The crown of championship queen sits quite comfortably on the head of Marie Whitaker, thank you very much.

Whitaker is even enjoying the warmth from the golden glow and the silver lining of the swag of medals she collected in the first leg of the New Zealand 55+ Tenpin Bowling Championship in Hastings last week.

For that matter, she is wearing the tag of scratchie as one would a badge of honour.

Read more: Tenpin bowling: $500,000 revamp at Super Strike Hastings offers slick scores at 55-plus nationals
Tenpin bowling: Preston Epplett returns armed with resolve for 55-plus nationals in Hastings


"It's elating. It's lovely. Yeah, it's great," said the 69-year-old from Hastings.

But there's just one catch — Whitaker has, until she competes in the New Plymouth leg in June, lost the joys of her handicap status.

"Unfortunately when I go to New Plymouth I'll have a 180 average [from 153] so I'll have no handicap whatsoever," the former 21-handicapper explained, before the Invercargill tourney beckons in September.

"I'll be off cloud nine," she said with a laugh, mindful the quest to be consistently good would override the desire to be occasionally brilliant.

The grandmother said when a region had to stage the tourney the pressure was always on the hosts to ensure everything was going smoothly, such as the catering and after-competition entertainment.

"Maybe it was that pressure because we just didn't have much time to think about the bowling. Maybe that's what made us relax a little bit."

However, she hastend to add the centre was thorough in its preparation for the tourney with a field of 125 bowlers.

"There are a lot of bowlers who would want to go up to the technician to say your lanes are rubbish so it was quite nice to go up here to say the lanes are beautifully prepared.


"If it wasn't for everybody it certainly was for me. I just love them."

Modestly she attributed her success to the $500,000 refurbishment of lanes at Super Strike Tenpin Bowling Centre because she had "never bowled this well in my life".

Whitaker had no expectations of finishing the nationals with all the bling because she was purely out to have some fun while reacquainting herself with fellow competitors from around the country who compete three times a year in the 55-plus league.

"I just wanted to catch up with them all. They are all just lovely people."

The Hastings team, she said, did not feature in the fours event on the opening day last Thursday, finishing seventh out of 30 sides.

"We all played well except that there were a few lanes where we all went down," she said, explaining quite often someone always came to the rescue when another stumbled but that didn't happen in the teams' event.

They tended to claim frames where they registered an eight and win but didn't claim bonus spare shots.

Whitaker was declared the overall women's champion. She claimed gold medals in the women's open grade singles, women's all events with handicap and women's all events scratch.

She then joined teammate Preston Epplett to claim silver in the mixed pairs. An alliance with Merle Fairweather, of Rotorua, yielded silver in the mystery doubles.

Epplett, the chairman of Tenpin Bowling Hawke's Bay Foundation and the president of Tenpin Bowling New Zealand, won silver in the men's mystery pairs in unison with Roger Pedersen, of Porirua.

Former two-time 55-plus national champion Ian Baldwin won bronze medal in the men's open grade singles event as well as the men's all events scratch.

The 68-year-old Hastings jeweller understood how Whitaker felt now that she wore the scratchie tag.

"It makes it hard to bowl against handicappers when you're a scratchie," he said. "You have to play up to your level all the time but it's good — it's a challenge as in all sports when you get better."

Baldwin, who has been a scratchie in the league for seven years, won his previous overall men's crowns at other centres.

"They're our lanes and you get used to them. As you play more, you realise different lanes play differently so you have adapt. It's just like playing different courses in golf."

He said to a novice golfer courses might feel the same — long grass, short grass and snow grass — but to the initiated there were countless variables to consider.

New lanes at the Hastings centre were laid down last June so members had ample time to find a sense of affinity with them.

Baldwin, who coaches in the kids' league as well as Special Olympic members, said it was a great sport.

"I don't know of too many sports where the grandparents can play against their grandchildren evenly," said the New Zealand Special Olympics coach.

"The games [Special Olympics] are every four years so I coach them, maybe be six or nine months, prior to them going away overseas," Baldwin said.

Men mystery pairs: 1st Jim Roberts Waitakere, Jim Tullock (New Plymouth); 2nd Preston Epplett (Hastings), Roger Pedersen (Porirua), 3rd Paul Watts (Waitakere), Barry Ludlow (Kapiti).

Women mystery pairs: 1st Sheila Newman (Waitakere), Kathy Ludlow (Kapiti); 2nd Marie Whitaker (Hastings), Merle Fairweather (Rotorua); 3rd Shirley Wilson (Whanganui), Bernadette Berghan (Waitakere).

Teams: 1st Josie Adams, Jim Roberts, Del Edwards, Paul Watts (Waitakere); 2nd Benny Benseman, Judith O'Rourke, Sheila Newman, Barry Hutton (Waitakere); 3rd Avis Gardner, Kevin Gardner, Roger Pedersen, Joe Fraser (Porirua).

Women's A grade singles: 1st Judy Woods (Waitakere), 2nd Ljubica Nola (Waitakere), 3rd Lesley Barrows (Manawatu).

Men's A grade singles: 1st Trevor Heath (Waitakere), 2nd Jim Roberts (Waitakere), 3rd Merv Brooks (Waitakere).

Women B grade singles: 1st Kathy Ludlow (Kapiti), 2nd Alma Jamieson (Petone), 3rd Del Edwards (Waitakere).

Men's B grade singles: 1st Dave Hercus (Porirua), 2nd Graham Barrow (Whanganui), 3rd Preston Fenton (Porirua).

Men's C grade singles: 1st Barry Ludlow (Kapiti), 2nd Brian McKenzie (Whanganui), 3rd John Hodgkin (Petone).

Women's C grade singles: 1st Barbara Giddy (New Plymouth), 2nd Fran Hercus (Porirua), 3rd Pauline Blackman (Hastings).

Men's open grade singles: 1st Ron Clark (Petone), 2nd Colin McLean (Porirua), 3rd Ian Baldwin (Hastings).

Women's open grade singles: 1st Marie Whitaker (Hastings), 2nd Judith O'Rourke (Waitakere), 3rd Marion Jones (Rotorua).

Men's all events scratch: 1st Paul Watts (Waitakere), 2nd Benny Benseman (Waitakere), 3rd Ian Baldwin (Hastings).

Women's all events scratch: 1st Marie Whitaker (Hastings), 2nd Judith O'Rourke (Waitakere), 3rd Judy Woods (Waitakere).

Men's all events hcp: 1st Jim Roberts (Waitakere), 2nd Roger Pedersen (Porirua), 3rd Trevor Heath (Waitakere).

Women's all events hcp: 1st Marie Whitaker (Hastings), 2nd Judy Woods (Waitakere), 3rd Josie Adams (Waitakere).

Women's overall champion: Marie Whitaker (Hastings).

Men's overall champion: Paul Watts (Waitakere).