105-year-old Georgian averages better than his age

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hargrove carried a 106 average in his two senior leagues.

CLEVELAND, Ga. -- With his mouth wide open and one arm in the air, Bill Hargrove leaned to the right as he faced the bowling lane, seeming to silently will his ball to roll in that direction.

Moments later, at the ball return, he turned to his friend, Tom Smith, and asked, "How many did I get?"

Placing his hands on Hargrove's shoulders, Smith leaned in to tell him which pins were still standing.

At 105, Hargrove, of Clermont, Ga., is the oldest bowler certified by the United States Bowling Congress, and his eyesight has deteriorated dramatically over the past year.

He can no longer see the pins, but after more than 80 years of bowling -- he started in 1924 -- Hargrove has a mental picture of the pin configuration and knows where to throw his red-and-blue-marbled 10-pound ball when told which pins remain.

"He's as accurate as he can be and if he had a little more power in his swing, he'd bowl more strikes," said his 58-year-old daughter, Sandra Carnet. "He knows where to place the ball for sure."

Hargrove, who has a 106 average, bowls two mornings a week in two different senior leagues, one of which is named after him.

Most of the bowlers in the leagues are about 30 years his junior. Smith and his wife, Vangie, both in their mid-70s, round out his Monday team -- Billy and The Kids -- at Yonah Lanes in Cleveland, Ga.

In 1991, at the spry age of 90, Hargrove took first place in the singles competition at the Georgia State Senior Championships. When he turned 105 on May 9, Hargrove tied the late John Venturello of Sunrise, Fla. -- who also bowled at the age of 105 in 1993 -- for the record of oldest certified bowler.

"It's an honor to be doing something nobody else can do," Hargrove said. "It's just upsetting that there's nobody else in my age group that is still bowling."

On Sunday, Hargrove makes the nearly 90-minute trip to Atlanta, where he lived for nearly 70 years, to attend Grace United Methodist Church.

Hargrove worked for the Gulf Oil Corp. for 41 years until his retirement in 1965.

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