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Pinellas contingent aims to win at Senior Classic

Clearwater's Chris Gifford might have put into words the inspiration more than 7,000 athletes carried into the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic IV, which opened last Saturday at Baton Rouge, La.

"At age 82, I am going to Baton Rouge, not for a pleasure trip, but to win a national championship," Gifford said. He will compete in cycling.

Jack Vincent, 93, of Pinellas Park is the oldest entry in the Classic, which ends Friday. He leads a parade of Suncoast senior bowlers that includes St. Petersburg's Willard Patton, an age-division gold medalist last year; Clearwater's Shirley and Robert Ridley and Helen Gorges; St. Petersburg's Lila Barton, and Largo's Scotty Perkins.

Nearly 400 Florida seniors will compete in 14 sports, including track and field, cycling, tennis, shuffleboard, basketball, softball, golf and bowling.

"Competing with seniors from throughout the nation with good sportsmanship makes us all winners," said bowler Linda Edison of Palm Harbor.

The athletes qualified for the Baton Rouge event through various area senior games. The Good Life Games in Pinellas County drew 1,600 competitors last November and were sponsored by Barnett Banks, WTVT Channel 13 and the Times. Other games were held in Sanford and Bradenton.

Tournament opens: The WIBC-ABC National Mixed Team and Doubles Championship opens Friday night and runs daily through July 4 at Sunshine Bowl in Pinellas Park.

The third annual event drew 836 team entries, including 152 from St. Petersburg. Teams are composed of two women, two men, and the mixed doubles, all bowling handicap. An optional all-events division also will be contested. Entries are closed.

The prize fund is $99,375, and the team winner earns $6,000, doubles champions $3,000.

Every state is represented, and Canada is sending eight teams. Florida has 173 team entries and Texas is next with 87.

Opening ceremonies are at 7:30 Friday night, followed by the first and only squad shift that day. There is no admission charge. Bowlers will compete daily with squad times at 9 a.m. (weekends only) and 11:30 a.m., and 2, 5 and 7:30 p.m.

ABC Tournament historic: Five records were set during the 90th annual ABC Championship Tournament that ended June 7 in Tulsa, Okla.

The event saw its first three-way tie in doubles. Bruegger's Bagels No. 1 won the team championship with a record 3,537 total. Jeff Nimke of Kenosha, Wis., set an all-events record with a 2,254. Sam's Town No. 1 of Las Vegas won the team all-events with a record 10,353.

A record 51 perfect games were rolled.

Las Vegas-bound: More than 400 Florida NABI Club members are headed for Las Vegas this week and the 10th annual NABI National Week at the Showboat Hotel and Casino. The tournament starts Thursday, runs through June 24 and offers more than $400,000 in prize money.

Tim Caske of Pinellas Park won last weekend's NABI event and collected $1,000 at Seminole Lanes. Theresa Hodge of St. Petersburg was second and Tampa's Thom Chester was third.

NABI tournaments this weekend are at Lane-Glo Bowl, Largo Lanes and Altamonte Springs.

Around the lanes: John Hackett rolled his third 300 game in three months at Largo Lanes last week. His four-game 1,050 may be a county record. The Style Master 300 tournament offers a $10,000 first-place payoff during competition the last weekend of June and the first weekend of July at Brandon Crossroads Bowl. Crossroads Kenneth City Bowl hosts the tournament this weekend.