By Fran Piraino
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Savannah Copeland can sum up the reason she loves to bowl in three words: to have fun.
Copeland's enthusiasm for bowling was on display at the at the USBC Women's Championships when she was honored for making her 50th tournament appearance Tuesday.
The 82-year-old right-hander from Waukegan, Ill., was the third bowler to reach the coveted milestone this year at the Oncenter Convention Center.
"I love bowling," said Copeland, who made her tournament debut at the 1961 event in Fort Wayne, Ind. "It's such a tremendous sport. It keeps you going. It's the spirit and the competitiveness. I just love it."
After receiving a standing ovation in the squad room, Copeland was escorted down Center Aisle by Women's Championships Tournament Manager Eric Pierson. With the same exuberance she exhibits on the lanes, Copeland stressed the importance of having fun before the squad started bowling for score.
Copeland received a spring bouquet, an engraved plaque and a gold pendant to commemorate her milestone.
"I have met so many people and made so many friends," Copeland said. "It's just so wonderful. With bowling, I don't know whether people know this or not, but almost every where you go, you make friends. That's what makes bowling so wonderful."
Copeland, a former contracting and small business specialist with the U.S. Navy, started bowling in her late 20s and hasn't stopped since. However, a friend needed to cajole her into bowling in her first Women's Championships.
"She told me I should bowl with them, but I told them I couldn't bowl in the national tournament," Copeland said. "But I did it, and I'm glad I did."
Copeland ranks the 1963 tournament in Memphis, Tenn., and the 1971 tournament in Atlanta among her favorites.
"I was a delegate for the convention in Atlanta," Copeland said. "We wore these wonderful pink hats. That was one of my highlights. I love to travel and go from one place to the other."
Age is the main reason why Copeland now only bowls in one league at Sunset Lanes in Waukegan. But that wasn't always the case.
"When I was younger, the more I bowled, the better I got," Copeland said. "But when my age went up, my scores went down."
Copeland, a member of the Sunset Heart Beats, finished with a 380 series in team and added a 367 in doubles and 323 in singles for a 1,070 scratch all-events effort. She competed in the Sapphire Division (149 averages and below), and finished with a 1,322 handicap all-events total.
Sponsors for the 2011 USBC Women's Championships sponsors include Turning Stone Resort and Casino, official brackets sponsor, Humana, official registration sponsor, Miller Lite and Molson Canadian, official beer sponsors. Supporting sponsors include Storm Bowling Products, Nationwide Insurance, The Oncenter, Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau, Caz Limo & Tours, Kegel, official lane maintenance provider, US Steltronic, official scoring system, and Brunswick, official lane provider.