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Avid bowler rolls into town for Show-Me State Games

Sunday, July 27, 2008 | 9:36 p.m. CDT; updated 2:08 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 28, 2008
Gail Menke, left, and Kathy Goeggel, team members for Show-Me State Games doubles bowling, give each other encouragement between frames. The two have been bowling together for more than five years as part of the City Diners team in St. Louis.

COLUMBIA — A tall woman wearing a green-collared bowling shirt, white shorts and blue knee guards picks up a bowling ball from the ball return. She rolls the ball down the lane and it knocks down nine pins.
Gail Menke, 69, of St. Louis has been bowling since she was 10. She was a semi-professional bowler and has been inducted into the St. Louis Bowling Hall of Fame and the Missouri State Bowling Hall of Fame. She has bowled three 300 games and had more than 200 series of 700 or greater.
Sunday is Menke’s first time bowling as a senior in the Show-Me State Games.
“I almost got a strike,” Menke says as she returns to the table of the AMF Town and Country Lanes in Columbia.
Menke gives her companions high-fives before she sits down.
“See how we all high-five? We pass on the good stuff. We don’t have any of this,” Menke says as she makes a fist.
“No, none of this,” Kathy Goeggel, 60, Menke’s bowling partner, says as she too makes a fist.
Menke explains that the fist means a miss. The bowlers do not want to pass on misses to each other. The women high-five when they make a strike or a spare to pass on the good luck to the next bowler.
Goeggel, of St. Louis, and Menke are on the same bowling team in St. Louis. They play for the City Diners on Wednesday nights at Sunset Bowl. Menke also plays in a mixed league at Sunset on Saturdays and with the Gamblers at Du Bowl Lanes on Friday nights.
“We’ve been bowling together at home on a league for a while,” Menke says about her bowling partner. “We have a lot of fun. She’s an avid bowler.”
“Yes, she tutored me,” Goeggel says jokingly about Menke.
“I inspired her,” Menke says with a laugh.
The pair has been bowling together for more than five years. Menke and Goeggel cheer each other on as they bowl. Goeggel gets a better start than Menke. In Goeggel’s first two frames, she bowls spares. Menke does not start out as well, but says she gets better as she warms up.
“Hey! Your partner says you need to help her,” Sharon Sauerwein, 44, a friend of the bowlers, says to Menke.
Sauerwein of St. Louis says she has known Menke for 10 to 15 years and plays with her on the City Diners and Gamblers. She played in the singles bowling competition for the Show-Me State Games but can not play in the doubles because she does not have a partner.
“OK, you’re warmed up now,” Sauerwein says to Menke.
“No more kinks?” Menke says.
“No more kinks,” Sauerwein replies.
Sauerwein watches Menke bowl and gives her some bowling advice between frames. When she sees Menke miss the last pin to complete her spare, Sauerwein groans.
“She knew when she let go of it,” Sauerwein mutters to herself.
The friends have a great relationship and joke around with each other.
“Ask her how she got her nickname,” Sauerwein says.
Menke blushes.
“I don’t know how I got the nickname,” Menke says. “I’m 6 foot, 1 inch tall and I’m thin, so they called me Big Bird.”
She says the nickname was given to her when she was younger, and she is no longer referred to as Big Bird.
Though Sauerwein jokes about her friend, she respects Menke’s bowling skills.
“She is always willing to give advice to people when they’re bowling,” Sauerwein says about Menke. “It’s because of her I got more interested in bowling. I started playing in national tournaments because of her.”
Menke says she is disappointed because many of the friends she bowled with when she was a semi-professional do not bowl anymore.
“So many of my friends quit at the top of their game,” Menke says. “I love it so much, and I want to promote the game to the youth. I just can’t quit.”
“We won’t let her quit,” Sauerwein says.

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