Vicksburg resident Strange, native Jackson win Mississippi senior bowling titles

Published 4:00 am Saturday, January 6, 2024

CLINTON — Noel Jackson and Jackie Strange have been bowling together for more than 30 years.

They’re both a little older and worn down these days. Jackson has had both knees replaced, and Strange has had surgery on his back and biceps tendon in the past couple of years. At 85 and 70 years old, respectively, their best days on the lanes are probably behind them.

They’re still rolling, though — and still winning.

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In December, Jackson and Strange each won their respective age division championships at the Mississippi State Open Bowling Senior Championship Tournament in Philadelphia. They qualified for the USBC Senior Open Championships this summer in Cincinnati, Ohio,

“Noel said yesterday that I bet it’s not very common that two guys off the same team qualify for a national championship at the same time. So that’s pretty cool,” Strange said before he and Jackson rolled together in the Thursday Trios league at Indian Lanes in Clinton. “I’ve been bowling either with or against him ever since I’ve been in Vicksburg, 33 years.”

Both Jackson and Strange are among the most accomplished senior bowlers in Mississippi. Jackson has won four state championships in the past 20 years, while Strange has won 15 in his career — as well as one national championship.

Jackson, a Vicksburg native who now lives in Delhi, Louisiana, said he was in his 20s when he joined a bowling team with some guys from work. They joined a league at the now-demolished Red Carpet Lanes on Clay Street and it sparked a lifelong love of the sport.

“I was running the grain elevator down on Levee Street, and there was three or four of us who never had thrown a bowling ball. We decided we needed to start bowling. So we went out to Red Carpet Lanes,” Jackson said. “The first year I bowled I carried a 151 average and the next year I went up to a 171 average. After that I went to 185 and then 200. I’ve been doing it for about 60 years and I still enjoy it.”

Jackson won his age division title at the senior state tournament in 2002 and competed in the national tournament in Reno, Nevada, but “didn’t do anything” there. He won two more Mississippi championships over the years, but passed on the opportunity to compete nationally because he didn’t want to travel to the tournaments.

In December, he totaled 1,425 pins in a six-game series — adjusted for his handicap — to win the Super Senior Division state title for bowlers age 75 and over. Since the national tournament is east of the Mississippi River, he said. he’ll travel to Cincinnati with Strange.

The USBC Senior Open Championships are July 30 through Aug. 2.

“Cincinnati’s a long ways and I got to thinking, ‘Do I really want to make that trip?’” Jackson said. “When I was talking to my daughter she said, ‘Daddy, you’ve got to go. How many chances do you get at that?’ I said, ‘You’re right.’”
Jackson, who carries a 130 average, joked that his latest state championship was a bit of a fluke.

“I ain’t worth a crap no more, but I lucked out on those guys up in Philadelphia,” he said with a chuckle.

While Jackson has won a few state championships, Strange has steadily piled them up. He totaled 1,437 pins to win the Division A championship for 70-74-year-olds at the Mississippi tournament. Since turning 50, he’d won four other state titles in different age divisions, but different factors prevented him from adding to that total in recent years.

“It’s definitely an honor. I had won in every division except the B Division (65-69-year-olds) and I finished second in it twice,” Strange said. “I lost a year because of COVID and lost last year because of back surgery and bicep tendon surgery. This is my year to move up into the A Division and I thought I’ll never have a better chance.”

Strange is now hoping to add one more accolade to a career full of them. He is a member of the Southern Bowling Congress and Mississippi bowling halls of fame, and has rolled seven perfect 300 games and one 800 three-game series, in addition to his state and national titles.

He said his past success always has him confident when he walks into the building, and it’ll be no different when he enters the 68-lane facility at Western Bowl Strike & Spare in Cincinnati.

“People ask me, ‘When do you expect to shoot 300 or 800?’ I say when I walk in the door. That don’t last long usually,” Strange said with a laugh. “I’m going up there to win a national championship. Will I do it? I don’t know. If I don’t, I’ll be a happy camper because I made it there and there’s not a whole lot of people who got that opportunity.”

Jackson had a similar mindset as his Thursday Trios teammate and longtime friend. He said he joked with Strange about having a long stay in Cincinnati.

“It takes just about all week to do it, especially if you make the last day. I told Jackie I may have to get a driver’s license, we’re going to be up there so long,” Jackson said.

Leading up to then, and hopefully for a number of years to come, Jackson said he simply enjoys bowling with his buddies the same as he has done for more than 60 years. Every week he drives 140 miles round-trip from Delhi, though his hometown of Vicksburg, and on to Clinton for the weekly league at Indian Lanes.

“I drive 140 miles to come over here and bowl one time a week, and I don’t mind doing it because I still enjoy it,” Jackson said. “We have fun. If we win, we’re happy. If we lose, we say we’ve lost before so it ain’t no big thing.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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