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Keepin’ their bifocals on the ball

Eileen JoyceBowling ball bags with wheels make it easy for seniors to roll their bags around instead of carrying them.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

They complain about lower averages, diminishing balance and fuzzier-looking pins.

Or, as 76-year-old Tom Fredericksen of Lake Wildwood put it: “We can’t hear as well, we can’t see as well, and we never know who’s up.”



Or Audrey Osburn, 63, of Grass Valley: “This is work.”




Yet senior bowlers of the Gold Country Nuggets league wouldn’t be anywhere else Thursday nights. They’ve been doing it for more than 15 years.

This is their first year at the new Prosperity Lanes off Colfax Avenue in Grass Valley. There are 14 teams of four bowlers.

It started as an off-season activity for a group of softball players in 1986 at Empire Lanes, which was in the same building as Prosperity. It closed, and the league moved to Beale Air Force Base in 1988.

One regular, 80-year-old Win Winegar, is also one of the oldest bowlers. A former 27-year resident of Smartville, he moved to Citrus Heights when his wife became ill, but never stopped playing.

“We just show up for the fun of it. This is a fun game. No one’s really serious,” said Winegar, a veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Winegar was first introduced to bowling in 1938 in Ypsilanti, Mich. The game has come a long way, become “more automated” from the day of human pin setters, he said.

A few lanes over, league secretary Alberta Castleman, 77, of Penn Valley calmly converted a second straight spare.

She started playing when she was 16, while growing up in Compton. Like other league members, her scoring average has dropped since the move from Beale, but it might be a matter of getting used to the lanes.

Next to her, Fredericksen remarked how cataract surgery has helped his eyesight – if not his score just yet.

“This is good exercise, fun competition and everybody’s about the same age,” he said.

The league holds regular banquets that award small cash prizes for the highest teams, individuals averages and other scoring categories.

Prosperity Lanes holds senior league action three days a week, said manager Tanya Foster.

But while bowling might be viewed as a grandparents’ sport, reaching its zenith in the day of flat-topped champion Earl Anthony, the game is attracting a mix of younger people. A Saturday youth league is even in the works, Foster said.

Interest in bowling held steady during the ’90s, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, which surveys sports participation. It said 43.1 million bowled in 2000, up from 40.1 million in 1990.

The sport was ranked seventh out of 62 sports in participation – behind walking, swimming, camping, fishing, using exercise equipment and cycling.


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