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Bowlers begin battle over turf

May 09, 2000|By TARA REILLY

Losing is the easy part for Freda Wolfe. The hard part, she says, is figuring out how to stick it to her opponents.

Wolfe is one of eight new members of the Hagerstown Turf Bowling League, which kicked off its season Tuesday night at Pangborn Park in Hagerstown.

"It's fun, as soon as I get the hang of it, that is," Wolfe said. "But at least I tried."

Wolfe, of Hagerstown, and her three teammates lost the match, but all were willing to practice and give it another shot next week.

The object of turf bowling is to roll 3-pound grapefruit-sized balls down a 90-foot lane and have one of the balls come as close as possible to a smaller ball called a jack. The jack, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, is rolled down the lane before the game begins. The team that rolls a ball closest to the jack scores a point. The first team to score 21 points wins the match.

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"It's a game for any age, anybody can do it," Thelma Myers, president of the league said. "It's just a real game of skill. You just have to have the desire to bowl."

Experienced turf bowlers are quick to point out that the sport can be difficult.

"I like it, but I find it very challenging," Charlie Moss of Hagerstown said. "There's a lot involved. You have to be able to read the surface of the court. If it's damp, the ball reacts differently. It slows it up if it's wet or damp."

The courts are made of very fine, powdery gravel. Myers said it's necessary to water down and brush the courts to prevent the surface from lumping. As a result, the courts may be damp before a match.

Moss, a two-year veteran, said balls should be thrown with a curve and not directly at the jack. That strategy can prevent hitting other balls lying near the jack or hitting the jack itself and knocking it of the lane. If the jack ball is knocked out of the lane, the game is started over.

"You have to project where the ball will go," Moss said. "You know where you'd like it to go, but it doesn't always end up that way."

Turf bowling began in 13th century England as competition among houses of royalty. Back then, round stones were rolled along a turf surface in place of balls, Myers said. The game was introduced to Hagerstown in 1932 by Park W.T. Loy, who became fascinated by the game when he saw it being played in Pittsburgh. The sport became a tradition in the Hagerstown area and leagues have played the game ever since.

Six teams compete in the Hagerstown League every Tuesday and Wednesday nights through August. The end of the season is capped with a picnic in September. Forty-eight members belong to the league, which is open to anybody interested in joining.

"Anybody can play, and it's a good game for people with ailments," Myers said. "You're not really running around. It's just a fun game."

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