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Meet Spring Hill's bowling guy

Charlie Watkins, 93, recently shot a 613-series at Spring Hill Lanes. “Some people are golf guys. I am a bowling guy.”

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Charlie Watkins, 93, recently shot a 613-series at Spring Hill Lanes. “Some people are golf guys. I am a bowling guy.”

SPRING HILL

Most local bowlers focus on potential when they achieve something on the lanes. Charlie Watkins is way past potential at this point, and he's able to do what most only wish they could — just enjoy it.

"This is a great pastime; it's always a challenge," Watkins said. "Some people are golf guys. I am a bowling guy."

When he looks back on his 64 years of bowling in leagues, he doesn't reminisce about high scores or old achievements, but he recalls the people he has bowled with and the friends he has made.

Even now, as Watkins comes off a season in which his team in the Friday Senior Men's League at Spring Hill Lanes took first place overall, he remembers more about the laughs he had during the end-of-season meeting.

This past season, Watkins competed in two different leagues, one at Mariner Lanes and one at Spring Hill. He shot a season-high 613-series at Spring Hill in November, and his fellow bowlers in the Friday Senior Men's League decided to get together and purchase a plaque for the longtime competitor.

At 92, a 600-series was an extraordinary accomplishment, but since these types of achievements happen so rarely, the U.S. Bowling Congress had no award to give Watkins.

League secretary Jim Santore gathered the other league officers and team captains and they decided to award a plaque for the score.

"It was really something," he said. "It's great to bowl with a bunch of guys like that, and they were all very nice when I went up to get my award."

It has been a long road for Watkins. To call him a veteran bowler would be a vast understatement.

He began tossing the ball in a league back in 1944 in Grand Terrace, Calif., at the age of 30.

He and some friends would travel about 20 miles to the bowling alley about three times a week.

For years, he and his wife, Sadie, would compete together. Both loved the sport and it took up a lot of their free time during the retirement years.

Five years ago, when Sadie died, Watkins used the sport to take away the pain of losing her.

"Bowling took my mind away from all of that," he said. "I had to keep doing whatever I could to keep going, whether it was bowling or playing cards."

In his career, he has a few 298- and 297-games, and he jokes about how that one perfect game has eluded him as it has most, but Watkins doesn't do it for the personal accomplishment as much as the companionship and competitiveness.

"Going out there with these other guys every week keeps me going," he said. "Sure, I get disgusted when I don't do well, but I come right back in the next time ready to go."

He is about to take a three-month summer hiatus from the sport to refresh himself for next season. Yes, next season.

"I always feel like a new person when I come back for the winter when I take the summer off," he said.

There seems to be no end in sight. Watkins' game only improved as the season went on this year, and thanks to an adjustment he credits to pro shop owner Kevin Williams at Spring Hill, he expects to average better than the 166 he tossed in this past campaign.

Maybe he does have potential after all.

>>fast facts

Charlie Watkins

Born: May 14, 1915, Fleetridge, Calif.

Resides: Spring Hill, where he moved in 1985

U.S. Bowling Congress Records:

High game: 298 (twice)

High average: 188 at Liberty Lanes in Largo, 1987

Latest Achievement: 613-series in Friday Senior Men, Spring Hill, November 2007

Meet Spring Hill's bowling guy 05/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 26, 2008 8:13am]
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