Class Act By Frenchy Letourneau

    03/22/13

    Column

    2009WUSATishJohnson.jpg2012ISORobinRomeo.jpg

    The 23rd National Golden Ladies Classic concluded March 21, 2013 at The Orleans Bowling Center in Las Vegas, with Tish Johnson (pictured left) taking down the $2,000 top prize.

    Perennial favorite and former champion Robin Romeo (right) finished second. News of this sort typically sends a resounding yawn throughout the 21st Century bowling community. In an era of inflated egos and technology-enhanced bowling whiz-kids, an event featuring senior ladies hardly produces a ripple. Too bad.

    The PBA, bowling's main showcase, broadcasts on channels accessible only to a percentage of the population that can afford cable, unlike the network visibility their tournaments enjoyed in the last century.

    Although the Golden Ladies events have endured nearly a quarter of a century, their fan base is limited to walk-ins at The Orleans, the excellent coverage Char Hammel and Paula Vidad are providing on the internet, and some of the last remaining bowling publications.

    Nonetheless, the ladies who participate in these events year after year represent en elite group of the very best the sport has to offer. You have to be (and admit) you are at least age 50. You have to be not just good, but really good.

    You have to endure 15 games of qualifying, 18 games of match play, and survive a stepladder finals to earn the tiara and a sizeable prize. Argue all you want about scores, lane conditions and equipment, but every year these ladies bring it.

    What sets the Golden Ladies field in a class by itself is just that – class. These lady bowlers are among the best in the world in their age group. They are all friends. They respect each other, and they take their game very seriously. Win or lose, friendly banter, handshakes and hugs are rampant.

    Old timers remember the age of Chris Schenkel (TV commentator and PBA Hall of Famer), when class and dignity were broadcast each week. Off camera, PBA members had their differences and rivalries, sometimes escalating to suspension or fine status.

    ColumnistFrenchyLetourneau.jpgBut on the air, in Mr. Schenkel's house, respect and decorum prevailed. Now, we are afforded the luxury of trash talking, crinkling water bottles, obscene gestures and audible expletives. The new age fan wants, expects and gets.

    Alas, we may never see a televised finals of the National Golden Ladies. But should that fantasy ever happen, Chris Schenkel would nod in approval.

    Frenchy Letourneau (pictured right)
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    tenpinvegas@cox.net