By Wendy Clem
RENO, Nev. - Mini Tvaska of St. Petersburg, Fla., was the talk of the town as she broke her own United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships participation record with her 66th consecutive appearance Friday.
The 94-year-old was honored with a plaque, fruit bouquet and other gifts and graciously greeted the local media by granting interviews and posing for photos at the National Bowling Stadium. Along with discussing her three weekly leagues at St. Petersburg's Seminole Lanes, she reflected on past years in her favorite sport.
"My favorite memories are from when we used to bowl all day in the All-Stars Tournament held at the Chicago Armory," said Tvaska, whose USBC Women's Championships career began at the 1947 event in Grand Rapids, Mich. "All the big names of bowling were there - Don Carter, Marion Ladewig and other men and women who made the sport such a huge draw."
She recalled her hometown of Detroit and the influence of its downtown Recreation Building, where women bowlers were prohibited in the very early days of the 20th century. Tvaska also frequented more humble surroundings, bowling in stockings, while throwing a 16-pound ball in local 12-lane centers, long before rental shoes and varied house balls were offered.
"I keep all of my plaques in storage now, and I recently received a Life Achievement Award from the St. Petersburg Bowling Association for my years of dedication to the sport," Tvaska said. "I have totes of plaques and many memories, and this sport keeps on giving me more."
While in Reno this weekend, Tvaska also toured the new International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame satellite museum and posed beneath Ladewig's portrait. She recalled the times they were paired together in various tournaments and competitions.
"She was a wonderful boost to the sport, even though she threw a unique type of ball," said Tvaska, who already is making plans for her 67th tournament appearance next year at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. "You didn't always think it was going to connect with the headpin, but she knocked them down anyway. She was a hero to so many of us."
Despite struggling with macular degeneration that limits her vision, Tvaska managed to raise her average this year by two pins, from 109 to 111. This week at the Stadium, she rolled games of 110, 129 and 116 for a 355 series in team Friday and added 371 in doubles and 316 in singles Saturday for a scratch all-events total of 1,042. She entered this year's tournament in the Sapphire Division and received an additional 41 pins of handicap per game for a 1,411 handicap total.
The Sapphire Division includes bowlers with averages of 149 and below. Handicap is 100 percent of 150.
Presenting sponsors for the 2012 USBC Women's Championships are Circus Circus, Eldorado Hotel Casino and Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, Nev. Other sponsors include Harrah's Reno Casino, official brackets sponsor, Kegel, official lane maintenance provider, Humana, official registration sponsor, Steltronic, official scoring system, and supporting sponsors Storm Bowling Products, Nationwide Insurance, Sands Regency Casino Hotel and Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa and MyBowlingVacation.com.