There are a bunch of reasons to bowl. One of the most compelling is the simple fact that the enjoyment from bowling cuts across all levels of ability.
Want proof? Look no further than the duckpin center of Riviera Bowl in Pasadena.
Teresa Milligan carries an average of 106 in the Saturday Mixed ** league; Dave Schline is a 117 average bowler; and Donna Ratcliff is holding a 137 average.
"I started bowling about seven years ago," said Milligan, a Pasadena resident. "At that time, I averaged just 75!"
She quickly increased her average to 85. Each year, there was an improvement. Today Milligan carries a 106 average in the Saturday Mixed league, and in a short-season league, the Friday Community, she has reached 115.
"I'm sure that bowling two leagues instead of just one league has made a big difference," she said. "Next year, I'd like to start the season with a higher average and see what happens."
What happened on Feb. 27 was one of the things that keeps bowlers coming back. Milligan started off with a career-high game of 183, came back with an over-the-average 120 game and needed a 97 for the career-high series of 400.
It can be tough trying to concentrate after you've just thrown the best game of your bowling career. Milligan struggled, but she never gave up. When the last pin dropped into the pit, the score of her third game totaled exactly 97 . . . and that made the series exactly 400.
* Schline knows about struggling to improve his average.
"I've been bowling ducks for eight years," he said. "Eight years in the same league [the only league he bowls in], the Thursday Rascals, and my average stuck at 112 for three years. One year, it even went down a pin. This year, it's up to 115 just because I made a little adjustment in the way I throw the ball."
On Feb. 18, he started slowly with a 97 game. His last game wasn't much to crow about, a 109. But the middle game was the one that he'll remember for a long time.
"I started with an open frame," Schline said, "then I threw a spare, then a triple-header, another spare, opened in the seventh and struck in the eighth, ninth and 10th frames and finished with a spare."
The final score: a career-high single game of 207 . . . and a league-leading game for the season. That's one pin more than the combined total of his first and second games.
* Ratcliff, who has been bowling duckpins since she was 18, lives in Riviera Beach and is having one of the best years of her career.
On Feb. 24, in the Triples league at Riviera Bowl, one of two leagues she bowls in at that center, Ratcliff pounded out a 189 game and a 489 series. Both of those impressive figures fall short of her career-high single game of 217 and her Riviera Bowl house-record three-game series of 544.
"But my average is up," Ratcliff said. "This year, it's 137, three pinsbetter than last year's 134."
Ratcliff has had more than her share of injuries. She has come back from an operation on her hand for carpal tunnel syndrome and a foot operation in 1991 to join the women's pro league, a traveling league, last year.
"On the pro swing, I qualified in three of the five tour stops that I attended," she said. "At the Connecticut stop, I finished third."
That third-place finish was good for $600.
"I'm concentrating better right now," Ratcliff said. "That's made a big difference. My confidence is pretty high and I'm looking forward to the Ladies All Star Classic."
That event is finishing today at Fair Lanes Southwest in Linthicum.