Clay Sandberg wasn't getting any sympathetic looks or sentimentality votes at Country Lanes on Saturday evening.
No, I'm pretty sure the manager of the Ishpeming bowling center was only getting a wary eye from his competitors during the inaugural Country Lanes Match Play Championship.
And lots of respect. It's one of the neat things I like about bowling, that a 55-year-old veteran of the lanes can compete on equal footing with guys half his age or even less on a scratch - no handicap - basis.
Of course, you don't become good just because you're old - or young - and Sandberg has been one of the best in this area for the nearly 20 years I've lived here.
Sandberg collected the $375 first prize by defeating Chris Loonsfoot of Baraga, 206-150, in Saturday's championship match. Loonsfoot, who is either 29 or 30 years old, collected $225 as runner-up.
I know Chris' age within a year because I wrote a story in the summer of 2011 about a 300 he bowled at Press Box Lanes at the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga when he was 28.
I had a chance to stop out at Country Lanes briefly Saturday afternoon following the Ishpeming playoff football game I covered for the Journal. There was a wide range of ages on display, from guys just out of high school and at least one bowler a little older than Sandberg.
All were pretty good, since nobody was getting any handicap, and just about all of them can really put the revolutions on the ball so well you could measure the amount of hook they get in feet, not inches.
I thought about participating, though I've been struggling a bit with my game this year, but work made up my mind for me. I was thinking about that as I watched and how I would've felt a little like a fish out of water, since I'm not a big "revver" of the ball.
I can hook it some, though I've told people my most famous quote is "What I lack in revolutions I make up for in lack of speed." It's a little tongue in cheek, but really, it's pretty much true, too.
I got a chance to look at the final standings Monday, and the range of ages of the top finishers is what struck me first.
The top eight bowlers following two shifts of four-game qualifying rounds advanced to match play, and they were the ones who cashed.
Sandberg was third with 901, a 225 average, and the only other bowler near his age was the eighth and final qualifier, former Marquette resident Pat Sertich, 46, of Sheboygan, Wis., with 803, a 201 mean.
There were also two guys in their 20s, David Lancour of Marquette and Glenn Ayotte of Ishpeming; three in their 30s, Justin Stephens of Negaunee, Chris Hytinen of Ishpeming and Scott Salminen of Negaunee; plus Loonsfoot, who is straddling his 20s and 30s.
Stephens was the top qualifier at 934, despite a 193 opening game. That's because he followed it up with a big trio of games - 247, 269 and 225.
Salminen was next at 910 with 217, 203, 221 and 269, his second qualifying set as he took advantage of the re-entry rule when he shot considerably less in his first set.
The age factor was a wash during match play. For example, in the four first-round matches, twice the younger guy won and twice the older man prevailed.
Sertich upset Stephens 233-223 and Sandberg outscored Ayotte 257-211, while Loonsfoot upended Hytinen 210-201 and Lancour took out Salminen 221-195.
In the semifinals, Loonsfoot outscored Sertich 224-171 and Sandberg survived against Lancour 201-173 to set up the title tilt. The semifinal losers earned $162 while the other match-play qualifiers won $100.
While they didn't have a huge turnout, hopefully the folks at Country have set up a foundation for bigger things to come in the future.
Now for two weeks worth of Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week.
I'll start with two weeks ago, since that's where the single biggest pins-over performance comes from in Richard McRae, who shot 169 over his 70 average in the Thursday Northern Michigan University class at Superior Lanes with 379. Class instructor - and the area's top woman bowler - Hope Virch said something just clicked for him that day as he shot a near-triplicate of 126, 127 and 126.
Next that week for the guys was 91-average Shad Gustafson of the Monday NMU class at plus-132, shooting 405 with a 164 game, then Justin Karnack of the Wednesday Industrial at Superior at 120 over his 123 average with 489, including a 180 opener.
For the women, Maria Virch, Hope's daughter, was 116 over her 172 average with 632 in the Friday 800 Mixed League at Superior. That included a 230 high game.
Next was Lauren Nebel of the Thursday NMU class at plus-85 from her 79 average with 322.
Last week, John Marquess shot 153 pins over his 173 average with a 672 series in the Tuesday Night Mixed at Superior, including a 230 best.
For the ladies, leaguemate Kristin Kampe was 142 over her 115 average with 487, including a 177 top game. Next came Linda Mercure of the Friday 800 Mixed at plus-102 over her 109 average with 429, including a 156 game.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.