By Josh Johnson
LIBERTY LAKE – Bert Lindgren was in his early 40s in the mid-‘50s when the American Bowling Congress tabbed him to serve on its board of directors. His term: How about the latter half of a century? And beyond.
Lindgren, a Liberty Lake resident since 1975, will officially resign his duties Jan. 1 after more than 48 years on the board of the country's premier non-professional bowling organization. Not that Lindgren has plans of slowing down.
Even though his tour on the board will be officially complete, he will travel to Baton Rouge, La., for a meeting in March, where he will also take part in the ABC's championships, his 49th such event.
Bill Betts, bowling center manager at Players and Spectators in Spokane Valley, said that if Lindgren takes part in a 50th event at Corpus Christi, Texas, in 2006, it will be an achievement nearly incomparable in sport.
"It's unbelievable," Betts said. "Only people in bowling know what a feat it is. There's really no comparison."
Betts added the feat could land Lindgren in bowling's national hall of fame.
Lindgren is familiar with such distinctions on a local and regional level. The man who picked up bowling in 1929 and started participating steadily in 1938 is a member of the Northwest International Bowling Congress Hall of Fame (in 1963), the Spokane Bowling Association Hall of Fame (1965) and the Washington State Bowling Hall of Fame (1985). He is past president of those first two organizations and has served in numerous capacities on several associations. His first such position was vice president of the Seattle Bowling Association in 1938.
Not that bowling is his only love. Lindgren claims to be the furthest over the hill among Liberty Lake Golf Course's Over the Hill Golf Gang, another organization of which he is a past president. Also a swimmer, Lindgren has taken his share of dips in Liberty Lake over the past three decades.
But it's bowling that has been the focus of so much of his time and efforts. His role as a board member of the ABC primarily focused on controlling the ethics, rules and regulations of the games as well as suggesting conditions to bowling alleys that are "conducive to fair scoring for everybody," he said. The work has included many other facets, however.
For eight years, he was co-chairman of ABC's international competition committee, which lobbied to get bowling accepted as an Olympic sport.
"We never got to first base with our appeal," Lindgren said, perhaps undermining the fact the ABC played a role in getting bowling as a "participation sport" in the 1988 Seoul, South Korea, Games and the 1992 Barcelona, Spain, Games. Lindgren said the United States sent all amateur bowlers to those two Olympics, and several countries took part even though bowling was not recognized as an official event where medals were awarded.
Although Lindgren has traveled the country bowling in countless tournaments over the years, he seems to enjoy himself just as much today bowling in senior leagues and with friends at Players and Spectators and Valley Bowl. He bowls at least twice weekly, despite the frustration of being a far cry from his 198-202 average he carried for many years. Lindgren has been "one ball away" from a perfect game, and completed his best game with a 289.
"Now it's way down. There's no muscles left here anymore," he said, clutching his biceps. "And this shoulder - woooo!
"I am so lousy I'd just as soon forget about it."
Not that bowling will forget about him after so many years of service to the game. And not that he plans on taking a break from the lanes anytime soon.