by Alli Weaver
After bowling for decades, Clear Lake’s own Shelley Stephens participated for the first time in the USBC Senior Championship Tournament recently. Stephens was the only representative of Iowa in the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Senior Championship Tournament, according to Charla Green, the USBC’s Association Manager.
The tournament was held in Las Vegas from Aug. 8-10. Bowlers who qualified for the national level of the USBC Senior Championships bowled six games over two days, competing in the Open Division or Women’s Division, for an estimated prize fund of $40,000. About 400 participants from all 50 states and some Canadian provinces were represented at the event. Stephens qualified by getting first place overall last year at the Waverly Senior Tournament.
The Iowa State USBC WBA paid the entry fee of $140, and gave Stephens $50 in spending money and a shirt in order to encourage her to participate in the tournament.
“It’s kind of a nice honor,” Stephens said.
Stephens had a good tournament and finished in fifth place in the medal round for women age 55-59. She advanced to the medal round by finishing on top of the standings in the six game preliminaries with a total score of 1,405. She played with a 69 handicap and posted rounds of 168, 159, 135, 160, 209 and 160. The top 11 players advanced to the medal round.
In the championship, she had games of 154, 129 and 152 for a total of 692.
Although Stephens knew about her acceptance to the tournament back in December, she didn’t think practicing was necessary, as she’s been bowling since she was 13-years-old.
“You either know how to bowl, or you don’t,” Stephens said.
During the season, which begins after Labor Day, she bowls every Tuesday night in Mason City. Other than this, she and her husband, Gary, are occupied with running their business, Shoreline Dock and Hoist Services.
Stephens is originally from Oklahoma, but her family moved to Charles City from Tulsa after her husband was killed in a car accident. Since then, the family has moved to Mason City, then to Clear Lake in 1998. The cost of living in Tulsa was too high, and Stephens wanted her children to get a good education.
Bowling helped Stephens connect with the community and meet new people when she moved to Clear Lake.
Stephens often took her son, Stephen Faught, and her daughter, Christina Faught, bowling when they were younger. They even competed in mother-daughter and mother-son tournaments together.
Stephens hopes that Clear Lake will someday have a bowling alley again, even if she opens it herself. She once co-owned a bowling alley in Sheffield for a while, and now the commute to Mason City every Tuesday is an inconvenience.
“I don’t think kids have enough to do here either. It’s a good outlet,” Stephens said.
Stephens is well-versed in finding outlets, as she took care of her mother-in-law, who suffered with dementia and Alzheimer’s for many years, until her passing in September. During the last three years of her mother-in-law’s life, Stephens was under a lot of stress. Friends and doctors encouraged her to continue bowling and socializing to keep her spirits up.
“When you’re taking care of someone like that, you have to start learning how to live again,” Stephens said.
She also served as a certified bowling coach for a number of years, and went as far as to start a petition to keep bowling as a sport at Mason City High School.
“It actually is the only sport that everyone on the team plays. It’s the one sport that you can take with you for the rest of your life. I mean, even handicapped people can bowl,” Stephens said.
In addition to her community efforts for bowling, Stephens has competed in a national tournament in Baton Rouge, La., as well as the Greater Midwest tournament, and many other competitions throughout the years.