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100-year-old bowler makes history at USBC Womens Championships
RENO, Nev. - With friends, family and a squad of grateful and honored women cheering her on, Emma Hendrickson of Morris Plains, N.J., celebrated a historic moment at the 2009 USBC Women's Championships on Saturday as she became the oldest participant in tournament history at the age of 100.
The record-breaking achievement wasn't the only business on Hendrickson's agenda, however.
Her trip to this year's event also marked her 50th consecutive appearance on the tournament lanes, and with her teammates surrounding Center Aisle, Hendrickson was presented with a plaque, a bouquet of flowers and a medallion to commemorate her 50 years of participation. She also received a pendant with her birth stone in recognition of her becoming the tournament's oldest participant. Hendrickson previously shared the record with Ethel Brunnick of Santa Monica, Calif., who competed in the 1987 event in Hartford, Conn., at 99 years old.
"I'm excited to be here," said Hendrickson, who competed in her first USBC Women's Championships in Denver in 1960. "I'm going to do the best I can when I'm bowling."
On her way to the record achievement, Hendrickson has left a lasting impression on the bowling world. She helped to establish the Morris County Young American Bowling Alliance and served the local youth bowlers for more than 30 years. The Morris County USBC Women's Bowling Association also has named a youth scholarship after her. Every year, the Emma P. Hendrickson Scholarship Award is presented to a female youth bowler, who not only excels on the lanes, but in the classroom as well.
Hendrickson's services have resulted in three hall of fame inductions: Morris County Women's Bowling Association (1982), New Jersey State Women's Bowling Association (1995) and Morris County Bowling Association (2004). She was just the second woman to be elected to the MCBA Hall of Fame.
Hendrickson is just as dedicated on the lanes, too. Although her eyesight has diminished over the years, she still is able to compete with help from her teammates, who help her line up on her spare attempts.
"I can see the ten pins standing clearly, but it's difficult to see what pins are standing for spares." Hendrickson said. "My teammates help me out there."
Hendrickson and her teammates, Ruth Peterson, Ruth Rahn, Bea Reinacher and Joan Shiel call themselves the 5 Bowling Bags. Bowling with them, and other New Jersey teams, helps to keep Hendrickson on the go.
"I love bowling because I get to be with people," Hendrickson said. "And because I'm not at home sitting on a rocking chair."
Several of Hendrickson's granddaughters also were in attendance at the National Bowling Stadium this weekend. Although her husband and two children have passed away, she is still supported in her bowling endeavors by eight grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
Hendrickson has no intentions of stopping at 50 Women's Championships. She already is signed up for the 2010 event in El Paso, Texas, which will mark the first time the tournament lanes will be constructed in a convention center, similar to the set-up used for the USBC Open Championships.
"Once a bowler, always a bowler," Hendrickson said. "I have always believed in that saying."
Hendrickson celebrated her milestone appearance with a 318 series in team, 262 in doubles and 107 in singles for a 687 all-events total. Her singles began and concluded with the 107 game before she decided to sit the rest of the evening out and watch her New Jersey colleagues carry the ball.