Wharton: Veteran bowler keeps on rolling
It's doubtful that anyone knows for certain which Utah bowler has been in a league the longest or which team has been in the same league with the same sponsor the longest.
But it's a good bet that a team that was started 76 years ago near the end of the Great Depression by some printers, and sponsored that entire time by The Salt Lake Tribune in the Capitol League, would rank high on that list.
And you could probably make some money if you wagered that 85-year-old retired Bountiful printer William Buckley had been on the same team the longest. In fact, Buckley began his 56th year as a member of that team this season in a league that now bowls at Fat Cats in Salt Lake County.
"I'm down there for fun," said Buckley, who carries a respectable 175 average that he is not all that happy with at the moment. "As long as it's fun, it's good to bowl. When it's no longer fun, then you quit. I come down to have a good time."
The retired Tribune backshop worker, who once operated a linotype machine that used hot lead long before the days when everything was done by computer, also bowls in a Monday-night Metro League at the Bonwood in Salt Lake City.
Buckley spent 42 years working at the newspaper. He's the only former Tribune employee on the team, which also includes Morris Daras, Dale Feltenbarger and Randy Thornblad, but the newspaper still pays the $40-a-year-sponsor fee.
He said he stays in shape by going to Gold's Gym in Bountiful almost daily, alternating his exercise program between lifting weights one day and then walking on the treadmill the next. Buckley can easily still do 10 chin-ups.
His daughter, a doctor, told him to quit running to protect his knees, so he puts his treadmill on climb for a half-mile. When a pain developed in his lower leg near his hip, he was worried. So he switched to a bicycle to exercise what turned out to be a weak hamstring.
When Buckley was 77, he once rolled a 298 and carried a 198 average. Six weeks before he turned 80, he started a game with a "baby split" before rolling 11 strikes in a row. He bowled the best series one year in a league when he was in his 70s.
He is frustrated because his average has dropped the past couple of years, including a 172 last year. The veteran bowler admits to getting older, but still thinks he is capable of throwing the ball with the best of them.
"[Alley owners] can use three oils on the surface, and they keep mixing the oils up so your ball doesn't work as good," he said. "I bought another ball, but it was breaking twice what I wanted. So I bought another one, and it's doing the same thing. I've learned to deal with it. I am trying a new technique to overcome it. I think if I do what I want, I will be up there again."
Perhaps Buckley has discovered the secret to longtime athletic success. You stay in good physical shape and remain open-minded about learning new techniques.
That said, good fortune helps, too.
"Right now, I feel blessed and lucky," said the man who may be setting some sort of Utah bowling record by simply doing what he's always enjoyed.