Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: The top 10 bowlers in Tucson history.
On her 30th birthday, Bev Ortner bowled an 818 series at Harmony Lanes in Sioux City, Nebraska, becoming the first woman in history to break the long-challenged 800 barrier. That was 1968.
The record stood for 10 years, during which time Ortner won two Women’s Professional Bowling Association championships and was elected to the U.S. Bowling Congress Hall of Fame. Her series included games of 267, 264 and 287.
Ortner was a high-profile sports figure in Tucson during the 1970s and ’80s. The Star published a weekly bowling column, as well as choosing an annual Top 5 Bowlers of the Year — one each for men’s and women’s bowling — from the mid-’50s to the mid-’70s, when bowling was a popular American pastime.
The WIBC now presents an annual Bev Ortner Award for the highest sanctioned series by a female bowler each year.
Tucson overflowed with top bowlers for more than 30 years, with six bowling alleys — now called bowling centers — hopping most nights. Limiting our list of top Tucson bowlers to 10, folding men and women into the same group, was not easy.
The game has changed significantly in the last 20 years.
An advanced composition of bowling balls and more inviting lane surfaces have added about 20 to 30 points to a normal league bowler’s score per game. In the ’60s and ’70s, a 200 game was reason to celebrate. Now it’s more like 225.