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This bowling ‘prodigy’ is making huge strides at age 70

George Barner is on a roll.
George Barner is on a roll.
Fred Eisenhammer

It was a classic moment in the budding bowling career of George Barner.

There was George bowling the game of his life at Canoga Park Bowl, apparently ready to log his first 200 game.

This was far from a minor achievement considering he had just started bowling in a league for the first time the year before – at age 69! And he had averaged a mere 101 that season.

But now he appeared a certainty to reach the 200 barrier, having just made a spare in the 10th frame.

That gave George a score of 199 with one final ball to toss at 10 pins.

Then disaster struck.

“I got nervous,” says George now.

“All he had to do was keep the ball on the lane,” said Elizabeth Fonvergne with a smile. “Then he shot it in the gutter and bowled a 199. My son [Michael] said, ‘You have to understand, George bowling a 200 is like bowling a 300 for us.’ ”

A lesser person might have been discouraged at that point, but George has just kept improving. His average has surged from 101 to 115 to 126 and now has reached 138 in his current league at Canoga Park Bowl.

He also has eclipsed that magic 200 mark with a blistering 225 game. And that may not be the end of his accomplishments.

George, now 70, is optimistic that one day he can fashion a “deuce average [200]. I have the best coach in the league.”

That coach is Elizabeth, one of the elite women bowlers in the L.A. area and also George’s longtime girlfriend.

George, a Canoga Park resident, returns the favor by making it a point to watch Elizabeth bowl every game during her league competition. And he has lived up to that goal – except for that one night on Dec. 6, 2011.

That was the day that Elizabeth blasted a 223 in her first game and George – a top blues guitarist and vocalist – then excused himself to take part in a radio interview.

Guess what happened?

“No sooner than he leaves, I bowl a 300,” said Elizabeth about her fourth perfect game. “I reminded him how he said he wouldn’t miss any of my games.”

Said George: “It was very disappointing, but I’ve seen her bowl 279 and 280 and that was very exciting.”

Elizabeth also finds it exciting to be George’s coach.

“As a coach, when you watch people, the difference between a 140 and 180 bowler is just making your spares,” she said.

“The strikes will come, but you have to pick up the spares. George can be as good as he wants to be. He’s my prodigy.”