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Perfect games come in streaks for St. Jacobs swing bowlers

Another summer, another perfect game for the St. Jacobs swing bowling ladies league.

Debbie Musselman of Elmira (centre) was thrilled after bowling a rare perfect game in the St. Jacobs swing bowling league’s long history. Her team includes  Pauline Martin, Gloria Bauman, Lori Solomon and Sonia Bauman.[Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Debbie Musselman of Elmira (centre) was thrilled after bowling a rare perfect game in the St. Jacobs swing bowling league’s long history. Her team includes Pauline Martin, Gloria Bauman, Lori Solomon and Sonia Bauman. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
It’s a rare occurrence most years, to be sure, said Debbie Musselman, who last month bowled the league’s fourth perfect game, to her own surprise. She was just behind Doloris Strauss, who did the same the month before. For St. Jacobs-born Mussleman, a long-time member of the league, the feeling was incredible.

“I just tried to keep calm and I couldn’t believe it. It’s awesome,” she said this week during a routine Monday night game behind the village’s community centre.

Musselman was just 16 when she began to bowl; still living in St. Jacobs where the sport seems to have originated (Musselman still remembers how her own mother and four sisters played the game). First played by the riverside in the village, ladies now gather every Monday behind the Parkside Drive building. The bowling ball hangs from a cable attached to a metal pole and the pins form a triangle some distance in front.

The sport has been something of a local secret kept from those outside of the village. There’s no manual and you likely won’t find a how-to online, either. Players raise the ball and step back until the cord is taut, take a step and swing the bowl forward, around the pole and back in a horseshoe to knock down as many pins as possible. This begs the question: with a 10-pound bowling ball swinging this way and that, not to mention some very unruly pins which tend to take flight when hit, has anyone ever been injured?

Musselman laughed in unison with her fellow players. It’s all in the fun of the game.

“Not seriously. Bruises, that’s about all – we sign a waiver,” she said.

A former team captain, Musselman moved to Elora in 1971 before moving again, this time to Elmira seven years ago. Like many of the league’s ladies, Musselman’s life has taken her out of St. Jacobs, but as the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the village but you can’t take the swing out of the girl. She and the rest of her league, despite falling numbers of participants, continue to carry on a beloved tradition.

“It’s just fun. I like to be with the girls. It’s something to do.”

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