Tucsonan Lorraine Sandven recently celebrated her 50th appearance at the United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships, and at 78 years old she has no plans to stop.
She attended the championships in Reno, Nevada, in June, and was presented with a plaque and medallion to honor her years of dedication to the sport.
“Actually, it was more than I thought it was going to be,” Sandven said.
Before the tournament began, the contestants were called together and listened to a speaker present awards. The bowlers then marched to their respective lanes, where Sandven was honored again.
She then bowled in the tournament, finishing with a 1,261 all-events score. Events included sets of singles, doubles and teams.
“It is an accomplishment because people can’t always just take off and go every year,” she said. Sandven, now retired, in the past used vacation time to pursue her passion.
She was one of six competitors at the championships to reach the 50-year mark.
“The ability to go on for 50 years at the tournament is a pretty good achievement. Not many people get to experience it,” said Aaron Smith, communications coordinator for the United States Bowling Congress.
The congress is the governing body for bowling and standardizes rules and certifications for the sport. Each year it holds championship tournaments that all members can bowl in.
Sandven was born and raised in York, North Dakota, a town with a population of 23 people. After graduating from Minot State University and then a business college in Fargo, Sandven left her home state and moved to Arizona, searching for warmth and adventure.
“One of my college friends and I decided we wanted to do something besides shovel snow in the winter,” she said.
Shortly after arriving in Arizona, Sandven’s friend got married and “moved on.” Sandven decided to pick up a job and began working in bookkeeping and customer service in a company that is now AmeriGas; she held that position for 42 years.
In the 1960s, less than six months after arriving in Arizona, Sandven took up bowling after friends introduced her to the sport.
At the time, they were “just having fun and going bowling.”
Sandven quickly claimed the sport for good. Her friends formed a casual team and decided to start attending national tournaments.
“We did not often have a name. We were just kind of a make-up team,” she said. “Sometimes the team members would change.”
The team would drive or fly to wherever the tournament was. Sandven and her crew had the opportunity to become tourists, stopping and seeing all the sights along the way.
Throughout the years, Sandven has seen many changes in the sport. She is the only remaining member of her original team, and the rules and regulations for bowling have changed as well.
Sandven says changes have been made to “a lot of the equipment that they have now, new technology and the composition of the balls themselves.”
Apart from celebrating her 50th year, Sandven has had some wins to celebrate.
In her 1980-81 season, Sandven won the class B handicap singles in Tucson. In 2009, her team won its division and in 2013, she and her doubles partner won the doubles event in their division.
As for her success, she said, “Sometimes you get lucky. I think I would have to say that.”
She has learned about running tournaments and leagues by being a president, vice president or secretary for different organizations. She served on the Tucson Women’s Bowling Association’s board of directors for more than 17 years.
Today, Sandven remains involved by participating in clubs. When the season is in full swing in the winter, she’ll spend 12 to 15 hours between leagues and side tournaments.
The clubs she participates in include the 500 Club and the Arizona Bowlerettes, which she joined in 1978. The Bowlerettes will celebrate their 40th anniversary this year.
“The bowling community is a very tight-knit community. No matter what happens to you, there is always someone there for you to keep your spirits up,” said Eloise Fowler, secretary of the Bowlerettes and Sandven’s teammate.
The two met after joining the club.
“She is fun to be on the lanes with,” said Fowler, 72.
Sandven also volunteers in programming at some bowling centers to get others involved in bowling. She has volunteered in Special Olympics-type events 0for people who may be physically or mentally handicapped.
Sandven continues with the sport but not for serious competition.
“We all have our ups and downs,” she said. “I’ve had my good games and my lousy games. But it’s mostly the people 0I have gotten the most enjoyment out of. Besides that, it0’s good exercise.”
The United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships will take place in Reno again next year, starting in April and running through June. Sandven plans to be there.
“As long as I’m able, yes, I will continue to go,” she said.