The way they teach it in grade school, autumn is when the leaves die and fall, bears go into hibernation, and plant life goes dormant. Spring is supposed to be the time for renewal and regeneration.
Tish Johnson seems to have gotten it backward.
For the second year in a row, Johnson, 29, began the fall block of the Ladies Professional Bowling Tour with a nationally televised tournament win after the four-month summer break.
Last night's victory in the $50,000 Hammer Eastern Open at Country Club Lanes earned her its $9,000 first prize as she successfully defended her championship by defeating Dana Miller-Mackie in the final match, 187-174. Last year she began the fall tour with a record-tying three straight tournament wins, the last of which was the Hammer when she also topped Miller-Mackie.
Johnson's late-in-the-year success may stem from her own version of hibernation. "I just try to do things in my time off that don't have anything to do with bowling," she said. "I play golf. I have fun -- I hack at it. I do a lot of remodeling on my house [in Panorama City, Calif.]. Right now, we're tearing up the carpet to refinish the oak floors underneath. I planted a garden this summer -- watermelons, corn, carrots, a little bit of everything."
She bowls in a few regional tournaments to stay sharp. But it wasn't always that way.
She used to own two Los Angeles area pro shops. "I sold the pro shops two years ago," she said. "They were too time consuming. I was getting burned out. I was spending from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week, in a bowling center, then coming out here on tour and doing the same thing."
Without her pro shops, and lacking a staff contract with an equipment manufacturer, Johnson's living is made on the tour. Having joined the tour out of high school 12 years ago, she may now be hungrier than ever. "If I don't make a paycheck, I'm not very happy," she said.
Her second win of 1991, the 14th of her career, moved her into second place on the list of money-winners this year with $37,740. Last night she was happy.
The other top finishers and their winnings were: second, Miller-Mackie, Albuquerque, N.M., $4,500; third, Debbie McMullen, Denver, Colo., $3,150; fourth, Aleta Sill, Dearborn, Mich., $2,500; fifth, Lorrie Nichols, Algonquin, Ill., $2,100.