Annual trip to the villages brings me to my two starting sports

The Villages in Florida bills itself as the America’s friendliest hometown. I have seen nothing to refute that claim and would add another: I think it is America’s most active hometown!

While eating breakfast at Too Jay’s one morning, I overheard a conversation at a nearby table. A man showed up well after the others had gathered and apologized for being late. That’s when another man said, “no need to apologize, I’ve got nothing to do and all day to do it!”

Despite that humorous remark, most Villagers don’t sit around idly all day long. The residents of this retirement community are active from the wee early hours to the time they roll up the sidewalks at 9 a.m. That is when the dancing concludes at all three of the town squares in this sprawling metropolis.

There are sports choices galore in The Villages, including: biking, shuffleboard, horseshoe pitching, softball, tennis, pickle ball and swimming. You can join a quilt club, play cards, participate in a poker run (on motorcycles, in golf carts or vintage automobiles) and did I mention dancing? Every night from 5 to 9!

The two top participant sports though are bowling and golf and that is what I’m referring to in my title. They weren’t even on my radar until after graduating from high school, but have been a big part of my life since. It was bowling that led me to become a “writer” and golf was added soon thereafter.

It seems impossible that I have been writing a column for more than 15 years now and this gig has morphed into all sports, as evidenced last week by my railing against the punishments handed out by Major League Baseball involving the Houston Astros’ sign stealing scandal.

But it all started with bowling. When I visited The A-T to complain about coverage of the city bowling tournament, I became the bowling columnist. After the season I was asked to turn my attention to golf. Thus, the two sports are my writing “starting” sports.

Though my recent trip to The Villages was for golfing, I am going to concentrate on bowling this week. You will have to wait a week for a golfing story.

It was on my annual trip to The Villages in 2015 that I met the lady. Her name was in the paper for high – and I mean ridiculously high – bowling scores. When I walked over to Spanish Springs Lanes (a short jaunt from our hotel) her name was again plastered all over the wall.

With a high game of 279 and high series of 746… well I wanted to see this bowler in action. She was going to be in action Thursday evening, so I was there looking for a bowling story.

She shot 233 in her first game, but was obviously not satisfied (she was one pin BELOW her average), so I decided to introduce myself to her. Missy Klug was as pleasant as could be and I watched her score climb to 269 in game two as we chatted throughout the game.

For the third game I sat with her husband Sean, a gifted bowler in his own right. We watched as Missy started stringing strikes. She gave me a story all right! A perfect 300 game gave her an 802 series. More importantly, I made a couple of new friends.

I wrote a column about Missy and sent her a copy. She reiterated again this year that she still has the column in her office. I have watched her bowl in The Villages each year since we first met and even went to Detroit to watch her perform on the LPBA tour. So we made our way to the lanes and sure enough both members of the Klug family were in action.

Missy threw the first seven strikes before a couple of pesky 10 pins forced her to “settle” for a 256 game. Sean was even better. He threw the first 11 before a solid pocket hit for the left hander resulted in the seven pin standing. Still 299 was a great score. I would have been heartsick at missing out on perfection, but Sean told me he knew what was going to happen as he did not release the ball properly.

In the second game, Missy and Sean had a spare and an open frame to start before I had to leave. I’d like to know whether they recovered from the slow start, but it did have me thinking about how fickle bowling or any sport can be. One minute you are shooting lights out and the next you are struggling big time. Even for good bowlers like Missy and Sean!

That concept was born out this past weekend when the PBA started its season with the Hall of Fame Classic. Chris Barnes won the first match with a 258 score, throwing 10 of 12 strikes. In the second match of the step ladder finals, Barnes faced Osku Palermaa from Finland.

Barnes threw the first five strikes and then went right through the nose and left the 4-7-10 split. He got a lucky bounce from the four pin out of the pit and ended up converting the spare, but he was confused with the right hand lane. When he went through the nose again in the eighth frame, he seemed totally lost.

Meanwhile, Palermaa was striking and when he struck out in the tenth he took the lead. Barnes would have to throw a double and cover five pins to win on a lane where he had totally lost his confidence.

But Barnes, a Hall of Famer, threw the first two and then got nine to shoot 254 and win by five pins. Now, he has to face fellow Hall of Famer Tommy Jones. The South Carolina native was inducted into the Hall the night before and now he’s trying to win a tournament.

Looking for a high score in this match? Well it did not happen. Jones won even though he threw only three strikes and shot 190. Barnes, coming off games of 258 and 254 threw only two strikes and shot in the 150s. Fickle, I say!

When No. 1 seed Darren Tang shot 237 in the championship match, one would have guessed the contest would be one sided. You would be correct, but if you had predicted Tommy Jones would throw a perfect game after coming off a three strike effort in the previous game, no one would have believed you.

But that is exactly what Tommy Jones did and it was incredible. Now you know why I find bowling a very exciting, if not crazy sport.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

Read his blog at:



Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)