For Westminster's Neil, tenpins has been a longtime labor of love


Jan Neil began bowling tenpins as a teen-ager at Brunswick Crown lanes in Middle River.

"It was the Young American Bowling Alliance program that was the start of tenpin bowling for me," Neil said. "I've never lost my love for the game."

Today Neil lives in Westminster with her husband Greg, son John, 7, and daughter Nikki, 10.

"After I married Greg we moved to Westminster," Neil said. "And we both started bowling tenpins at Thunderhead in Westminster."

You'll find Jan working the control counter at Thunderhead, too. She's been with the center for 8 1/2 years.

"Being around bowlers isn't really work for me," Neil said. "I enjoy the game too much for it to be work. That's why Greg and I don't mind driving to Baltimore County every week to bowl at Country Club lanes."

Greg and Jan bowl on Friday nights in the Merchandise league at Thunderhead and the Sunday Never on Sunday league at Country Club lanes.

Greg carries a 190-plus average; Jan has a 183 average.

"Nikki loves to read and bowl," Jan said. "She's averaging 93 in the YABA now."

Nikki bowled in the YABA State Finals tournament at Easton on May 15-16, where she placed third in the individual girls three-game series with a 399 set. In 1992 Nikki partnered with Johnny Joes to win the Prep Mixed Doubles event.

Does Nikki heed advice from her bowling parents?

"She [Nikki] pays more attention to Starr [Cassell, manager of Thunderhead lanes and YABA coach] then she does to me," laughed Jan. "But she does like the game. John, on the other hand, would rather play baseball or hockey."

Maybe Nikki should listen more closely to her mother. A few weeks ago, Jan pounded out her career high three-game series in the Maryland State Women's Bowling Association tournament The Bowler lanes in La Vale, near Cumberland.

"I know that I had the second-highest set at the tournament," Jan said, "But I really couldn't tell you who threw the 710 series that beat me."

She'll never forget her series: a first game of 228, a 181 and then near-perfect 287 for a 696 series.

"Both the game [287] and the set were the best I've ever had," Jan said, "I was using a 13-pound Blue Hammer and I was throwing a lot of strikes."

The long drive is worthwhile

John Schaeffer lives in Hanover, Pa., but doesn't mind drivinto Carroll County to bowl.

He drives down on Friday to the Hampstead Lanes, and on Tuesday and Sunday he heads for Westminster Thunderhead.

Duckpins is his game and bowling in a summer league, Tuesday night's Strikes and Spares, apparently agrees with him.

He started out the first night of the league, May 11, with a 470 set.

"That means that the following week my average was 156!," Schaeffer said, "You can guess what that did to our team's handicap."

Schaeffer normally carries a 125 average. His career high game is 200, and his high series is 493.

Last month he continued his assault against the duckpins when he popped a 185 game.

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