SYRACUSE, N.Y. - When it comes to weapons of mass inspiration, a group of bowlers from Hampton Bays, N.Y., has one of the more unusual ones at the 2011 USBC Women's Championships.
The members of The Oreos carry a miniature replica of their favorite bowling coach to each competition and have done so for the last 15 years. The little guy, called Wally, even has his own participation cards with photos, including a sombrero pose from last year's event in El Paso, Texas, a fetching fedora shot and 11 more cards as well as his own items in the mini backpack he wears.
The 16-inch, bald and blue-eyed icon was named for the team's former coach, 80-something, Wally Ruppel, a long-time staple at East Hampton Bowl in East Hampton N.Y. Ruppel was the designated advice-provider for the house's men's and women's teams, and he used to pose with his hands behind his back, calmly doling out bowling wisdom to ramp up their games.
Team member Gloria Harris of Bridgehampton, N.Y., said Ruppel came from the surrounding German farming community. She knew his family and benefited from their harvests of vegetables.
"He began by only offering advice when we asked for it, but soon, he would just start telling us what we did wrong, even if we didn't ask for help," Harris said. "He was so smart about the sport that he even taught himself to bowl left-handed when his right hand was ruined by arthritis."
As the years passed and the championships added up, teammate Rita Resling found Ruppel's doppelganger leaning against a tree at a yard sale. She brought him home and dressed him, and now he accompanies them, seated in his own carrier, to the Women's Championships every year. He wears pins from friendly lanemates and the team members rub his head for luck. Resling takes custody of him the remainder of the year.
Meanwhile, the real-life Ruppel passed away about 10 years ago.
"This is a way we never forget Wally and all he did for us," Harris said.
The women have Women's Championships participation records spanning from 10 to 30 years.
The Oreos posted a 2,255 scratch team total, and an additional 103 pins of handicap per game helped the group to a 2,564 handicap total in Ruby Team. Strike Force 2 of Anchorage, Alaska, leads with 2,858.
Resling led the way for The Oreos with a 483 series and was followed by Sandra Davis (469), Brenda Pinckney (440), Harris (437) and team captain JoAnn Conquest (426).
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.