black-bowler_web.jpgA national group of black bowlers has come to South Florida for friendly competition and to raise money for college scholarships.

The National Bowling Association is holding its 70th National Convention and 68th Championship Tournament.
For 10 days, from May 21 to 31, thousands of bowlers are filling the alleys at Don Carter’s Tamarac Lanes in Tamarac, Spare Z Bowl in Davie, and Striker Family Sports Center in Sunrise.

TNBA has been running its own tournaments since 1939, when it was founded by a group of black bowlers from Detroit. They were protesting the
American Bowling Congress membership, which was then restricted to the “white male sex” only.

The association now has 36,000 members across the U.S. and in Bermuda, of whom 80 percent are black.

“We embrace all demographic and ethnic groups” said Dr. Michael L. Boykins, the TNBA president. “But we are also proud to retain a unique African-American flavor.”

This week’s events feature men, women, senior and junior bowlers’ tournaments, which determine the annual champions for each division. Four regional champions also compete for the Bill Rhodman Classic, which honors the late Bill Rhodman from Detroit, a black bowler inducted into the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.

The success of the TNBA week is also based on serious organized fun.

Luncheons, banquets, a gospel fest, a hall of fame induction, a “Bon Voyage” dance, a “Queen and King Coronation” ball and even a memorial service for departed members are among the activities. To some participants, the annual championship is a true family reunion. 

Ella Townsell, who traveled from Maryland with her husband to represent the TNBA Senate in the Greater Washington area, said her membership has provided her “with lifelong friendships and a world of experiences.”

Townsell, 60, and her close friend, Jan McDaniel from Altaloma, Ca., were also there to meet with the TNBA Queen and Kings Association, on a sequence of  special trips and retreats that bring together the association’s former queens and kings.

TNBA “royalty” is elected on funds raised to support the organization’s junior league program, a 10-year old initiative that provides $10,000 to $15,000 scholarships to several TNBA youth every year. The money is slated to cover college-related expenses.  Townsell was elected in 1999 after raising $18,000.

“We want to build strong people,” said Barbara Council-Armstead, one of the organizers of the TNBA junior league, whose members start bowling as early as 6 years old. “We help our juniors develop feelings of camaraderie, family and friendship, and real leadership skills.”

Kyle Brooks, a member of the Junior Council in Baltimore, Maryland, assisted in the overall organization of the event. The 19-year-old, who also plays college football and basketball, said he learned to embrace bowling as another “cool” sport.

“Bowling has helped me become a calmer person,” he said. “I’ve also learned to think before acting.”

Tracy Holmes, whose 21-year-old daughter goes to college on a bowling scholarship at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, said her three decades in bowling alleys have also been rewarded with many good times and friendships all over the world. 

Her best prize yet? Meeting her husband, Chauncy Holmes of Fort Lauderdale at Striker Family Sports Center four years ago.

“We met on this same lane,” the Tampa resident said with a smile. “My most memorable strike so far.”

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Photo by Mychal McDonald. Marcus Fisher bowls for his Detroit team at the National Bowling Association’s 70th National Convention and 68th Championship Tournament­.