Love of bowling keeps women’s friendship on a roll

By Paul Harris

Everyone enjoys winning. Yet for two women of the four-member Koch Insurance bowling team, it’s not about how many pins they knock down but about enjoying each other’s company.

“I enjoy the sociability,” said Margaret Pickett, a housemother at the FIJI fraternity.

“I enjoy the camaraderie,” said retiree Shirley Koch.

Koch Insurance is one of 477 teams vying for championships at the Kansas State USBC WBA tournament, which is visiting Manhattan for the fifth time and Little Apple Lanes for the first time.

Bowlers can compete for a title as a five-member team, a four-member team, doubles, and singles. Contestants can bowl in up to three events. For each event, bowlers will bowl three games, their scores will be totaled up, and then the individual or the team with the highest score will win the championship. The event started this month and runs until May.

Koch and Pickett have been bowling in the same league for nearly 40 years, and they have been on the same team for the last 20 years.

“I started bowling with my husband, when he was in the service, and I liked it,” Pickett said. “It’s about all we could afford,” she added with a laugh.

Throughout the years, Koch’s and Pickett’s love for the game has developed into a friendship.

“We go out to eat and just interact socially.” Pickett said of her teammates. During the games, the other bowlers will joke with one another. 

Both friends said they would not trade anything for their bowling experiences, which have taken them all across the United States. Koch, who has participated in 25 of the last 30 national tournaments, won the Grand Duchess award on Saturday morning, which is given to a bowler that is more than 70 years old. She was participating in her 39th state tournament.

Pickett said bowling has given her a similar travelogue; however, she has never bowled on the east coast.

At the national tournament in Tulsa, Okla., Pickett said the power went out in the entire bowling alley for two hours. Bowlers are not allowed to go outside during the national tournament for any reason. After some length of time, one of the scorekeepers said he was going to go outside. Despite the rules in place, Pickett said she followed the scorekeeper outside and was not disqualified from the tournament.

Pickett and Koch, who have placed as high as ninth at nationals, have to cover their entire travel costs to the national tournaments.

Even with Pickett and Koch’s scoring averages around 140, Pickett and Koch said they have had their own share of misfortunes while bowling.

Pickett went into her backswing this afternoon and dropped the ball through her movement.

Koch said she once threw a ball and it went in to the other lane, but that has not happened for some time.

When she’s not bowling, Koch said she enjoys a round of golf, a game she actually enjoys more than bowling.

“I was the secretary for the state WGA (Women’s Golf Association) for 10 years,” Koch said.

Pickett scoffed at the notion of liking another golf more than bowling.

“I’m not a golfer,” Pickett said. “That’s frustrating.”

Even after 40 years, the two can’t agree on everything.

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