East Hampton’s Senior Bowlers Still on Their Pins

“I open up for them at 8 in the morning — they’re early risers — and I make the coffee”
They come to roll: The Senior Men’s League takes to the lanes at East Hampton Bowl on Wednesday mornings. Jack Graves

   If you need proof that bowling is a lifetime sport, just come to East Hampton Bowl Wednesday mornings.
    There you’ll see some pretty keen competitors in the Senior Men’s League, whose average age, Ken McFall, a member of the league for the past seven years, reckoned, was “pushing 80.”
    “I’m 74, and I’m probably the youngest,” said Joe Ambrose of Sag Harbor, a retired East Hampton High School math teacher and varsity bowling coach. As is the case with just about all of his 18 fellows, Ambrose’s average has dropped, though his enthusiasm for the exacting game — often mentioned in the same breath as golf — has not diminished, even though he had a hip replacement recently, not to mention a shoulder replacement in 1995.
    “From 1995 to 2011 I didn’t pick up a ball,” he said. “I still can’t play golf, it hurts too much, but I can do this. This is my first year with these guys — everyone gets along, no one knocks anyone.”
    “I averaged 182-183 when I bowled in the Tuesday night businessmen’s league [the Bowl’s most competitive league]. I’m averaging 148 now, which isn’t bad. Like I say,” Ambrose said with a smile, “I’m improving. I had a 201 earlier this summer.” He still bowls with a 15-pound ball, though most of his peers have gone down to 14, and, in some cases, 12-pounders.
    Dot Allen, the food and beverage manager at East Hampton Bowl, who was looking on appreciatively, said, “I open up for them at 8 in the morning — they’re early risers — and I make the coffee.”
    Al Alster, who oversees the league with Charlie Broadmeadow and has the high average, a 172, brings the doughnuts.
    When told by this writer that he’d heard Vinnie Sterace was “legally blind,” Dot Allen said, “Legally blind isn’t totally blind. If you can see the white of the pins you can bowl.”
    Later, Sterace, who’s 86 and lives in Noyac, said, with a laugh, “The other guys tell me what pins are up.”
    His high game that morning was a 140, “which, for me, is pretty good.” The week before, he started out with a spare and a strike.
    “You should also say,” he added, “that if anybody wants to join, just come down here at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays. Just show up. We used to have eight teams, now we have four.”
    “We’d love it if there were more guys,” said Sterace’s teammate Ken McFall, who had a 180 that morning as Team 3 (he, Ambrose, Ed Hedges, and Sterace) took 8 of 11 points from league-leading Team 2 (Alster, Al Martino, Carmine Martino, and Don Jaeger). “We’re all relatively friendly — we haven’t had anyone killed yet, as least I don’t think so. . . . We do this year round, though some of us go away for a while in the winter.”
    “It’s good for our wives,” he added, with a smile. “It gets us out of the house. They like the idea of us bowling, and it’s a big social occasion. What is the current expression? It’s good for ‘male bonding.’ ”
    McFall, an East Hamptoner, said that when he had joined seven years ago — “time flies when you’re having fun” — he had been the youngest at 67. “We’ve got a guy now, Billy Connelie, who’s 91, and he’s a good bowler, too.”
    “I love watching these guys — they’re a lot of fun,” said Will Garbowski, a former Bonac bowler who has been the Bowl’s mechanic for the past half-dozen years. “They act like they’re teenagers again.”