June McFate has achieved a lot in 50-plus years of bowling.
And, the honors keep coming for her.
Already a member of the Pennsylvania State Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame and the New Castle Bowling Hall of Fame, McFate will be inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame on April 29 at the New Englander.
“I was so shocked when I got that letter. I couldn’t believe it. That’s absolutely great,” she said. “This makes three for me. I am thrilled to death. I don’t think there’s any place else I can go?”
McFate, 83, has been a constant on the area bowling scene for five decades. She appeared on the televised Championship Bowling in Pittsburgh early in her career. She started a number of bowling tournaments in Lawrence County as well as in Youngstown. McFate was a certified coach for 11 years and mentored many young bowlers.
She has held office in the Lawrence County United States Bowling Congress for more than 20 years and maintained almost every position in that organization and served as president for 15 years. She was inducted into the Pennsylvania State Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 2009. She started a number of bowling tournaments in Lawrence County as well as in Youngstown.
McFate bowled in many leagues in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, either. She maintains an average of 164 well into her 80s and rolled a 216 in late March.
“I love it. Nothing makes me happier than to walk into a bowling alley and see new friends and old friends,” she said. “If I bowl good, that’s great. If I bowl bad, there’s another day.”
McFate bowls three times per week — once at Mohawk Lanes and twice at Holiday Bowl in Struthers, Ohio.
“Saturday night at Holiday, there are some extremely good bowlers. I am the oldest lady to bowl up at Holiday. I think I have great respect for all those people who think I am such a great bowler,” she said. “I am not going to keep sitting down. I’ll keep going until I am 90, at least. If you want to see me light up, show me a bowling alley and bowlers. I go to all the tournaments I can go to. If I bowl good, great, but I am not going to go home and lose sleep that night because I didn’t bowl a 200 game.”
McFate plans to participate in the Pennsylvania State Women’s Bowling Association state tournament for the 51st-straight year.
“That’s a very good record,” she said. “It’s not a record as far as the state goes, but it’s my record.”
This year’s tournament, which rotates throughout the state each year, will take place in May at Reading.
“You name it, I have been in every city and in some of them twice,” she said. “That tournament is just a nice weekend out. We go out Saturday morning and bowl Saturday afternoon. We’ll have a nice dinner that night and then bowl Sunday and then come home. If there happens to be a casino along the road, we might stop. I do like those places.”
As usual, she plans to travel to the state tournament with Roberta Gibson, Penny Sizer and her daughter, Linda.
“We’ve made some money and lost some money over the years,” she said. “We’ve had some good meals and bad meals. We’ve had some good hotels and bad ones. But, we always look forward to next year.”
McFate spent many years coaching junior bowlers. She hasn’t stopped teaching, either.
“I know a lot of bowlers. I am happy with bowlers. I am very content with them. I like to know how they are doing and I would be glad to help,” she said. “I have made a whole bundle of new friends. No matter where I go, I don’t just sit back and fold my hands. I want to talk to everybody and see how they’re doing. But, I learned many, many years ago, don’t pass the information on if they don’t ask for it. If you want to know what you’re doing wrong and if I can figure it out, I will be glad to help.”
McFate always participated in athletics. She wasn’t introduced to bowling until she was in her 30s.
“I got a gold medal in high school for being the most athletic person my senior year at Mount Jackson High School. I was the only girl to get that; the boys always got that. I am still proud of that,” she said. “I was always involved in ball and so were my children. I didn’t get into bowling until my youngest child was in first grade. A couple of my friends said they were starting up a league. I didn’t know anything about bowling. The first year I bowled, I had a 160 average. It was because I was just a natural.”
She’s witnessed lots of changes in bowling over the years.
“Bowling balls have changed and so have the lanes and oil. It used to be all wood lanes. Now, there are synthetic lanes. You never know what you’re going to meet at the bowling alley,” she said. “Bowling has changed a lot; you have to go with the flow and enjoy it.
McFate and her husband, Bob, were married for 50 years before he passed away 13 years ago. They have five children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
TOMORROW: Lynn Hailstock