California Bowling News
by Fred Eisenhammer
WINNETKA – Ben Mankofsky sauntered back to his teammates after missing his final shot of the night at Winnetka Bowl and smiled.
“I got the first game anyhow,” said Mankofsky about starting his league play last week with a roar, smoking a 213. That’s not bad for a 96-year-old.
“For anyone, just to be alive at that age is a miracle,” joked Russ Gothrick, who’s bowled with Mankofsky for more than a decade.
The right – handed Mankofsky, who averages 153 with his laser-like baby hook, finished last Tuesday’s action with scores of 159 and 125, but he was understandably exultant about his 213. That represented his season best by 12 pins. His career high is 279.
“He makes about 99 percent of his 10 pins,” said Gothrick admiringly.
Mankofsky, who was happily indulging in french fries before his shots last week, is no latecomer to the sport. He has been bowling “since I was about 16.” That would give him about an 80-year career in bowling.
He said his highlight was being part of a B’nai B’rith five-man national championship team in 1958 when he lived in Chicago.
It’s not known how many active bowlers there are in their 90s. But one thing is sure: There aren’t many who can bowl in the 200s like Mankofsky.
According to the United States Bowling Congress, the oldest bowler to record a sanctioned 300 was a 90-year-old player from Fullerton. The man, whose name was withheld by his request, recorded the feat Aug. 28, 2012. The oldest woman to notch a perfect game is Ollie Harbin of Overland Park, Kan., who was 81 years ago.
Mankofsky, who has a delightful sense of humor and is a big favorite among his bowling colleagues, uses a 16-pound ball – the heaviest allowed. “I’ve used the same ball for 40 years,” said Mankofksy, who one year averaged in the 190s. He averaged 173 in the 2006-2007 season at age 87.
To say Mankofsky is active is an understatement. In addition to his once-a-week bowling night, he still works at his drapery business, golfs and goes dancing three times a week. And he only recently stopped driving.
“I like to keep moving,” said Mankofsky with a laugh. He said his goal is still to bowl a 300. “Yeah, why not?” he said. “[But] a 300 is so hard to do. You have to be very lucky to do it.”
It’s difficult to cite what is most amazing about Ben Mankofsky. But it should be noted that he’s never missed a season. And he admits that he has sustained some injuries. But it hasn’t stopped him.
“I’ve bowled every year,” said Mankofksy, who turns 97 in June. “It’s one thing I always do. I even bowled one year with a bad back when I couldn’t walk. I just threw the ball.” Overall, he admits that “I’m pretty healthy.”
As for gobbling up french fries during his league play last week, Mankofsky wants to set the record straight. “I can eat almost anything. Once in a while I’ll eat fries. But I only ate a couple. “I’m pretty careful about my diet.”.