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For disabled bowlers, scores won't limit fun

About 80 people are expected to participate in the 16th annual Special Olympics event Saturday.

By LARRY BUGG
Published September 9, 2005


INVERNESS - The bowlers won't be thinking about 300 games or 800 series when they grip bowling balls Saturday. But they'll surely have a good time regardless of their scores.

Mentally and physically disabled people from ages 6 to 70 will take part in the 16th Annual Citrus County Special Olympics Bowling Tournament, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sportsmen's Bowl in Inverness.

Butch Keiper, the Citrus coordinator for Special Olympics, said there should be 80 bowlers taking part in the tournament.

The bowlers will not use bumper bowling.

"They bowl regular style," said Lenny Kemp, head mechanic at Sportsmen's Bowl. "They practice for two months beforehand."

Saturday's bowlers qualify for the area games Oct. 1 in Clearwater, Keiper said. If they qualify in Clearwater, they advance to the state meet in Bradenton on Nov. 4-5.

On Saturday, bowlers need to register at 12:30 p.m.

Bowlers participate at no cost to them. Sportsmen's Bowl donates the lanes, shoes, practice sessions and linage. Special Olympics provides food and awards.

"We are really fortunate to have the support of Sportsmen's Bowl and Neffers," Keiper said. "We have grown so big, we need to use both sides of the county."

The mentally and physically disabled bowlers might love the sport more than league bowlers who normally fill Sportsmen's.

"Good or bad, they always have a great time," Kemp said.

"These guys have been practicing at Sportsmen's on Tuesdays and Neffers in Homosassa on Thursdays since early August," Keiper said. "These guys train until the state games.

"Bowling seems to be the most popular (Special Olympics) sport. We have all different levels. I will get all the averages Friday night and put them into divisions. Bowlers will be bowling against people with equal skills."

Sometimes, the officials get the wrong people classified for competition.

"We lost the state championship in basketball because my 30- and 40-year-olds were playing teenagers," Keiper said. "They couldn't keep up with them.

"I help out with bowling. I am responsible for the whole program. Some of these people have been bowling for 16 years."

Julie Keiper, Butch's wife, started the program 16 years ago and is the game's day director.

SPECIAL OLYMPICS BOWLERS

WHAT: Citrus County Special Olympics Bowling Tournament

WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Sportsmen's Bowl, 100 N Florida Ave., Inverness