Charlie “The Hand” Bechard was a fixture on the old “TV Tournament Time” show, along with Duke Moran and popular host Howard Tupper.
A huge fan of bowling and longtime secretary of several senior leagues at Cohoes Bowling Arena, the late Bechard’s name remains part of the local scene, thanks to a tournament named after him.
The 20th annual Charlie Bechard Memorial Tournament, a senior men’s handicap event, kicks off a big weekend Saturday at Green Island Lanes. Seniors also will have special consideration with two squads on both Saturday and Sunday in the 10th annual Joe
Donato Scratch Singles Tournament at Redwood Lanes. More on that event later.
Bechard got his nickname because the only thing television viewers saw during “TV Tournament Time” was his hand as he kept score every week. Everyone who watched the show, however, knew his name, and he was extremely well-respected in the local bowling community, especially among seniors.
“Charlie started this tournament originally, and then Betty Stott ran it here at Green Island Lanes until she retired,” said Schenectady’s Sonny Dorstek, who not only manages Green Island Lanes for the Walsh family, but has also been one of the Capital Region’s premier bowlers for nearly 50 years. “We wanted to keep the tournament going, so it came down to me. I didn’t have much choice. I pretty much run it now, but I’ve got some help from Darrel Coonradt, who does all the scoring on the computer.”
Dorstek remembers how much Bechard meant to local bowlers.
“Charlie was a real nice guy. He was friendly with everybody and was very generous in his way. He talked to everybody, and I remember that he always wore a suit. I don’t think I ever saw him without a suit on. He was just a nice man. He and his good friend, Duke Moran, could always be seen at the bowling alley.”
Last year’s event drew only about 70 bowlers, but Dorstek said entries are way up this year.
“We’ve already got probably close to 80 entries for our three Saturday squads. Last year, we didn’t get any out-of-towners, but this year, with all the publicity we got from the area newspapers, and from Jim Burton’s NEST tournament that we had at the lanes, there was a lot more exposure. I think the senior bowlers like the fact that there is no snow on the ground.”
There are three squads on Saturday, at 1 p.m. (30 openings), 3 p.m. (64 openings) and 6:15 p.m. (24 openings). Two other squads are scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m. and Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
Entry fee is just $22, and re-entries are allowed. Handicap will be 100 percent of 220.
Only male sanctioned bowlers who are 50 by Saturday are eligible. Competition will be broken down into three divisions: Class C (age 50-59), Class B (60-69) and Class A (70 and over).
“This is a chance for the guys to see some of bowlers they haven’t seen in a while and bowl with some friends. The cost of $22 isn’t really a big investment, and all the prize money goes back to the bowlers,” Dorstek said.
“Right now, we can take some walk-ups for the 1 p.m. squad, but the 3 p.m. squad is close to full.”
To make a reservation, call Green Island Lanes at 273-2322.
Qualifying for the 10th annual Joe Donato Scratch Singles Tournament continues tonight at 9:30 at Saratoga Strike Zone, and then moves to Redwood at both 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday. There will be an open and a senior division with one in four advancing to the semifinals.
Qualifying continues Sunday, with two more squads at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Again, there will be open and senior divisions, but this time, one in five advance to the semifinals, which begin roughly at 3 p.m.
All qualifiers from each squad bowl four games in the semifinals, with the top 22 advancing to the head-to-head single-elimination
finals. The top two qualifiers receive two byes, and the next four receive one bye during the match play.
Entry fee is $60, and first place is $4,000 guaranteed. Call Redwood Lanes at 869-3581 or Tom Donato at 496-7812 for reservations.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u The Huck Finn/Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York Adult-Child Tournament will have qualifying this weekend. Spare Time-East Greenbush hosts squads at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, while Sportsman’s Bowl hosts another squad Sunday at 1 p.m. The finals will be held March 24 at 1 p.m. at Redwood Lanes.
u The annual Blizzard Bowl continues Sunday at 11:45 a.m. at Boulevard Bowl. Entry fee is $60 per team. Call Boulevard at 374-4171 for reservations.
u The Schenectady League at Rolling Greens Lanes is looking for bowlers for next season. The league bowls for 28 weeks at a cost of $25 per week. The league operates on a point-system basis. Interested bowlers should call Rolling Greens at 381-4848 or Cliff Ruth at 847-8089.
u Art Van Buren of Altamont defeated Peter Linck of Valatie, 172-152, to win the New Era Senior Tour event at Green Island Lanes last Saturday. Van Buren won $400, while Linck earned $200. Ron Gardner of Troy and Eric Morrell of Mechanicville picked up $130 each. Sportsman’s Bowl will host the next NEST event April 15 at 10:30 a.m.
u There are still openings for the Buekendaal Fire Department
No-Tap Team Tournament at Towne Bowling Academy
March 23 at 9:30 a.m. and March 24 at 2 p.m.
u Towne Bowling Academy’s final Scotch Doubles event of the year will be held March 30 at 9:30 p.m.
u Towne Bowling Academy will be offering various summer leagues, including sport leagues and adult-junior leagues, beginning in April and running for 10 weeks. Call Towne Bowling Academy at 355-3939 for information on any of the upcoming tournaments or leagues.
u Vitalo Classic average leader Craig Berschwinger (254) rolled his league season-record 15th 1,000 series and 35th of his career Saturday night with a 1,041. He had a first-three of 815 for his fifth 800 triple of the year.
u Aiden Deitz, age 7, rolled a 191-522 in the Sportsman’s Bantams last weekend. Deitz is averaging 130. He rolled 14 strikes overall, including seven in his second game.
u Towne Bowling Academy will offer a PBA Sport Trio league on Wednesday nights, beginning April 25. The 10-week program will cost $20 per week and will run through the last week of June. There will be an orientation meeting April 18, and bowlers can compete on the same of the patterns that will be used on that night.
u Marc Fowler rolled a 530 and won $100 in the seventh week of the Sportsman’s Bowl Eliminator. Jim Parker (528, $50) and Jason Deitz (523, $30) also cashed, while Zach Olsen and Mike DeGenero Jr. earned free entries into next Monday night’s finals. Bowlers can qualify for $10 through their leagues at Sportsman’s Bowl, or they can qualify for $15 when lanes are available. To qualify, bowlers must shoot a handicap total of 665 or better. Handicap is 80 percent of 240. The finals are every Monday night.
u The Schenectady-Scotia Women’s Bowling Association will hold its annual membership meeting March 25 at 1 p.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl. On the agenda will be election of officers and directors, the naming of delegates to the national and state conventions and the adoption of the annual budget. Refreshments will be provided. All league members are encouraged to attend.
u Spare Time-Clifton Park will host a “Crazy Cash” handicap doubles league this summer, with a guaranteed $1,000 going to the winning team. The league will bowl Tuesday nights at 7. Entry fee is $20 per week, and handicap is 100 percent of 200. The league will run for 15 weeks, and brackets and jackpots will be available. The league is hoping to have an overall prize fund of $10,000. Call Brant Insero at Spare Time-Clifton Park at 371-4000 for more information.
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