Strike up a conversation while bowling in this league

Sandi Shepherd gets up, drinks a cup of coffee, has some toast or cereal and heads to the Port Orchard bowling alley on Tuesdays when she participates in the senior league.

“I don’t take it seriously,” said Shepherd, 75. “I do it just for the enjoyment of bowling. I’m an average bowler and on a lot of days I am below average.”

Shepherd, a longtime Port Orchard resident, is one in a group of women who will start their bowling season in a few weeks.

The league goes by the name of “Tuesday Wonders.” The group is the only all-senior women’s bowling league at Port Orchard’s Hi Joy Bowl. Participants range in age from their 50’s to 80’s. Members come from across the Kitsap Peninsula, including Port Orchard, Belfair, McCormick Woods, Allyn and Bremerton.

The season begins Sept. 6 and continues through late April. Each Tuesday teams of two roll three games, beginning at 10 a.m. Everyone is given a handicap, based on their average scores, to ensure players of all levels are able to compete on a level playing field.

“You just need to be able to throw a bowling ball,” said Bernie Boyd, secretary/treasurer of the league. “No one is bowling 300 games. It’s their highlight of their week.”

For decades, Boyd, also 75, enjoyed throwing strikes and making spares. She had to stop following a bout with breast cancer, of which she is now in remission. In her early days she bowled a 779 three-game series and recorded a high game of 279. Even though she is no longer able to throw a ball down the alley she enjoys attending the weekly competitions, keeping track of league business and socializing with members.

Boyd said the league plays an important role for pinstrikers.

“The women enjoy getting out and doing something for themselves. Everyone is basically retired. Some of them feel like — I don’t know if I should have this printed or not — it’s a break from their husbands,” she chuckled.

“Some of the women, like myself, are widows so it’s a nice being with other people that have gone through the same losses. We listen to the other women talk about their husbands, and we just say, ‘Well we don’t have that problem anymore,’” she laughed.

Team names reflect the personalities of bowlers — “Newbies,” “Dueling Duos” and “Ruby Tuesday.” The classic bowling shirts of the 1950’s and ’60’s, along with flashy, multi-colored bowling balls, have fallen out of style with these senior women. Some have their name on bowling balls to ensure it’s not mistakenly picked up by someone else.

The league appeals to players for a variety of reasons — social enjoyment, exercise, fun and lunches afterward.

Several have known each other for years. “The majority of us had kids that grew up together playing soccer and baseball. So, we have that relationship of watching each other’s kids grow up and become parents. It’s almost like an extended family,” Boyd said. “We share a lot of information with each other — from good times and bad times.”

Over the years, a few bowlers have faced medical hardships.

“Some have gone through cancer together. Those are serious times. We all pitch in to help … Some of them brought me meals when I was going through chemo … One lady sent me a cheerful card every week. It was very heartwarming. I had a very good friend in the league get diagnosed with a breast tumor. I took her to doctor appointments.”

The Tuesday Wonders love having new members join their league, Boyd said. “We don’t have a clique, and outsiders are always welcome. A few new ladies joined a couple of years ago, and we have developed a deep friendship with them.”

Boyd said it’s all about having fun.

“[At times] you think you got a strike, and you end up leaving, what we call, the ‘stinking 10 pin.’ Other times, somebody converts a big split to a spare. We all cheer. It’s a lot of team sportsmanship,” she said.

Physical exercise is another benefit of the bowling league. “It offers some exercise because you are using your arms, back and legs. You are in constant motion. You are throwing anywhere from a 10- to 15-pound ball. It’s better than sitting home watching TV,” Boyd quipped.

It’s also healthy, promoting lower cholesterol and blood pressure, decreased risk of heart attacks and diabetes, and it improves bone density, according to the Skilled Bowlers group.

The social aspects of the Tuesday Wonders league do not end at the 10th frame. After bowling the group goes out to eat.

“During bowling, we discuss what restaurant we are going to go to. Then we get a head count of how many are coming. The first person to the restaurant tells the waitress how many tables and chairs we’ll need.”

Lunch conversations are as varied as the menu. “Some will talk about their game and how disgusted they were with it. Others will feel like they had a really good day. We also talk about corny commercials we saw. Or about events around the city. Like someone will ask, ‘What is going on at such and such street because we noticed all the trees were cleared out?”

Grandkids are a popular topic. “With cellphone cameras, you are always showing pictures of your pet and grandkids,” Boyd noted.

One subject, however, is off-limits during the meal. “We really don’t talk politics. We have some bowlers that are very deep in how they feel. It’s just a subject that we don’t touch, so there are no hard feelings. It’s not worth losing a friend just because you have a difference in politics.”

Shepherd has some goals for the upcoming season. “First off, I am hoping to bowl all season without any health problems. I would also like to get a 200 game. It’s been a few years since I did that. But I will be perfectly happy with a 170 game,” said Shepherd, whose average is 106 a game.

Contact Hi Joy Bowl at 1011 Bethel Ave. in Port Orchard if you’d like to join or sign up as a substitute if you can’t play every week.