls in leagues at Seminole Lanes on Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday Mini heads to Sunrise Lanes to – are you ready for this – practice.

That’s right. She will throw two practice games on Thursday to get ready for league play the following week. I doubt if practice will help her game at this point in her career, but so what. Bowling is what she loves and practice is something she has always done. Somewhere Allen Iverson is ready to launch into his famous speech

Congratulations, Mini. You have my vote for bowler of the year. You are an inspiration to all of us and may you enjoy many, many more years of hearing those pins drop.

The holidays will curtail much of the local league activity for the next couple of weeks, though I’m betting it hasn’t slowed Mini down any. Here are some scores that have been posted.

Tim Sturgill shot 737 to top the Rocket League. Tyson Shope rolled a 703, Tom Tiell 651, Steve Barnes 609, Dave Coppus 606 and Dottie Funk 526. Sportsman League scores included Rustan Burks 682, Scott Hartsel 666, Phil Neikirk 627, Rich Yates Sr. 616, Jason Zirkle 599, Rich Yates Jr. 586, Lance Davis 579 and Dick Gabel 567. Ken Lofton shot 696, David Jumper 671, Steve Norman 668, Pat McCarthy 644, Paul Landers 620, Greg Elchert 597, Tyson Shope 582, Dianne Smith 484, Sharon Dowdell 434 and Cheryl Radin-Norman 382 in the Wednesday Morning League.

Al Stephenson is The Advertiser- Tribune’s bowling columnist.

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