Jim Burton believes he has found his niche in the Capital Region bowling family.
But he hoped his organization would be more like a brother or a sister, rather than a distant cousin.
The New Era Senior Tournaments (NEST) begin their third full season Saturday at 2 p.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl. To bring in more competitors, NEST will also be called NEWS (New Era Women and Seniors) for most of the events. Saturday’s opener is one example.
For the seniors, bowlers age 50 and older are eligible. They compete in the 50-59, 60-66 and 67-plus age divisions during qualifying and match play, but an overall champion is declared in the finals. So far, there have been 21 NEST singles tournaments, with 21 champions. Of the 21 winners, eight have come from the 50-59 group, six from the 60-66 class and seven from the 67-plus division.
Last season, Burton and his group experimented with a NEWT (New Era Women’s Tournaments) formula, which started out well, but then saw entries decline. So far, there is only one women’s-only event scheduled, and that will be in January at Towne Bowling Academy.
“I definitely have mixed emotions,” said Burton, who still competes in several leagues during the week and in as many tournaments on the weekends as he can.
“I think I have a pretty good understanding of the tournament personality of the Capital Region. I’ve noticed that the pool of bowlers isn’t large enough, when you compare it to what I was used to. I came from Detroit, and you had 60,000 members to draw on, rather than about 7,500 in this area. It’s just difficult when you think about it. There may only be 60 tournament-caliber bowlers who can compete or want to bowl in these kinds of tournaments.”
Burton still thinks there are more eligible bowlers out there, but he’s not sure he can entice them to participate.
“There are enough good bowlers you could draw from, but I don’t think tournament bowling is exciting to them, or they have other things to do,” he said.
“But I enjoy bowling myself, and I’m happy where we’re at. We get enough guys who are enjoying what they are doing. We’re still trying to introduce the tournament program to the women, but I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the point where it really blossoms. There may be enough scratch women out there, but bowling doesn’t seem to be their main interest.”
But Burton still puts out a challenging tournament for his loyal followers.
“We’ve got about 30-35 guys who really like to bowl in our tournaments,” he said. “We’ll do it often enough so that we’ll have a basic number, but I don’t think we’ll ever get more than that. If we could get 60 guys, that would be great, but I’m not sure that will ever happen.”
Burton also understands that he’s not the only game in town for the senior bowlers, who can also compete in the almost weekly Huck Finn/Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York tournaments, a handful of Northern Bowlers Association events and a new series of bowling tournaments with a point system held at Towne Bowling Academy.
“This is an amazing area for bowling,” said Burton. “If the bowlers who are here really bought into the tournament thing, you could bowl every weekend. If I was in Detroit, I could drag 80 to 100 guys to every tournament with the setup we have here. Those guys would go out of their mind. At least I’m thankful that I get to bowl as often as I want to.
“We’re down to running tournaments that go nice and smooth, and we’re comfortable with that,” he said. “If we could get the women more involved, it would be even better, but we haven’t found the right trigger yet. Maybe there isn’t one.”
Last year, Burton won two of his own tournaments. Ron Gardner also won a couple of events. Bill Neumann and John Nieckarz were other winners, while Rich Strath and Steve Wagoner combined to win Digger’s Doubles, a special partners event that pairs a senior with an under-50 partner.
Carol Crandall, Helen Waite (twice) and Robin Fredenburgh were some of the women who triumphed in their division.
Upcoming tournaments include this year’s Digger’s Doubles at Uncle Sam Lanes Oct. 5 at 1 p.m., an event at Sunset Recreation Oct. 26 at 1 p.m., another at Town ’N Country Nov. 23 at 1:30 p.m. and a tournament to be determined on Dec. 7. More tournaments will be announced for the second half of the season, beginning in January.
Entry fee is $60, and reservations are suggested. Call Burton at 209-4748 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
STRIKES AND SPARES
-- Town ’N Country Lanes will begin a Scotch Doubles tournament Saturday at 9 p.m. Cost per couple is $25.
-- Cobleskill Bowling Center still has openings for leagues and individuals for the 2013-14 season. There are openings for couples, men, women, seniors and juniors. Contact manager Gus Lampo at 234-0958 for more information.
-- Tom Donato is running a Tavern Tournament Oct. 26 at 2:30 p.m. at Towne Bowling Academy. Entry fee will be $100 per four-person teams Top prize will be $400 to the winning team, based on 20 teams. One in five teams will cash. Special prizes and a buffet will be included. Call Donato at 496-7812 or Town Bowling Academy (355-3939) for more information.
-- The inaugural Sparky’s Doubles Challenge will be held Sept. 29 at Sportsman’s Bowl. Entry fee will be $100 per team. The format will be four games across the entire house. Two games will be on a challenge pattern, and two games will be on a house shot. Prize payout will be 1 in 5, with a first-place prize of $1,500, based on the maximum of 42 teams. The top four teams advance to a stepladder finals. Call Sportsman’s at 355-4330 for more information.
-- A new league, with NASCAR scoring, is forming at Burnt Hills Lanes. The league will bowl 16 weeks every other Saturday night at 6:30. Handicap is based on 90 percent of 240. Three-person teams will bowl four games. Dues are $20 per person. If the league gets 20 teams, top prize will be $4,500, with a minimum of $300 for last place. The league starts Sept. 28. Call Chris Fawcett at 337-8128 or Burnt Hills Lanes at 399-0999.
-- Towne Bowling Academy’s Scratch Challenge has a few spots available for the Oct. 13 event. Bowling begins at 9:30 a.m. Call Towne for more information.
-- PBA50 Tour veteran Robert Harvey of Boise, Idaho, has been selected as the 2013 PBA50 Tour’s Dick Weber Sportsmanship Award winner by his fellow players marking the second time he has won the honor named after the legendary PBA Hall of Famer.