Henley honored for bowling in her 35th national tournament

Published 11:29 am Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bowling has taken Helen Henley from coast to coast.

Last month in Reno, Nev., the United States Bowling Congress honored Henley for participating in her 35th national women’s tournament.

The 78-year-old Vicksburg bowler said she remembers her first national tournament well.

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“It was in Milwaukee in 1973,” Henley said. “I’ve only missed one national tournament since.”

One of the reasons why Henley has made so many national tournaments is her longtime friend Mary Helen Ameen.

“I’ve been her doubles partner for 41 years,” Ameen said. “We plan our vacation around going to the national tournament. We usually know well in advance where it will be. I’ve gone to 32 and, all but one of them, we drove.”

Henley doesn’t like to fly. The only exception she made was a trip to Seattle.

Some of the destinations the pair has been to include Miami, Syracuse. N.Y., Las Vegas, Tampa, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C.

“I’ve been to the tournament in Las Vegas two or three times and my 30th tournament was in Charlotte, N.C.,” Henley said. “I love going to Arizona. It’s been the prettiest place to me.”

Henley has bowled for 60 years. The first 56 were in Vicksburg, but when Red Carpet Lanes shut down in 2008, she needed a new venue. She and Ameen now bowl at Fannin Lanes in Flowood.

“We bowl every Monday night in two leagues,” Henley said. “I’ve been in a bowling league for 60 years. I started here when I was 18 and some of the teams we had were Knapp’s Pastry, Matthews Auto Parts and for 25 years it was Griffith Florists, which is where I worked.”

Henley said her best game was a 264. Her highest average was 154. She averages now anywhere from 139 to 142.

Ameen said that after Henley had hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago, Henley’s game has gotten better.

“She’s gotten better and better every year,” Ameen said.

Henley said the sport provides an important outlook on life.

“It keeps me young,” Henley said. “I’ve gotten to meet different people from all over the country and the world.”

Ameen said the indoor environment helps make it a great sport for seniors.

“You can bowl rain or shine,” Ameen said. ‘It’s great exercise for old ladies and old men, too.”