Roll Call/Duckpin Bowler’s Association Pro-Tour Returns to Hagerstown

by Nathan Oravec


Bowling was big in Egypt.

It’s thought the sport originated there some seven thousand years ago; primitive precursors - a round ball and marble pin-like bars - discovered in ancient ruins.

From the pyramids, the sport migrated to Italy in the days of Caesar. Called bocce, the Italian version was a game played on the lawn, similar to that which would later be played in England. In fact, the earliest mention of traits commonly associated with the sport we know and love today - those of pins and enclosed alleys - came from London nearly 800 years ago, where the game was played outdoors by nobles.

Bowling ultimately traveled to America with Dutch settlers in New York, where, in 1840, the first known indoor game was held.

Sixty years later, this popular sport that had evolved throughout the ages was once again and forever changed with the emergence of a new phenomenon. In the spring of 1900, the world would be introduced to duckpins.

Bowling was very big in Baltimore.

There, pioneers Wilbert Robinson and John J. McGraw attempted something new at their Diamond Alleys when they turned down a set of ten pins and incorporated the use of a six-inch ball. Shortly after, in an issue of the Morning Sun, sports writer Bill Clark christened the alteration duckpins.

Leagues quickly formed, followed by the inception of the National Duckpin Bowling Congress in 1927. Before long, duckpin bowling had traveled the East Coast, replacing period trends such as candle and rubber band pins.

Then came December of 1963.

Bowling was huge in Hagerstown.

There, the Duckpin Professional Bowlers Association Pro-Tour began, its first event held at Frank Turner’s South Side Bowl. Local pro-bowler Clark “Copie” Copenhaver won the title that year and a legacy of Pro-Tours was set into motion.

On Friday, May 28; Saturday, May 29; and Sunday, May 30; forty-one years after its initial run, the Pro-Tour will return to Hagerstown.

Held at Long Meadow Bowl, one hundred and ninety-four bowlers hailing from Maryland to Massachusetts will assemble to compete in this, the 300th tour stop. According to Shirley Turner, Sales and Promotion for Turner’s Bowling Centers in Hagerstown, fifteen participants will be regional bowlers from throughout Washington County and the surrounding area - Hagerstown, Clear Spring, Williamsport and Martinsburg. On May 29, they will compete against number-one bowler Jeff Pyles of Lanham, Maryland who, with a composite average of 152.191, has won sixteen Pro-Tour stops throughout his impressive career.

The Long Meadow Bowl event will be the second stop of this year’s tour. Last month, the tour played in Cheshire, Connecticut. Following Hagerstown, six stops remain from June until November, culminating in College Park, Maryland.

On Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30, The Women’s National Duckpin Association Tour will be held at Hagerstown’s South Side Bowl. South Side will mark the first stop on the Women’s National Tour this year, with subsequent stops in Connecticut and Rhode Island throughout the fall, before coming to completion in College Park, Maryland, November 5-7. According to Jackie Adams, President of the Women’s Tour, approximately 50-60 female bowlers will take part in the South Side event, including Amy Bisson of Plainville, Connecticut who, with a composite average of 146.821, has been ranked number one in her league for the second year in a row.

Cumulatively, bowlers comprising both tours will be competing for $30,000 in prize money. It is, says Shirley, the largest money stop of the tour.

It goes without saying that for many of these bowlers, it is not the money, but the consummate love of the sport, which has kept the Tour continuously rolling since day one.

Ray Turner has been bowling for some fifty years, and, in 1977, became one of four local bowlers - along with Joe Bitner, Jimmy Wolfensberger, and “Copie” Copenhaver - to ever win the Pro-Tour.

“I like it because it’s competitive. You’re playing against Nationally Ranked bowlers,” he explains. “Also, the experience of playing on different lanes, with different conditions - that’s what makes a good bowler.”

“Plus,” he adds, “I enjoy bowling with the guys.”

An annual doubles tournament, running in conjunction with the tours, will be held at Long Meadow on May 21, 22, and 23, as well as May 27, 29 and 30. Open to all sanctioned bowlers, participants will compete for $5250 in prize money.

Interestingly, notes Shirley, duckpin bowling is relegated to a particular geography, with houses existing only in select states - Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia.

A sport with historic roots in Egypt remains a success here, in Western Civilization, in the East.

The Duckpin Professional Bowlers Association Pro-Tour will be held at Long Meadow Bowl, 19330 Leitersburg Pike, on Friday, May 28 with shifts at 1 and 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 29 with shifts at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Head to Head competition will be held on Sunday, May 30 at 8:30 a.m.

The Women’s National Duckpin Association Tour will be held at South Side Bowl, 17325 Virginia Avenue, Hagerstown on Saturday, May 29 with shifts at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Head to head competition will be held on Sunday, May 30 at 10:30 a.m.

Regional competitors for the Duckpin Professional Bowler’s Association Pro-Tour are: Ray Turner, Andy Hoffman, Sleepy Cross, Keith Anderson, Jimmy Burns, John Copenhaver, Rob Keefer, Gary McKinsey, Mark Nigh, Danny Burdett, Denny Myers, Daryl Walters, Kenny Kirby, Dave Banzhoff, Robert Raill, Mike McAllister.

For more information, contact Long Meadow Bowl, 301-766-4006. Visit www.wndatour.com. Visit www.dpba.org.

* Some historic information obtained from John Y. Dennis, Jr.’s “Bowling Is the World’s Oldest Sport” and “History of Bowling,” at www.bowl-nj.com.