KENAI — At first glance, Kenai resident Betty Osborn might not look like she would be a good bowler.
Just ask her and she’ll give you a modest answer about her abilities.
“I’m fair,” she said.
But when Osborn’s name is called and she steps to the line, she can roll with the best of them. Strikes aren’t elusive, even at her age.
Osborn has been the secretary of the Golden Oldies senior bowling league for 20 years and the sport is a big part of her life, just like many others in the league, she said.
On a sunny Friday afternoon in early January, she and about 20 other bowlers huddled in Alaskalanes Family Bowling Center in Kenai, just as they do every Tuesday and Friday. The league is one of two in the area, the second of which — named 55+ — meets on Wednesdays.
But what keeps her coming back year after year?
“The camaraderie,” she said. “Just get out of the house, come down here and be with friends. That’s what it is all about — having fun. You don’t have to be a good bowler to come and have fun.”
While some might imagine senior bowling to be a slower, more boring spin on the traditional game, they’d be mistaken and perhaps shocked to watch some of the bowlers the Golden Oldies has in their ranks, Osborn said.
Soldotna resident Bob Schuh, 75, has been bowling about 50 years and has two perfect games under his belt. Both of which he said came “a few years back.”
Even with all that experience, however, Schuh said his mechanics have changed somewhat over the years.
“The mind knows what to do, but the body doesn’t quite follow through as far as timing,” he said. “That makes a big difference. The younger you are the easy it is to execute, to perform. Bowling is in the same nature, although bowling is as difficult as some of other sports like golf.
“There is a little more luck involved in bowling but other than that, there is definitely more to it than throwing the ball down there.”
Kenai resident and former Golden Oldie bowler Paul Morrison said he bowled all of his life, but had to stop the sport recently because of his health.
“I just had to quit — I’ve got a metal hip and arthritis set in,” he said.
Now he attends league rolls on Tuesdays and Fridays to watch his wife bowl. Some of the seniors occasionally wear red shirts on Fridays in honor of veterans — something Morrison is particularly proud of.
The sport lends itself to all ages, but some might be self-conscious at first, he said.
“They think they don’t do so good, but that’s not here,” he said.
“We don’t care whether you bowl good or not.”
Moreover, bowling and the camaraderie it forms among teammates make for quite the addiction, Morrison said.
“It is something they can’t quit doing,” he said with a laugh. “If I wasn’t so afraid of falling, I would be out there today. It is something that really intrigues you, it is not really hard to do — if you are halfway healthy you can come out and have fun.”
Osborn said her physical mechanics haven’t much changed, but she does notice a difference in her abilities.
“I just think I don’t have the strength to put it down the lane like I used to,” she said shortly before rolling a strike.
Most of the seniors in attendance like to converse and occasionally give advice. What about friendly competition or advice?
“Oh sometimes, but mostly just talk,” Schuh said. “Visiting mostly. If somebody asks I’ll give them some tips but most of the time the seniors come over just to have a good time. They are concerned about the bowling, but they’re here just to get out and do things.”
And among the better bowlers, those who still roll in the high 200s?
“On a team, there is no pressure. Well, maybe a little bit,” Schuh said, glancing at the scoreboard with a smile.