by Randy Ooney
There’s a sign in the parking lot near the entrance of one of the bowling centers I patronize, “Handicap Parking Only”. I never park in those spaces because I bowl in a scratch league there. I never understood why no handicap is referred to as “scratch”. I thought scratch is what you do to an itch, but I guess if we need a word for no handicap, it may as well be scratch
The USBC has become a bit hypocritical lately, in that they promote 100% handicap in leagues, but then they run the biggest scratch tournament in the country, however they do separate it into divisions based on a bowlers skill. Years ago, it was not uncommon to see leagues with 70-80% handicap. This allowed higher average teams to beat up on lesser skilled teams, but instead of winning by 100 pins, they would only win by 25. I preferred to participate in the no handicap leagues, and get beat by the full 100. There was more pride involved in bowling in a league named “Major” or “Classic” than one named “Mixed Nuts”. Besides, when it came time to disburse the prize money, the first place team got about $50.00 per player, and the have-nots got $40.00 per player We lucked out one year when the secretary took off with all the prize money. Then everyone received the same amount from the ABC bonding company about six months later. But in a normal year, after the banquet ceremonies, the decks of cards came out, and the guys who could hit inside straights, and turn two pairs into full houses, actually came out better than those who exhibited the best bowling skills
There is a place for 100% handicap. In 1990 we pioneered 100% handicap in a league I formed within the company for which I worked. We had a broad range of skills, and the handicap system we used worked well, but in truth, I believe that 85-95 % would work better because the lower average bowlers have a greater opportunity to improve over the season.
I don’t participate in handicap tournaments much anymore. I have too much pride to tank my league average, and too much sense to compete against those that do. So I will bowl the local MSC tournaments and the Senior Masters, and spend my weekends on the internet working on my poker skills.