RENO, Nev. - Ann Murray of Atlanta was recognized for her 50th-consecutive year at the United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships on Sunday, and she's already looking forward to future appearances on the tournament lanes.
The 88-year-old made her USBC Women's Championships debut at the 1963 event in Memphis, Tenn., and returns each year because she loves the opportunity to travel and compete. Each place she's been to along the way holds special memories and a road map of her years of participation.
This weekend, she was escorted down Center Aisle at the National Bowling Stadium by Women's Championships Tournament Manager Eric Pierson. She received a plaque, fruit bouquet and 50-year medallion necklace to commemorate the milestone. Murray was the fifth of seven bowlers who will celebrate 50 years of participation this year. Following a short acceptance speech, she joined her team, Half A Century, on the lanes.
"God willing, I will celebrate even more years of participation," Murray said. "And, I already plan to be back next year."
Murray bowls in the oldest ladies league at Holiday Lanes in Atlanta, but she also has a direct connection to youthful bowlers - a tradition that started at home.
"I have seven grandchildren, and I took them all to bowl over the years," Murray said. "Now, I have eight great-grandchildren, and I am planning to get them started as well. I love to babysit them, so it works out really well to teach them the sport while I'm at it."
Murray's favorite tournament host city was Indianapolis, which she visited twice during her Women's Championships career - 1975 and 1999.
"I just loved that you could walk everywhere there," she said. "It was such a fun town."
On the lanes this year, Murray shot 455 in team, 416 in doubles and 402 in singles. She entered the tournament with a 151 average, which earned her an additional 29 pins per game for a handicap all-events total of 1,534. She competed in the Ruby Division, which includes bowlers with averages from 150-179, with handicap set at 100 percent of 180.
Dorothy "Dotty" Williams of Lakewood, Colo., also made a memorable appearance at the Stadium this weekend as she celebrated 52 years on the championship lanes.
Even at 87 years old, she still bowls in two weekly leagues and has participated in the Colorado State Tournament 59 times. She was inducted into the Denver Women's Bowling Association Hall of Fame and the Colorado Women's State HOF in 1991.
Williams has been just as dedicated behind the scenes as on the lanes. She served 42 years in the DWBA, including five as director, and directed the state board for 30 years. From 1955 to 1995, she also coached and worked in other capacities for the junior programs. Her devotion meant she once bowled in five leagues each week. She has a high game of 276 and high series of 686.
"I have switched to an eight-pound ball due to my doctor's orders, but I've recently changed my approach and backswing," Williams said. "Even so, I've upped my average."
So far, Denver's 1960 Women's Championships was Williams' favorite, but she also liked Niagara Falls, N.Y., and all of its natural beauty.
"Bowling is just so much fun, and I highly encourage others to take it up or stay with it," Williams said. "It's great exercise as well as a way to forge long-term friendships."
Williams finished her 2012 tournament campaign with a 323 series in doubles, 308 in team and 279 in singles. She entered the event with a 112 average and received an additional 38 pins of handicap per game for a 1,252 all-events total. She competed in the Sapphire Division, which includes bowlers with averages of 149 and below. Handicap is 100 percent of 150.
Presenting sponsors for the 2012 USBC Women's Championships are Circus Circus, Eldorado Hotel Casino and Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, Nev. Other sponsors include Harrah's Reno Casino, official brackets sponsor, Kegel, official lane maintenance provider, Humana, official registration sponsor, Steltronic, official scoring system, and supporting sponsors Storm Bowling Products, Nationwide Insurance, Sands Regency Casino Hotel and Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa and MyBowlingVacation.com.