Competitive fires still burn brightly on the lanes for the over-50 set.
That’s why Jim Burton’s New Era Senior Tour is slowly starting to catch on the Capital Region.
The second full season of NEST begins Saturday at 1 p.m. at Town ‘n Country Lanes.
One of the attractive features of this special senior tour is that after qualifying, the bowlers square off in matches against players in their own age division until the finals. It balances the field and gives everyone who qualifies a fighting chance.
The age divisions are 50-59, 60-66 and 67-and-over. Entry fee is $50, plus annual dues of $25, which can be paid over five tournaments.
One in four bowlers cashed by age group. Qualifying is four games across eight lanes, leading to head-to-head single-elimination match play within the age divisions.
Lane conditions are the customary house shot, unless otherwise stipulated.
“Eventually in our format, you have to bowl against the kids, who are the 50-year-olds, but at least us older guys have a chance. It does equalize the playing ground a little, and that part seems to work out well for us,” said Burton, whose father, the late George Burton, was the executive director of the local proprietors association. Jim Burton, however, grew up in Detroit.
“Detroit is one heck of a bowling town, but I’ve been telling everyone since I moved back here a couple of years ago that this community is right up there with the kind of support that bowlers get in Detroit,” he said.
“The opportunities for us bowlers in the Capital Region are amazing across the board. It’s a shame that most of the bowlers here don’t appreciate what they have. They should travel around the country like I have and see what little support other areas have for bowling. This area is great.”
Burton is the poster boy for the ultra-competitive senior bowler. He’ll turn 70 in May, yet he still bowls in three senior leagues, practices on Fridays and bowls in tournaments on either Saturday or Sunday.
“Last year, I was in four leagues, but this year, I dropped my Thursday league. I’m down to three leagues because I’m not as young as I used to be,” he said with a chuckle.
Burton actually won a regular Huck Finn event against the youngsters when he first came to the area, and he still loves to compete against all types of bowlers.
“When all the planets are aligned perfectly, I can still compete with some of the guys, but it’s getting tougher,” he said.
NEST bowlers competed all through the summer, with 24 or 25 bowlers showing up for tournaments, even in the hottest weather.
“We’ve bowled all 12 months of the year, and the guys seem to like the competition,” he said.
So far, 81 bowlers have competed in at least one NEST event. There have been 16 singles tournaments, with 17 champions. One early event produced co-champions. Of the 17 winners, six titles were won by the 50-59 group, four titles were captured by the 60-66 group and a surprising seven crowns were won by the 67-plus group.
Burton said the only problem in recent events is that the 60-66 group has been stagnant, with very few bowlers. That means only one bowler has advanced to the elimination matches from that division.
“For now, we’ll keep the 60-66 group as it is, but if that group doesn’t pick up, we may have to realign the divisions to 50-56, 57-66 and then 67-plus,” said Burton.
NEST will hold 11 or 12 scratch singles events per year, plus an over/under 50 event called Digger’s Doubles.
Burton said he will also continue with last year’s experiment of the New Era Women’s Tour, and hopes to have three or four events for the area’s scratch women competitors.
After Saturday’s opener, other regular NEST events are scheduled for Oct. 6 at Sunset Recreation, Nov. 17 at Towne Bowling Academy and Dec. 15 at Uncle Sam Lanes.
EXCITING NEW EVENT
Capital Region junior programs will roll for pride when the inaugural Gazette Junior Team Championship is contested next spring at Sportsman’s Bowl.
Bragging rights will be at stake when this exciting new event kicks off, so all junior program coordinators had better start thinking about their teams.
Here is the format: Each four-person team will consist of two majors, one junior and one prep bowler. There must be at least one girl on the team. The junior coaches or team captains can decide the lineup, which most likely — but not necessarily — will include two majors, the highest level in the junior program. Some bowling centers might have better bowlers in their younger divisions.
More than one team from a bowling center can compete, but the maximum number of teams accepted will be 28.
Food and prizes will be included. More information will be provided as we get closer to the event, which
I believe will be one of the most exciting tournaments of the year. The tournament date is tentatively set for April 21.
Sports editor Tom Boggie came up with the idea for this unique tournament, and our general manager, Dan Beck, signed off on our sponsorship. I’m still working out some of the details, and we’ll keep you posted.
Local bowling took a hit when Redwood Lanes in Colonie closed its doors over the summer.
Redwood hosted one of the first PBA events (Schades Academy, also defunct hosted the first one) and has been a local bowling landmark for many years, from its early beginnings through the Skip Vigars era and even through the last decade, when the Colonie High School teams used Redwood as their home lanes and dominated local scholastic bowling.
We will miss all the great competition there, including the Joe Donato Scratch Singles event, which now must find a new home.
The Northern Bowlers Association will no longer field a full tournament schedule, and instead will hold just one event this year, the popular Stockade Open at Boulevard Bowl later this fall.
That leaves the Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York’s Huck Finn Tournaments and the NEST events as the only regularly scheduled weekly or monthly events for the area scratch bowlers, although other seasonal events do pop up on the calendar.
The NBA gave local scratch bowlers a monthly event that featured challenging lane conditions on a regular basis. It also was a tournament format where bowlers could get in and out quickly with five-game sweepers on a Sunday morning.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u Towne Bowling Academy’s Scratch Challenge will be held Oct. 7 at 9:30 a.m. Entry fee is $50, and it includes jackpots. First place will be $800, based on 60 entries. The format will be a five-game sweeper, changing lanes after each game. The PBA Shark oil pattern
will be used. The field will be limited to the first 60 entries. Cash prizes will be awarded on a 1-in-5 ratio, based on total pins. For more information, call Towne Bowling Academy at 355-3939.
u J.P. Harrell, one of the area’s best power bowlers, added another achievement to his impressive
resume last Sunday when he rolled a 279 and then a pair of 300 games for a whopping 879 triple in his family league, the Ups & Downs Mixed league, at Sportsman’s Bowl. Harrell’s only non-strike was a
4-pin leave. His mother, Rose, is the longtime league secretary.
u The New York State Women’s Bowling 700 Club Tournament will be held Oct. 13 at 2:30 p.m. at Boulevard Bowl. The tournament format will be doubles, and there is a $55 entry fee. One team participant must be a 700 Club member. The prize fund will be distributed by the teams based on the division in which they qualify: Division A (400 average or higher), Division B (370-398), Division C (368 and under) and Senior Division (60 years of age and older). The 700 Club members also will be competing in their appropriate qualifying divisions for prize money donated by the 700 Club. Entries and new members will be accepted up to the time of bowling. For more information, or an entry blank, contact Diane McGroty at 356-2282.
u The Menagerie league, which bowls at 6:15 p.m. on Friday nights, has three openings. Call Boulevard Bowl for more information.
u PBA Hall of Famer Amleto Monacelli, a two-time Player of the Year on the PBA Tour, was selected as the PBA Senior Rookie of the Year. Monacelli won the Etonic Senior U.S. Open and was third in the USBC Senior Masters. He also compiled four other top-20 finishes. During his PBA Tour career, he won 19 titles.