The state of bowling, like several sports from “the good old days,” is ailing.
The support is still there, but bowling, especially senior bowling, joins boxing and horse racing as sports from the past that are not as healthy as they once were.
People living in The Villages area are a little spoiled because most of the local leagues are predominately made up of senior citizens. The Professional Bowlers’ Association’s 50+ tour visits on a yearly basis and a monthly Senior Shoot Out sweeper provides plenty of bowling opportunities for senior bowlers, both as participants and fans.
Sadly, Bob Janego, the head guy for the Senior Bowlers’ Association, which comes to The Villages a few times a year, is taking a hiatus.
“I have a couple little health problems, so I am going into semi-retirement,” Janego said. “I have reached the 80 number.”
When the SBA visited The Villages a few years back, they were met with standing-room only crowds. Lately, while still drawing several fans, the attendance has fallen off a bit.
Janego and a small group of bowlers gathered in 1993 to talk about senior bowling and formed the association.
“We never thought it would last this long,” Janego said. “But like all good things, they must end someday.”
The association had some problems in the beginning, but that’s when Janego came to the rescue.
“We had a leader and a board of directors,” Janego recalled. “Some of the guys started walking away and we lost our leader. My dad taught me to never walk away from things and I took over.”
At first, Janego and the others talked about televising the events on local television stations.
“One of the guys’ daughters worked at a television station, but the production costs would be too much,” he said.
Over the years, 1,000 male or female bowlers participated, there were 337 events held in 51 bowling centers, there were 118 senior champions and 19 guest champions and approximately $750,000 was paid out from the prize funds.
Janego didn’t take a salary; he ran the tournaments for the love of the game.
“The guys asked why I didn’t take any money, like $5 per bowler,” Janego said. “I never took a cent. I told them they were my pay – getting to meet them and enjoy their company.”
Many of the senior events bar those bowlers who have won on the PBA tour. Not Janego. If you were 50 or over and were a scratch bowler, you were invited to participate. The SBA motto was, “A place for seniors to meet and compete.”
Janego appreciates all of the bowlers who came out to meet and compete.
“I am thankful to all of you who worked and supported this event to make it what it is,” Janego said. “It’s been a wild ride for me. God bless you all.”
Bowlers like Walter Ray Williams Jr., Bob Chamberlain, Pete Couture, Dave Soutar, Dave Davis and Dale Eagle bowled in many of the SBA tournaments.
“I always said if you are good, you want to beat the best,” Janego said.
Roger Kossert won 21 SBA tournaments to claim the most titles.
Although the SBA is on life support, Janego didn’t rule out a future event or two.
“Who knows, I might hold another event,” Janego said. “But until that decision is made, please support those who run events for seniors.”