A couple of weeks shy of her 75th birthday, Florence “Flo” Dufek still craves competitive bowling. Mix in a chance to travel, and Dufek is in her happy zone.
The Mohonasen High School graduate and longtime Rotterdam resident recently returned from competing in the National Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Senior Games feature all kinds of athletic ventures for athletes 50 and older. They are held state-wide in Cortland every year, but every two years, a national competition is held at various spots around the country.
“You have to finish in the top four of your age group to get an invitation to nationals,” Dufek said. “I’ve been all over the place to compete ever since I turned 50. I’ve been to California, Florida, Virginia and Texas, just to name a few places. So far, I’ve won 15 medals from the nine Senior Games I’ve been in. I get at least one medal in every Senior Games.”
This year, Dufek won the gold medal in singles out of 35 competitors, a gold medal in doubles with partner Karen Krauss of Colonie and a bronze medal with Sand Lake’s Jerry Rider in the mixed doubles. In team events, competitors must bowl in the age division of the youngest participant.
“I love the Senior Games,” Dufek said. “I love to bowl, and I love to travel. This gives me an excuse to go to different states, and the people are wonderful. Unfortunately, the better bowlers don’t get involved in this as much as they should, because there is no money involved. In fact, you have to pay all of your own expenses. A lot of the better bowlers don’t see the value of competition just for competition sake.”
Dufek noted that the National Senior Games attracts more than 13,000 athletes in many different sports.
“They come from all over this country, and from Canada,” she said.
Dufek is no stranger to notable achievements on and around the lanes. Currently living in Clifton Park, Dufek was inducted into the Schenectady-Scotia Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame (now the Schenectady USBC) for meritorious service in 2014 after serving on the board of directors for the SSWBA, the Schenectady Bowling Association and the Schenectady Junior Bowling Association.
She was just the second female member of the high-powered City Catholic league, where she was the longtime treasurer, and was also the secretary for the Schenectady Dorp Mixed league. She also won numerous medals in the Empire State Games and coached junior bowling for more than three decades.
“I love the kids,” she said. “I didn’t think I was very athletic all through high school, but when I was 29 and my kids were in school, I wanted something to do. So I joined a bowling league. Then, I was asked to coach the kids. Fran Lawyer, who owned Rolling Greens Lanes at the time, took me to a coaching class, and that’s how it all began.”
Dufek also was a Junior Achievement volunteer and program manager for 15 years.
“I’ve had a 300 game, a bunch of 290s and some other achievements in the sport, but I always loved coaching the kids and watching them get better,” said Dufek, who once averaged 201. “It’s great to see some of the kids that I coached in the bantams and the juniors become really good bowlers today.”
Dufek battled cancer two years ago, but is now healthy and with husband Bob remains active in several pursuits besides her beloved bowling.
“I’m doing well now, and I’m thrilled with my life,” Dufek said.
In other results involving Capital Region bowlers at National Senior Games, Colonie’s Ed Harr finished seventh in the men’s singles 80-84 age division and also teamed with Rider to finish second in the men’s 60-69 doubles age division and sixth with Krauss in the mixed 75-79 age division.