This is one of my favorite examiner.com stories and was originally published Nov. 24, 2011. The story is being reprinted with a postscript.
“I can't believe I hit a single pin. Oh, my God. It's the first time I did that tonight.”
So chirped Carol Tucker as she floated around the bowling center at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills.
On her way, bowler after bowler on nearby lanes reached out and tapped her hand in congratulations as she sailed by.
That's Carol Tucker.
Call her irrepressible.
Call her vivacious.
Call her charismatic.
Call her lovely.
Call her a 100-pound dynamo.
But most of all, call her a woman with a winning personality who's loved by all the bowlers who surround her.
“Her smile is bigger than she is,” said Tom Martino, who has bowled against her for several years. “People are very drawn to her. Everyone around her wants her to do well. The way she carries on after she does well is very delightful.”
Tucker's four-person squad captured the title in Woodlake Lanes’ summer “Guys and Dolls” league and her current Tuesday night team is vying for the fall season championship.
And Tucker is a big part of the reason.
Carrying a 146 average, Tucker rolled a heady 201 a few weeks ago that ranks as the league’s top scratch women's score.
During the summer session, Tucker combined with Ernesto Gamez, Joe Curry and Kevin Singer to claim the championship of the 20-team league.
“The fact is that no one in the whole league likes bowling more than she does,” Martino said. “I'm glad she won the league [last summer]. When she gets a strike, you can see it in her face. She just lights up. She really enjoys bowling. You like to be around someone like that.”
In typical Carol Tucker fashion, she credited the summer league title to her teammates. Yet in the first-place game, Tucker and Gamez had to overcome the absence of their other two teammates – a huge disadvantage – and still they won.
“Ernie bowled so well,” gushed Tucker about the decisive series. “Oh, my goodness. We were really excited about [winning the title].”
Added Martino: “The nice thing about her is that she's genuine. She's no phony-baloney. She's so honorable, she could run for office.”
What's amazing about Tucker's success is that she didn't start taking bowling seriously until about three years ago. Now she bowls in three leagues.
“I often get them mixed up,” said Tucker, laughing, “and I also practice Sunday morning and then right after, I hop on the freeways and go to church.”
Bowling is a frequent topic of conversation for Tucker.
“I definitely talk about it,” said Tucker, a Van Nuys resident. “I'm sure I drive people crazy talking about it.”
She said she often talks about her fellow bowlers, her goals and the mental aspects of the game.
“Bowling is very special because of the people I've met,” said Tucker, a retired math teacher. “It's like the old [television] show, ‘Cheers.’ It's the place you go where you feel you belong. It really makes me happy with so many nice people. I enjoy the social part. It means so much to me.”
Tucker's passion extends beyond bowling. She has taken up running – again.
“I run three miles every day,” Tucker said, “except Tuesdays, and Tuesdays I take yoga. I'm thinking about running a 10-K. I used to run in my late 20s when I'd run six to eight miles a day and run 10-K races.”
Tucker stopped running to raise her three kids (two boys, one girl).
“They’re so wonderful and now that they're adults, I get to enjoy them,” she said, laughing.
Tucker taught math for 40 years, the last 18 at Glendale High School. She also taught in Florida and North Carolina, where she grew up. Tucker, who stopped teaching full time a year and a half ago, still works as a substitute teacher.
Was it difficult for Tucker to leave teaching full time?
“I thought it would be,” Tucker said, “but I felt like I was the luckiest person on Earth because I enjoyed my career so much and I was able to retire with enough money to buy bowling shoes, running shoes and frozen yogurt.”
Tucker's high scratch game is 247 and she said her goal was to boost her average close to 160. And to achieve that average, Tucker acknowledges that she needs to improve her accuracy on her second ball.
“You need the spares to be any good,” Tucker said. “There's no reason to miss a single pin.”
Postscript: “I’m still achieving my goal of having fun and bowling three times a week,” says Carol now. “However, my average goes up and down. My friends say I never throw the ball the same way twice. I will never quit though – never!” Carol is averaging 155 in her Tuesday league. Her accuracy in knocking down single-pin spares has improved markedly.