Oregon mixed singles league focuses on fun, solves issues many bowlers dislike.
Imagine a league in which:
- You pay for bowling only on those nights you show up.
- You never worry about getting a "sub."
- There is no such thing as "I'm not good enough."
- A woman averaging 110 can bowl "fair and square" against a man averaging 200.
- Age is irrelevant.
The Monday Night Singles League at Epicenter in Klamath Falls, Ore., addressed all of the above and added another critical ingredient: it was great fun. League founder Corliss Fernlund might be prejudiced because 11 members of her family participated in the league, but a six-year history of success suggested the concept was founded on more than family ties.
Here's how it worked:
The league bowled Mondays at 6:30 p.m. The $10 weekly fee included $8 for lineage, 50 cents secretarial fee and $1.50 for the prize fund.
You bowled three games, moving one pair to the right after each game. Handicap was 90 percent of 200, with "negative" handicap if you averaged over 200.
Bowlers drew for lane assignments as they showed up. There were usually three bowlers per lane, designated as "1A, 1B, 1C," etc., for ease of movement from pair to pair.
Points were based on individual handicap totals for each game compared to the rest of the league. For example, if 40 bowlers competed, the highest game each game is worth 40 points, second-high was worth 39 points, third-high 38 points, etc. At the end of the season, the total for all points awarded was divided into the prize fund to determine the value for each point. Example: if 1,000 points were awarded and there was $500 in the prize fund, each point was worth 50 cents. If you didn't (or couldn't) show up, you didn't pay. Pre-bowling was allowed, but post-bowling (makeup games) was not.
League members must have bowled two-thirds of the season to qualify for special awards. The special awards consisted of inexpensive certificates for scratch/handicap high game and series plus "perfect attendance." An interesting League Rule 13 spoke for itself: "No youngsters in the settee area." Fernlund introduced the league concept in 1998 at Holiday Bowl as the "Swingin' Singles." The morning league attracted 13 bowlers - ladies, seniors and a nurse who worked "swing shifts" and couldn't bowl every week. The league members proved so popular it expanded into a summer league and when Epicenter opened, it moved into "prime time."
The evening format also allowed Fernlund an opportunity to bowl with 10 other family members: husband Ray; daughters Jeanne Anderson, Sandy Herbert and Davida Croy; son Terry Herbert; son-in-law Carl Croy and four grandchildren.The league concept worked, Fernlund said, because "it's a lot of fun. Participants are much more relaxed and friendly because they're not worried about holding up their end for a team. In reality, each individual is his or her own team. "We have found our leagues to be attractive to new bowlers who feel they're not good enough to bowl on a team, people who have been out of bowling for awhile and want to get back in, people who work irregular schedules, people who have health issues that prevent them from bowling every week, and for people in northern climates who may not want to deal with bad road conditions in the winter.
"What makes it nice," she continued, "is that you don't pay if you don't bowl and you don't have to worry about getting a sub, or contacting a league officer. People want to attend because they get no points if they don't bowl, and they can drop in the standings in a hurry. But there is no other penalty. "Our handicap system also makes it very fair," Fernlund added. "We had an 18-year-old first-year bowler with a 114 average in first place while a 92-year-old league member was in 12th place." The only drawback, noted Epicenter league director Mary Larman, was that the center's software doesn't accommodate the league's lane movement and points-per-game scoring system. So Larman developed an Excel spreadsheet to easily figure out points and track the standings.
"Sixty bowlers signed up for the league and an average of 40 bowl every week," Larman said. "We have one guy who averages 226 and gives away 23 pins in handicap every game, but he enjoys it because he has to challenge himself to bowl above average. "Because you draw for lanes, you get a chance to meet and bowl with different people every week. It's competitive, but not because you're trying to bowl the highest game. You just don't want to be low man." "I know when the league is on the floor, you hear a lot of laughter," Larman said, "so we know they're having a good time."