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Monday night Senior Scratch Bowling League rolls to an end

After a 30-week-long competition, 20th Century Bowl’s most competitive bowling league is retiring for the season

The sign above 20th Century Bowl illuminating the street on April 15, 2024, in Bellingham, Wash. Located at 1411 N. State St., 20th Century Bowl is open seven days a week. // Photo by William Morton

The steady, deep rumble of falling bowling pins diffuses through 20th Century Bowl as competition fills the air. 

Monday, April 15, marked the last night of the 30-week-long fall/winter Senior Scratch Bowling League at 20th Century Bowl, downtown Bellingham’s only bowling alley.

The Senior Scratch League, comprised of 14 teams, is the most competitive league at 20th Century Bowl. Scratch refers to a type of league where the score you get is what is counted. This means that there are no adjustments to scores, tending to draw a more competitive crowd. 

Zora Burney-Jones, manager at 20th Century Bowl, explains that the Senior Scratch League can get intense. 

“People tend to care a little bit more about technique, whereas the other [bowling leagues] are more of a social thing,” Burney-Jones said. 

The night began with a 10-minute practice session, where all the bowlers got an opportunity to warm up. After this, the bowling teams commenced with a three-game battle. The games were played in a head-to-head format where two teams, made up of four bowlers each, competed on overall team score, as well as directly against one member of the opposing team. 


Mark Holst throwing his final strike on April 15, 2024, at 20th Century Bowl in Bellingham, Wash., and scoring the first 300 of the Senior Scratch League. Holst was bowling for the Late Bloomers. // Photo by William Morton

Going into the final night, the teams were split into two brackets: a champions bracket and a consolation bracket. There were six teams in the champions bracket with AFU in first, Slo Pitch in second and Fat Shack in third. 

Each team will leave the tournament with some portion of the prize pool, but to most, the prize money seems to be the last thing on their minds. 

Barb Demorest, Washington State Bowling Hall of Famer, lines up to the oiled lane, the words “Fat Shack” emblazoned on the back of her shirt and a brace hugging her right wrist. As she holds the bowling ball to her chest, she does a pre-throw shimmy. With four intentional steps, she walks towards the lane and throws. 

“I have really had a love for this sport, which I believe is God-given,” Demorest begins. “It’s unexplainable. Just the moment I picked up a bowling ball, I loved it.”

Demorest has been bowling at 20th Century Bowl since the 1970s, and she describes the bowling community as a family. 

“For me, what bowling is really about is the people, the camaraderie and the friendships that have come through all the years,” Demorest said. 

Around halfway through the night, cheers began to form around lanes five and six. One more strike and Mark Holst, bowler of 61 years, will bowl the first 300 — a perfect score — in the league's recent fall/winter season. Coincidentally, Mark is bowling directly across, and against, the person who holds the previous bowling high score of 299. 

Holst lines up his shot, looking more nonchalant than expected, and throws. The bowling alley erupts with cheers, claps and high-fives as he hits his twelfth strike in a row, securing the first 300 of the season.


Mark Holst celebrating his 300 at 20th Century Bowl in Bellingham, Wash., with the bowling league members on April 15, 2024. Holst bowls for two other leagues and has been filling in for the Senior Scratch league for the past seven weeks. // Photo by William Morton

Holst stated that tonight was the eleventh 300 he has bowled throughout his bowling career. 

Eric Pierson, Program Coordinator at Bellingham Senior Activity Center, explains the importance of staying social throughout aging. 

“I think that it’s really, really important for people to maintain [community] as they age, especially the social aspect of it,” Pierson said. 

Just before 9:45 p.m., after three-and-a-half hours of bowling, the Senior Scratch League came to an end, with the order of the top three teams staying the same: AFU in first, Slo Pitch in second and Fat Shack in third. 

20th Century Bowl is located at 1411 N. State St., in downtown Bellingham, and is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday, and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. They have 16 bowling lanes, but on Sunday through Thursday, 14 of the lanes are generally in use for bowling leagues.

William Morton

William Morton (he/him) is a third year news and editorial major reporting about city life for The Front this quarter. Outside of school, he enjoys playing the banjo and attempting to read Finnegans Wake. You can contact him at williammorton.thefront@gmail.

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