Duckpin bowlers discover big fun hurling small balls

Duckpin bowling is up their alley It's Saturday night at 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 rang 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 tenpins.

The origins of the game aren't clear. But today, the sport has its headquarters in Anne Arundel County - at the National Duckpin Bowling Congress in Linthicum - and a home at Glen Burnie Bowling Center.

Full house

More than 10 years old, the center is believed to be the only independent duckpin house to open in the county in the past 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 for 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?"

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.


Going strong

Sue Burucker, executive director of the National Duckpin Bowling Congress, said that duckpin bowling is now mostly an East Coast enterprise, going strong in Maryland, Virginia, Washington and other states like Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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

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

The appeal of duckpins might lie in its ease. The balls are lighter than in tenpins, 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 challenge.

"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 [tenpins]. 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.