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Youth bowling league returns to Hobbs

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PETER STEIN/NEWS-SUN

Bowling seems to be a no-lose proposition.

You’re indoors, so you can’t get rained on. While you usually compete against others, you’re really competing against yourself, it’s all up to you. And, you get to hurl a heavy orb and knock stuff over; the more stuff you knock over, the better off you are.

Plus, you get to hear that cool bowling pin ka-pow sound.

So, add to that a chance to earn money for education and you have a good deal all around. That is the deal with the Lea County Youth Bowling League. A casualty of COVID – and to a lesser degree, lack of advertising – for the past few years, the league has been back up and running at Bel Aire Bowl in Hobbs every Sunday since Feb. 5.

Aside from being a positive, constructive hobby for youths, the league gives them a chance to win cash toward a college education.

“I’m excited for the kids,” Annette Wootton of the Lea County United States Bowling Congress board said. “It’ll help them earn scholarship money.”

If the bowlers win any type of prize money, it goes into their scholarship fund, so they can’t take it and splurge on a Playstation 5. The state of New Mexico actually runs a scholarship, which is where the money has to go. “We cannot pay kids money,” Wootton says, “because it messes up their ability to play sports later. Anything relating to youth is scholarship money.”

The amount of money won is of course determined by how high the bowlers place in the tournament. Typically, teams consist of four bowlers, so if the first-place prize is $400, that would be $100 per bowler to the scholarship fund.

It’s a way for young bowlers to start thinking about college early, a way to start working toward getting a good education.

“Well, it can be,” Wootton said. “If they’re good bowlers and they like to go to tournaments, they can earn money to go to college. (The money) could also go to a trade school; it could also go to pay for their books. It just depends on how much they participate, how much they like to bowl.”

If the bowlers start at a young age, they can get a smart account through the USBC. “It will pay a little bit of interest,” Wootton said. “Plus if they continue to play multiple tournaments and win, then they can have more money.”

As of last month, the league consisted of bowlers ages 5 to 18, with over 30 involved so far. “Right now we have more elementary-age kids than we do in middle school and high school,” Wootton said.

Wootton noted that the Lea County league plans to have local scholarship tournaments as soon as the kids have established averages. Twenty-one games was usually the minimum from which to draw a viable average, but New Mexico has dropped it to 12 games, according to Wootton.

Inspiration to revive the league post-COVID was due in part to many USBC board members having children and grandchildren who wanted to participate. The league operates on Sundays, beginning at 3 p.m.; after being moved from Saturday mornings. “We changed it to Sunday afternoons,” Wootton said, “hoping to get more participation. It’s up compared to 2019.

“Most of them are just beginners,” Wootton added, “but I think they’re very excited about it.”

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