Duckpin bowling is up their alley

It's Saturday night at the Glen Burnie Bowling Center, and Ed Craver has warmed up his cowbell.

Standing at a table behind lane 23, he cheered on his teammates in the Saturday Night Fever duckpin league.


He cheered, yelled directions to the ball such as "Go. Go!" and "Get there. Get there!" or just rung his cowbell.

"I don't bowl to win or lose," Craver said. "I bowl to have fun and to have a good time. I like the people I bowl with."


He suits the whimsical nature of duckpin bowling, which relies on a ball that weighs less than 4 pounds to knock down pins that are smaller than those used in ten-pin bowling.

Its origins aren't clear.

But today, the sport has its headquarters in Anne Arundel County, the National Duckpin Bowling Congress based in Linthicum, and a home at Glen Burnie Bowling Center.

More than 10 years old, the center is believed to be the only independent duckpin house to open in the county in the last 30 years. Nearly all 30 lanes were being used recently by people of all ages.

"If you go to a movie, you're sitting there. You're not socializing and spending quality time with your family," said Holly Jupitz, vice-president/business development, who has been at the center for nine years. "What else can you do where you can go out with your family and spend quality time, enjoy your time together with your family and enjoy your activity?"

But general manager Tom Ohl said bowling is unlike other sports because people of any age can do it.

"You have a family that comes in here with their 80-year old grandmother...and they can still duckpin bowl," he said. "You have a 3-year-old-child that can bowl also. I think that's the biggest thing."

Duckpin bowling faded in popularity for a while as tenpin bowling, with its marketing by big-name companies like Brunswick and AMF, attracted more people.


Sue Burucker, the NDBC's executive director, said that duckpin bowling is now mostly an East Coast enterprise, going strong in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Burucker said about 10,000 bowlers are sanctioned members of the NDBC.

"It's holding its own now," Burucker said. "It's doing better."

Duckpin's appeal might lie in its ease. The balls are lighter than in ten-pin, and bowlers get three balls per frame to get a strike or spare, rather than two. But it's much harder to control the ball -- there's no record of a perfect 300 score in duckpins.

Craver, 48, has bowled duckpins for 40 years and said it's a tension release from his job as a furniture maker, but that the sport is a challenge.

"You can bowl badly one game and make an adjustment on the lanes and that little adjustment might let you have a 150 game or a 160 game or a 170 game," he said.


Teammates Tom Coulter and Helen Hildebrandt agreed that duckpin bowling is a battle. "You never know from one frame to the next how you're going to do," Hildebrandt said. "You know how to do it, but your arm won't always do it."

Said Coulter: "It's really not that different from [ten-pins]. You've got to throw the ball the same way every time."

The Saturday Night Fever league at Glen Burnie, like many others, has a 36-week schedule that runs from September to May.

On Saturday, teammates chatted and endlessly teased each other about their bowling skills.

"I have met a lot of wonderful people over the years that, if it hadn't been for duckpin bowling, I wouldn't have met," Burucker said. "The camaraderie of the sport is just great."

For the record

A photo caption in Wednesday's Anne Arundel section incorrectly identified a duckpin bowler. His name is Steven Kloch.The Sun regrets the error.