The finest female duckpin bowlers in the nation gathered at Riviera Bowl in Riviera Beach for the 11th annual Ladies All-Star Classic last weekend.
The finals on St Paddy's Day had a little bit of everything -- a booming 185 game, a back-to-back tournament winner and a power failure that left the center dark for an hour during the stepladder finals.
For the second year, Betty Byrum of Riverdale won the top prize of $2,000 from among 104 entries.
At the end of the second game ofthe finals the lights went out for close to an hour because of a transformer burning in Riviera Beach.
When the lights went out, KathyWilliams of Bel Air was just finishing her second victory. In the first of the four stepladder finals she had defeated Theresa Pearson ofHarwood.
Normally Pearson's 149 game would have had her close to Williams, but Williams was locked into the pocket, and her 185 game could have been well over 200 with a few breaks.
Pearson, who started bowling at age 4, bowls in the Thursday Scratch and the Friday Scratch leagues at Severna Park Lanes, where she has a 143 average. She has had a high game of 212 and a high set of 537.
Her 1,095 set last year in this tournament was just nine pins short of the seven-gameworld record.
In the second game of the finals, Donna Biondo of Dundalk, who averages 134, had one of those games that duckpin bowlersdread. While Biondo was struggling with her game, Williams remained locked into the pocket. Williams bowled 164 to Biondo's 102.
That's when the lights went out.
When the bowling resumed, Williams hadlost that sharp edge she had in the first two games but still posteda 142 game. But Byrum went on to victory with a 159 game.
Byrum bowls in the Thoroughbred Mixed Thursday night league at Prince George's Fair Lanes and the Saturday Night Mixed 4-Some at College Park Fair Lanes. The computer programmer-analyst averages 135, with a high game of 206 and a high set of 502. She placed first in the Women's Pro tour at Hagerstown last August and won last year's All-Star Classic.
In the final game, Byrum's opponent was Cora Byrd of Cheverly, whoalso bowls in the Thoroughbred Mixed at Prince George's Fair Lanes. Her high game is 227 and high set is 519, and she carries a 137 average.
At the halfway mark, Byrd was leading, 59-55, when Byrum threwa double-header, one of the most powerful weapons in the duckpin bowler's arsenal, then spared in the ninth and 10th to win the championship with a 144 to Byrd's 131.
Debbie Conrad of Hagerstown, who carries a 133 average, had the tournament's high game, a 196.
That 196 could have been a 200, but that pesky 10-pin, the pin all right-handers hate, stood in the last frame. Conrad missed it and settled for the 196.
Darlene Edwards of Glendale carries a 167 average at Crofton Centre in tenpins. She doesn't bowl in any duckpin league but shestill made the final 24 qualifiers in this tournament.
Mikki and Pat Rinaldi, tournament directors, kept things running smoothly -- ifyou don't count the lights going out.
On the same weekend, the Baltimore Women's Bowling Association opened the tenpin event of the year for Baltimore women. The 35th-annual championship tournament began March 16 at Bowl America Odenton and will continue next weekend.
The prize money will be more than $25,000 for the team, the doubles, the singles and the all-event competition with 170 teams, 319 doubles teams, 638 singles and 576 all-event bowlers entered.
The BWBA was founded in 1955 with 24 members. Today the association boasts more than 13,000 members.
Theresa Ray, president, said, "This tournament is the highlight of the year for the BWBA."
Irv Clark, director of operations for Bowl America's 25 centers, was on hand for theopening of the tournament and said, "This is one of the best-run tournaments that I've been associated with in all my years in the industry."
That's easy to understand when BWBA Secretary Rose Beall tells you, "We start selecting the center for the tournament from one to two years in advance of the actual date of the tournament."
As it does at the beginning of each tournament, the BWBA picked, by lot, a "Betty Bowler," someone to throw the first ball to open the tournament. This year, Loretta Brison did the honors.
Brison, who used to carry a 120 average in duckpins, has a 166 tenpin average in the Sun Rollers League at Bowl America Glen Burnie, with a career-high game of 253 and a high series of 604. She uses a Columbia U-Dot fingertip ball that weighs 15 pounds, 9 ounces.
The opening ball she threw put all 10 pins into the pit.
How hard is it to throw a strike without a warm-up, with several hundred people, all bowlers, watching? Brison was the first "Betty Bowler" to do it.
After throwing that opening strike, Brison went on to bowl in the team event with the Fore Plays, the doubles event with Mona Williams and the singles event.
Her team was in second place when she left the center, and she had a scratch 545 set posted in the singles. And she won a pin for having a200 game.