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Seniors seek strikes at local lanes

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The sound of bowling balls on freshly waxed lanes interrupted the buzz of chatter during competition at Fun Bowl in McDonough.

A group of 116 seniors from around metro Atlanta turned out Tuesday morning, as they do every week, to participate in the "Swing On Seniors" bowling league at Fun Bowl.

"It's something to do," said Artis McDuffie, of McDonough.

McDuffie, 66, said he has been bowling since he was 17. He joined the league in 2006, after moving to McDonough from New York. He is a retired computer technician.

McDuffie is part of the four-member senior bowling league team known as "Hopeless."

"That's how they bowl," joked Johnnie Wilkerson, 66, of Jonesboro.

Wilkerson, who claims to have 40 years of bowling experience, is a member of a competing team called "The Outlaws." He said his competitor's less-than-flattering name originated with its team captain, Bobbie Echols.

"Last year, we were 'Clueless,' and we didn't get any better," said Echols, 67, of Rex. "So, I decided to call us 'Hopeless.'"

On Tuesday, however, the team stood in the middle of the pack, ranking in the middle tier of the 28-team senior bowling league.

Echols, who averages a 150 bowling score, has been bowling on the senior citizens' circuit for the past decade, but said she does not compete merely for the sake of winning.

"I bowl just for fun, and to have company -- someone to bowl with," Echols said.

Most senior bowlers are looking to have fun and create new friendships, according to Ron Warwell, the marketing director at Fun Bowl of Henry County, and the senior bowling league coordinator.

Warwell, 70, helped organize the league in 2002 and also participates in its 32-week-long season, which lasts from September through April.

"It's about giving seniors something fun to do," said Warwell, who also teaches a bowling-fundamentals clinic at Fun Bowl.

Warwell said the senior bowling league has been successful, partly because there is a large population of active seniors in Henry and surrounding counties.

"Most of them are retirees," he said. "And they don't keep late hours. So, we have league tournaments in the morning during the week."

Anthony Gates, 63, travels each week from his home in Atlanta to take part in the weekly tournaments at Fun Bowl.

"I really enjoy bowling here," said Gates, who has been bowling for 35 years.

Gates is a member of the "Nice and Easy" senior bowling league team, which participates in different leagues throughout metro Atlanta and is one of the top teams in the "Swing On Seniors" bowling league.

"We bowl in different houses, and we do a lot of tournaments," said George Hubbard, Sr., a team member who has several 300 games to his name.

Other seniors may not be as skilled, but enjoy the sport all the same.

"I'm fair," Jeanette Nipper said of her bowling skills. "I started bowling when I was 34 years old. I took it up because I wanted something to do during the day while my kids were in school."

Now 70, Nipper travels from her home in Covington to bowl and socialize with her friends.

McDonough resident, Leo Kenner, 71, wants to stay active and skilled in the sport. He said he joined the senior bowling league about six years ago and is the best player on his team.

"They call me 'The King,' because I'm so good," Kenner boasted.

Aaron Drake, 67, of Jackson, joined the senior bowling league about five years ago.

"I retired and needed something to do," Drake said. "It's exercise. It keeps you from being a couch potato."

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On the net:

Fun Bowl of Henry County:

www.myfunbowl.com