COLUMBIA — Gina Green stands in front of Lane 29 at Town and Country Lanes, bowling ball in hand. The remaining pins stare back at her as she slowly begins to walk forward. Suddenly, the ball leaps out of her hands and whips down the lane, tight-roping along the gutter before bending like a boomerang toward the intended pins.
Immediately, everyone around her claps and cheers. She receives a fist bump from a competitor and smiles as she slowly shakes her head and returns to her seat next to teammate, Barbara Clark. Green jokes and merrily offers words of encouragement as Clark prepares to go.
Green didn’t knock as many pins down with that throw as she wanted. In fact, Green barely made contact with any pins at all but received the same heartfelt congratulations that every competitor received in the team bowling event at the 2010 Missouri State Senior Games.
“People don’t get upset with you if you bowl badly because we all have our slumps. ... If you don’t bowl good, there’s always next year,” said Green.
For Green and her doubles partner, Clark, bad rolls seem to be more the exception than the rule. Last weekend the duo qualified for 2011 National Senior Games in Houston, Texas. This will be the second time the pair has made it to Nationals in only the third year of playing together.
“I’ve had partners that if you don’t hit your average, they get upset. Just way too competitive,” said Clark. “We complement each other. We just work good as a team. Neither one of us are out for blood. We take it serious, but not that serious.”
Green and Clark met six years ago through bowling and started competing in doubles together when each of their former partners simultaneously got sick. Both practice about once per week and have been bowling individually for more than 30 years.
“I think (bowling) is in your blood. I think when you’re a bowler you enjoy it whether you bowl well or you don’t bowl well. You just enjoy being here,“ said Green.
“It’s a way to get away from normal daily stuff and entertain and you get a little exercise to boot,” said Ronald Paubel, a fellow bowler in the Senior State Games.
Green's team won the silver medal in its age group in the team event, but Green and Clark each bowled well below their highest personal scores of 279 and 298, respectively. While they compete as a team in the doubles event and with two other people in the team event, Green and Clark share a common individual goal.
“We’re still working on that 300,” said Green. “I keep waiting for that 300. That’s my goal in life is 300. I know I can get it.”
The two are getting plenty of opportunities at the Missouri State Senior Games, spending “all weekend” at the bowling alley. Most of the competitors in the bowling events complete a total of 12 games over a two-day span, but Green and Clark say that glut of games is beneficial.
“I bowl a lot better when I’m tired. Because then you’re not thinking about bowling,” said Clark.
“You don’t push it like you do when you’re tense, you know. When you’re tired you just roll the ball and it works,” said Green.
“I mean, I come in and I want to bowl good and I want to do my best, but I think most of us, (come) just to see people and friends,” Clark continued. “If I bowl good, that’s a plus. But if I don’t, we still get to meet the people there. We only see them once a year, but it’s something to look forward to.”