Tai chi, weights help bowler's game


November 18, 1999|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

YOU CAN call Jack Clegg "a man for all seasons," as long as that description includes "accomplished athlete" and "shrewd poker player."

At 72, the Severna Park resident plays golf and tennis, and three days a week -- at the crack of dawn -- he's in the gym at Anne Arundel Community College, wrestling with the weight machines and practicing the ancient Asian art of tai chi.

But he prefers to spend his time at the tenpin bowling lanes, and for good reason. Clegg has accomplished what most bowlers only dream of -- and more than once. He rolled two perfect games in 1997. Last year, he scored a 299.

For years, the champion bowler has carried an average of 190, but in the past couple of years it's risen to 210-plus. He attributes the near-professional average to his increased strength through weight training, and improved balance thanks to tai chi.

While strength and balance might sharpen the bowler, they don't do a thing for the poker player. Still, you don't want to sit down at the table with Clegg unless you're in the mood to lose.

Others may reveal their hands with their faces, but his emotions are masked by a trademark smile. Then he rakes in the chips.

But Clegg's favorite pastime remains bowling, and last month he finished seventh in a field of 83 qualifiers at the Senior Olympics competition in Orlando, Fla.

Born into an athletic family, Clegg took up bowling at age 7, when he could barely lift the ball, to keep up with his father and elder sister, Vera Newell, who became a member of the Delaware Bowling Hall of Fame.

At 11, Clegg beat teen-age competitors to win his first championship -- a junior tournament sponsored by the Daily Press in Long Island, N.Y. He lived there in the tiny town of Lake View, and bowled in Queens County and Brooklyn.

In the 1940s, he was called into military service and sent to the South Pacific, where he served aboard a seaplane tender. While in the South Pacific, Clegg passed the fleet exam for the NROTC program being offered to sailors in the fleet for the first time. He received what was called a Convenience of the Government Discharge in 1948, enabling him to enroll at Georgia Tech.

He also picked up a new bowling partner -- Southern belle Ann Morrison, who became his wife and the mother of their two children, John and Laura.

They were wed in 1951, the year he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. He returned to the Navy with the commissioned rank of ensign and saw duty aboard a destroyer in the Mediterranean and a minesweeper in Korea.

After leaving the Navy in 1963, Clegg moved to Maryland to work at Westinghouse -- just in time to see a rise in popularity of tenpin bowling around the largely duckpin-crazy Baltimore.

In 1964, he was named president of the Baltimore Men's Bowling Association, which includes bowlers from Anne Arundel County, and went on to win tournaments, including The Evening Sun's 30-game elimination competition in 1965.

More recently, Clegg has added to his collection of prize ribbons and medals by twice winning the Maryland ABC Senior Championships, and going to the national senior championships -- once in Reno, Nev., and once in Salt Lake City.

More on exercise

You might never bowl a 300 game, or win a championship in any sport, but to feel at the top of your game, here are some healthful activities to try:

The LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) series for seniors at Anne Arundel Community College, which includes courses in weight training, floor and water exercise, and tai chi, which has a new session beginning in January. Information: 410-541-2325.

Bagel Walkers, a program of fun walks along the B & A Trail sponsored by Chesapeake Bagel Bakery and North Arundel Hospital. While not strictly for seniors, the program offers many opportunities for senior fellowship. Information: 410- 787-4367.

Exercise programs at Community Center at Woods, designed by Sheila Light of R U Fit -- or you may prefer the pool there. Tai chi and qi gong are offered twice a week. Whether the latter will improve a bowling score well, try it. Information: 410-647-5843.

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