Several years ago, while driving to the bowling center from her home in Galway during a snow storm, Marion Champagne’s car rolled into a ditch. Her first thought was not about her own health or the condition of her car. Instead, she asked someone to drive her to Boulevard Bowl so she could compete in her league.
Bowling is that important to the 94-year-old Champagne, who is the oldest active member of the Schenectady-Scotia Women’s Bowling Association.
Champagne, who competes in the Boulevard Women A.M. league, will celebrate her 95th birthday at the lanes next week. She is still young at heart and extremely competitive. In fact, she raised her average 18 pins this season, from a starting mark of 118 to her current average of 134.
Her league gives prizes for the highest score over average, and she’s won that award more than 10 times already. While I watched her bowl this past Wednesday, she put together games of 134, 161 and 124.
“I started bowling late in life,” said Champagne, who uses a 10-pound silver plastic bowl. “I started bowling at Burnt Hills Lanes with Ruth Schiavo. It’s funny, because a friend of mine actually started me in the game, and she’s since given it up.”
Champagne still lives on a farm in Galway with her son, and she still does many of the chores herself. Her husband died in 1956, after the couple had been married 16 years.
“I worked for the state for 20 years,” she said. “I kind of learned the game myself. I look forward to bowling every week. I feel I need it for my exercise. I don’t change my game very much. I try to use the same approach every week.”
Champagne used to bowl a couple of times a week. Her other league was at Imperial Lanes in Amsterdam. These days, it’s all about Wednesday mornings.
“I like everything about bowling,” she said. “I like the people, the comradeship and the competitiveness. It’s something for me to do, and I never miss it,” Champagne said.
Her league, which includes six three-person teams, looks out for Champagne, and marvels at her positive attitude.
“She’s an inspiration to us all,” said Linda Cortese. “Her attitude is always the same. She’s always smiling. She just loves the game. We can’t wait to leave the lanes sometimes, but she can’t wait to get here. It’s so nice to have her in our league.”
Besides her smile, Champagne is known for sipping one glass of her favorite wine, Zinfandel, during matches every week. It helps keep the blood flowing and the ball rolling.
Champagne’s team captain is Lisa Rathbun-Read, who carries a 215 average and also competes in one of the area’s finest women’s scratch leagues, the DV Greco Insurance Women’s Doubles at Towne Bowling Academy.
“Bowling with these ladies is fantastic for me,” Rathbun-Read said. “They really care about where their teams are in the standings. All of them want to know how many points they’ve won after every game. Our team, Foxgloves, was in first place, but we didn’t win any points this week. Marion wasn’t very happy. She likes winning points.”
RECORD FINALLY BROKEN
My reputation as a jinx continues. After last week’s column featured the local Bruegger’s Bagels team that still owned the USBC Open Championships record after a 20-year run, that mark was broken Tuesday night by one pin.
Lodge Lanes Too, of Orlando, Fla., shot a 3,538 at the National Bowling Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. Bruegger’s Bagels, out of Albany, shot 3,537 in Tulsa Okla., in 1993.
Five-time Team USA member and two-time USBC Open Championships titlist John Janawicz struck out in the 10th frame to close out the record-breaking performance.
The team included former Team USA member Vernon Peterson (772 triple), Janawicz (752), three-time Open Championshp winner John Gaines (681), 1987 Team All-Events champion Mitch Jabczenski (669) and PBA Tour winner Scott Newell (664).
“It was an unbelievable feeling, especially because I had no clue what I needed,” said Janawicz in a USBC press release. “I knew we were in a good position to take the lead, so at that point, you just try to get every stick you can. I had no idea, and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know, actually. You just have to trust in yourself and make the three best shots you can, one at a time.”
The Bruegger’s Bagels team consisted of former PBA Tour member Kenny Hall, Hugo McGroty, Mark Hilton, Ron Priester and Dave Wolfe.
“Just the fact that we held the record for 20 years was pretty amazing right there,” said Hilton Wednesday. “I personally didn’t think about the record much until we got ready to go out there every year. This will be our 28th year for both me and Hugo. Kenny hasn’t gone with us the last few years, but Ron Priester still goes.”
Hilton said his team will bowl May 3-4.
“Eventually, we knew it would happen that the record would be broken sooner or later,” said Hilton. “They are very good bowlers on that team. A couple of them work for the Kegel company, and a couple of them are pros. At least a really good team broke the record.
“At least we’ve got something to shoot for now. Maybe we can break it again.”
ELIAS CUP SET
The first PBA League champion will be determined Sunday when the Elias Cup finals air on ESPN at 1 p.m. from the Woodlane Bowl in Indianapolis.
PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber, who won the Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions last week, will lead his top-seeded New York City WTT KingPins squad that includes Tommy Jones, Scott Norton, Jack Jurek, John Szczerbinski and Kelly Kulick.
Also making the finals were the Brooklyn Styles (Sean Rash, Ryan Ciminelli, Ryan Shafer, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Jason Sterner and Tom Hess), the Dallas Strikers (Norm Duke, Rhino Page, Amleto Monacelli, Bryon Smith, Mike Machuga and Mike Wolfe) and the Motown Muscle (Mike Fagan, Tom Smallwood, Mike Scroggins, Ronnie Russell, Jesse Buss and DJ Archer).
The four teams that advanced to the finals were the top point-getters after five PBA League qualifying rounds.
MORE CITY TOURNAMENT
The Schenectady USBC Bowling Association’s 80th annual Championship Tournament continues Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Towne Bowling Academy.
The tournament then takes a break until it resumes April 23 at 6:30 p.m.
The SBA announced that it has added a special senior squad April 24 at 9:30 a.m. Other squads will be another squad that same night at 6:30 p.m., April 25 at 6:30 p.m., April 26 at 6:30 p.m. and another Scratch Team Challenge April 29 at 6:30 p.m. Entry fee is $22 per event.
STRIKES and SPARES
u Scratch qualifying for the Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show” scratch/handicap combined show will be Saturday at 3 p.m. at Green Island Lanes and Sunday at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl. The finals for the handicap bowlers, who qualified in-house during their league play, will be Sunday at Burnt Hills Lanes, followed by the TV taping that same night. Top prize will be $1,000. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7628 for reservations for the scratch qualifiers.
u The 18th annual Blizzard Bowl resumes its team event Sunday at 11:45 a.m. at Boulevard Bowl. The other remaining team squads are April 14 at 11:45 a.m. and April 20 at 9:45 p.m. Entry fee is $60 per team. Singles and doubles will be competed at Burnt Hills Lanes Saturday, April 13 and April 20. All three squads begin at 12:30 p.m. Entry fee for singles and doubles is $15 per person per event.
u Entry deadline is April 14 for the inaugural Daily Gazette Junior Team Championship, set for April 21 at Sportsman’s Bowl. Check your local center for entry blanks. Each local center can send as many four-person teams as they wish to compete. Each team consists of four bowlers from the majors, juniors and preps divisions. There must be at least one girl on each team. Most teams will have two majors, one junior and one prep bowler, but coaches can mix up their squads any way they like. Handicap will be 100 percent of 720. Entry fee is just $20 per team. Pizza and soda will be provided. The members of the winning team will receive trophies, and the winning team will also get possession of the permanent trophy, named in honor of the late Hal Buell, for one year. Entries can be sent to Sportsman’s Bowl or The Daily Gazette.
u Kyle Smith, a 6-year-old member of the Boulevard Bowl pee wee division who carries a 64 average, rolled games of 119 and 133 for a 252 series.
u Joshua Slater, an 8-year-old member of the Sportsman’s Bantams who averages 85, shot 132-179-147 for a career-high 468 triple. That’s quite an improvement.
u Towne Bowling Academy has announced its summer league schedule. Its nine-week adult-child league begins May 1 and runs through June 25 on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Entry fee is $15 per team for bowling alone or $25 per team that includes a $120 gift certificate. The Towne BA sport junior scholarship league begins April 30 and runs 10 weeks on Tuesday nights. Entry fee is $16 per week for four games. The PBA sport trio league for adults also runs 10 weeks and begins April 24 at 6:30 p.m. Entry fee is $20.