It was quite the unique event, a celebration of exceptional achievement. But then, it has been for the past 15 years, especially for those who’ve turned the simple game of bowling into a special occasion and carefree pastime.
There are noteworthy events and distinctive occasions, then there’s the extraordinary.
So Saturday night, the Kokomo Bowling Association amid a packed audience staged its 16th City of Firsts USBC Association Hall of Fame and Recognition Banquet honoring five local keglers and four youthful scholarship winners.
Rick Hartung, Tammy Burge, Justin “Peanut” Lawrence and Lois Kelley were honored as “Outstanding Bowlers” and John Lucas was honored for special services — all toting individual averages from 175 to 204 and a 781 series average — swelling the Hall of Fame ranks to 134 members.
But there was more.
Western High School graduate Katie Brown received the Kay Kelly Scholarship, Taylor’s Damon Knosp received the Don Lowry Memorial Scholarship, Tipton’s Heather L. Peters received the Tex and Sue Thornton Scholarship and Maconaquah’s Emily E. Ballee won the City of Firsts USBC Scholarship. Knosp was out of state and unable to attend.
There was one common thread that touched all of Saturday’s honorees — the people they had met and the friendships made. Their accomplishments were huge. And yet, it was the happiness and satisfaction gained by those week-to-week get togethers that made the difference.
Hartung has been at the game for 40 years; pitched two 300 games; two 800 series; 109 series of 700; 37 games of 279 or higher or more and has been a large part of many championships while averaging well over 200 for 14 seasons.
“I was shocked when I learned I was being inducted,” he remarked, “and it’s a great honor. I love the game, bowl in city, state and national tournaments and do the best I can. The game has changed with all the technology and what happens on the lanes happens. But people are the reason I bowl.”