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Retiring a Rookie

 

Falls Church’s Andy Anderson waited years to pursue his dream of bowling professionally. Now, in his retirement, he’s finally getting the chance to start.

Falls Church resident and rookie professional bowler Andy Anderson has a different definition of retirement than most. Most people don’t “retire” by starting to play a professional sport, but that’s precisely what Anderson did.

In September of last year he took a lifelong passion to the next level and joined the Professional Bowlers Association.

“Where else could you be a ‘rookie’ in a professional sport at the young age of sixty?” asks Anderson.

Anderson, considered a rookie on the PBA’s senior circuit, has been bowling in leagues since he joined the Air Force at age 18. In that time, he has bowled three perfect games and has a high “end of season” average of 219. More remarkable than those numbers however, is his dedication to the sport — a dedication that was never more apparent than after an ill-fated car ride in 1984.

Anderson had been planning to join the PBA upon his retirement from the military, two years away. But on a snowy March morning in 1984, a car accident in Falls Church put him in the hospital for two weeks and forced him to abandon this dream for a time. He sustained a fracture around his eye, received fifty stitches to one knee and most importantly, he required an external fixature for his shattered right wrist.

He took this setback in stride.

“It was a year before I could bowl normally so I just taught myself to bowl left handed,” recalls Anderson.

Seven weeks after the accident, the fixature came off, he started bowling with his right hand again. “I would bowl right handed in my Tuesday night league and left handed in my Wednesday night league. I couldn’t bowl with my right hand two nights in a row because it was too much pain.” After a year he was able to bowl normally with his right hand again, and raised his average back from 145 to its previous height of 185.

Though delayed, Anderson realized his dream of bowling professionally and recently “cashed” for the first time in a PBA event, the South Senior Ft. Belvoir Virginia Open. Anderson most recently competed in the Senior Manassas Open, finishing with a cumulative average of 195, placing him 118th out of 142 competitors.

Anderson isn’t too disappointed with his performance only saying, “I know I have to improve my game before I can be competitive against these guys.”

He’ll get plenty of opportunities to do so, given his rigorous bowling schedule, one afforded to him after his retirement. He is a part of Club 55, one of four leagues he bowls for in the course of what he estimates to be 75 games a week. Club 55 (as in fifty five and older) is what Anderson calls his “for fun” league, and most of the other bowlers are bowling their age. That’s not to say that they aren’t bowling better than most any teen or twenty-something ever could, but most of them are moving at a decidedly senior pace. Anderson, however, is not.

Anderson, with his efficient, stocky build and grayed out hair, looks every bit the retired, distinguished military man, but he moves and acts with an easy going athleticism characteristic of someone much younger. He picks up his ball, winds up and throws with little to no hesitation, but total concentration. When his ball hits the pins, it is quite often a strike, but sometimes one or two pins are left standing. “You never know what’s going to happen until the ball hits the pins,” says Anderson. ”Sometimes you can throw it perfect and that one pin is left.”

That’s more than 40 years of experience talking. Anderson first started league bowling in 1965 at age eighteen when he transferred from his first assignment at Kessler Air Force Base in Mississippi to Olmstead Air Force Base in Harrisburg, Penn.

 “It was an affordable form of entertainment for someone single and living in the barracks.” says Anderson. “And the base the base bowling center was a good place to pass the time.”

Of course, Anderson didn’t start out with a 219 average.

“I was very much the novice then,” he recalls. “I think the other bowlers needed the handicap.”

He stayed at Olmstead until 1966 when he was transferred to Yokota Air Force Base in Japan. While the location and nature of his work with the Air Force changed frequently, his bowling habit stayed consistent through-out his twenty four year career with the military.

In addition to bowling in leagues, Anderson has, for 30 years, been a league secretary, the person responsible keeping track of every bowlers score and rank in a league. It was the late 70s when he began, so he didn’t have the luxury of a computer to keep track of dozens of bowlers’ scores and rankings. Recalls Anderson: “I had to take them down by hand or use typewriters. It was very slow.”

As he was beginning his duties as league secretary, he had finished earning a bachelors degree in business administration and was working as a hospital administrator at Ellesworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

In 1980, Anderson moved to Northern Virginia to begin an administrative residency at the Pentagon, which was the second part of a two year program the Air Force put him on to earn a masters degree in hospital and health care administration. It was also in 1980 that Anderson decided to make his life as league secretary a little bit easier by writing a program on his home computer to keep track of all the scores. “This was before anything was computerized at the lanes” Recalls Anderson. “I had other league secretaries coming to my house to use the program because it was so much faster and easier.”  

 

Anderson retired from the military and moved to Falls Church in 1986. After briefly working as a civilian employee Anderson started his own consulting firm in 1993, specializing in military health care management. In regards to the future, Anderson says “I may do some limited consulting work, but now I consider myself pretty much retired.”

Except from the sport he loves, of course. On the Senior PBA, heck, he’s just a rookie.