October 17, 2013 10:02:09 AM
William Browning - [email protected]
Every Monday night for the last six weeks a group of women have descended on GT Lanes in Columbus and claimed 12 lanes.
They are the Monday Night Ladies League. Of their members, the youngest recently passed 20. The oldest is 80. Most are north of 60. They all have their own bowling balls.
They gather mainly for fun, and a sample of their team names testifies to that: Happy Hooters, Twisted Sisters, Should Of Been Sisters and Wild Women. Still, they savor success like all athletes do. After a particularly good roll, you can see one of the ladies shake a fist and her teammates offer high-fives.
"They're out for blood just like everyone else in here," said Mike Mravich, who was watching the league bowl Monday night. "They want to win."
Mravich was laughing when he said that. But there is something inspiring about these 48 women.
The league, which consists of 12 teams, began in early September. Its season will run through March. That's a six-month stretch. Why do these women, who come from all around the Golden Triangle area, make that commitment?
"It's a chance to be around people you know," said Willodean Atkins, a member of team Weyerhaeuser. "You know, cut up, act like nuts."
Atkins, who lives in Millport, Ala., said fun is the theme, but stand close to a lane, she added, and you might hear a curse word whispered if someone rolls a bad frame.
Rita Johnson, one of Atkins' teammates, has been bowling since 1986. Her goal always is to enjoy herself.
"It's my stress relief," she said. "If I took it too serious I'd just be mad the entire time."
Amy Hopper, of Columbus, is the league's president. She was nominated for the post. When bowling questions arise, she refers to the United States Bowling Congress rule book for the answer.
Hopper is 46 and has been bowling for two decades. She's self-employed. She works at home. She spends all day at home.
"Everything is at home," she said. "For me, this is my out."
She has made friends through the league, which is in its first year, and believes everyone else has, too.
"Of course you've got that competitiveness, but it's all in fun," Hopper said.
Each Monday when the league plays, each member brings $13. Out of that, $9 is to keep things going. The other $4 is put in a pot and at the end of the season, the winning team receives prize money.
The league's oldest member is Atlas Boyer, a Columbus resident who is 80. She's a part of team Gutter Jumpers. Boyer was at the lanes Monday night wearing a green T-shirt with skulls on it. Asked why she bowls, she said, "For fun!"
Boyer then described the league members as a "family" and she bear-hugged Fannie Kuykendall, one of her teammates who was also wearing a T-shirt adorned with skulls.
A little while later the ladies began warming up, rolling their bowling balls, all of which are between eight and 16 pounds, down the lanes.
Aside from Monday Night Ladies League, GT Lanes also has a men's league on Tuesday night, a mixed league on Wednesday and a children's league on Saturday morning.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.