Bud Traughber is not a great bowler. He’s not shy about broadcasting it either.
“I’m the worst bowler in this league,” declared Bud after an off-the-mark shot. “The ball doesn’t do what I want it to do. It does what it wants to do.”
Traughber is part of the Gold and Silver League, a league of bowlers at least 50 years old who gather every Tuesday at KP’s McMinnville Lanes for some friendly competition. Traughber says he never gets much better, but he’s not about to stop trying.
“I just love everybody here,” he said. “I wouldn’t think about leaving.”
Thanks to its commitment to fun, the Gold and Silver League has been rolling down the lane of success. It had 28 bowlers just a few years ago, but now has 65 regulars. That includes 90-year-old Chester Richmond, the oldest bowler in the league.
“He has time to bowl now that he’s in between jobs,” joked his wife of 64 years, Reba.
Chester, a World War II veteran, can’t explain why he’s still able to bowl at 90.
“I guess it’s just the way I’m made up,” he said. “I still golf too.”
Joe Bob Mills moved to Murfreesboro several months ago, but still makes the weekly trip to McMinnville to participate in the Gold and Silver League.
“I don’t know why I drive so far to bowl so bad,” said Mills, a longtime local resident.
While many of the participants downplay their skill, the league is full of many talented bowlers. That includes Tony Spinella, 63, who has the highest average in the league of 192.
Spinella bowls in other leagues and once ran a bowling pro shop in Louisville, Ky. His average has been as high as 230.
“It’s all about how you start,” said Tony, indicating it's what you do before the release.
Added avid bowler Jim Newby, “I say that 90 percent of the game is behind the line. It’s what you do before you release the ball.”
Jim and his wife, Linda, are largely responsible for the league’s popularity. Linda has been the league secretary for eight straight years and writes a weekly bowling report for the Southern Standard.
“We have elections every year and she’s always elected secretary,” said Jim. “They say if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Colleen Eslick is the league president. Bowler ages range from 52 to 90 with an average age of 70. Bowlers participate from Warren County and five surrounding counties.
For bowlers who excel during a particular week, they are treated to the Big Time Game Winner Award. That’s for people who bowl well over their average. Mac Horn was a recent winner. He has a 114 average, yet bowled a 179 game.
On the other end, there’s a Red Shoestring Award for bowlers who stumble and have a forgettable day at the lanes. John Cook recently accepted his red shoestrings with grace for a particularly miserable three-game series. A normal 154 bowler, Cook bowled a three-game series averaging 110, a 44-pin difference per game.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Cook.
Eslick has been bowling for decades and is enjoying her role as league president. She started in the 1970s and currently has a 141 average.
“We see each other every week so this really gives us a chance to keep up,” said Colleen. “A lot of these guys used to be really, really good bowlers. They’ve just gotten a little older.”
Jim Newby says he loves seeing so many people still bowling in their older years. He believes staying active is a key to longevity.
“From what I’ve read, people who keep going after retirement, who have busy schedules and stay busy doing things, they tend to live longer,” said Jim. “The people who retire and go home and sit, they don’t last as long.”
For more information on bowling leagues or bowling in general, KP’s McMinnville Lanes can be reached at 473-6679.