NABI Bowling Tournament in Las Vegas

    07/16/06

    Column

    By Joe Lyou

    NABILogo.jpg As long as El Paso's Don Patton has one good leg to stand on, he will enjoy bowling in NABI Tournaments; Chris Moore may not be able to see the pins but he sets his sights on winning NABI Titles; Tennessee's Sherry Coate lost her husband to cancer but not her desire to fulfill his NABI dreams

    "NABI means fun!" That's why Don Patton has been a member of National Amateur Bowlers Inc. for the past 8 1-2 years…even though he has only one good leg.

    It was one year ago last March that the 62-year-old bowler from El Paso had to have his left leg amputated just below the knee after Patton lost his valiant battle to save the leg because of diabetes.

    But the misfortune didn't lessen Patton's love for bowling…nor for his desire to be a NABI member. As soon as he got used to wearing a new prosthetic leg, Patton resumed bowling. His average dropped from 186 to 134 because he could no longer slide on his left leg. The right-hander now takes three steps and plants his left foot at the foul line.

    Through sheer determination, Patton has increased his league average to a respectable 164. He says he is having as much fun bowling as ever. And that's important to him.

    That's why Patton is competing in the annual NABI National Championships Tournament July 14-21 at the Orleans Bowling Center in Las Vegas. He says he is competing in the tournament "just for the enjoyment." If he happens to cash, it's a bonus, Patton said.

    Patton is easy to recognize. He is tall (6-2) and slender (175 pounds), has a full head of salt-and-pepper hair and a trim mustache to match. He also wears glasses. The likable bowler says he has been bowling for 35 years. For most of those years, Patton served in the Army, working on computer network systems.

    He retired from the Army after 30 years, but still works at the same job as a civilian. Patton, who has been married to wife Charlotte for 25 years, says he "loves bowling in NABI tournaments at home." He added that he even cashed for $85 last year. "I thought that was a great accomplishment," he said.

    In spite of his prosthetic leg, Patton is a very consistent bowler. "I've bowled (handicap) series of 604, 604, 603 and 597," he said. Because bowling in NABI tournaments is so much fun for Patton, he says he would like to see more bowlers join the "most popular amateur tournament club in the world."

    "It's great to be a NABI member…and besides the club needs more bowlers," Patton said. The story of Don Patton is just one of the many great human-interest stories involving NABI members. Listen to what Sherry Coate, the NABI director of the Tennessee club, has to say about one of her bowlers.

    "Chris Moore, who is in his 30s and averages around 160 to 170, is virtually blind," Sherry said. "He has a little peripheral vision, but that's all.

    "When he bowls in our tournaments, other members will help line him up on the approach. Then after he rolls his first ball, they tell Chris what pins are left and where to stand for his spare shot.

    "Chris is truly an amazing bowler," Sherry continued. "Just six weeks ago—it was in May—he won his first NABI title. Not only was he excited, but everyone else was excited for him.
    "Chris has never bowled in the National Championships in Las Vegas, so I told him to save his prize money and come with us next year."

    Sherry also had a poignant story to tell about her late husband, Mark. The couple started the Tennessee NABI club in 1989 and kept it going even in the lean years. "We also owned an insurance agency for 24 years, but Mark always looked forward to running the NABI tournaments in our area," Sherry said.

    "Then, about four years ago, Mark contracted brain cancer. He managed to hang on for three years, but on August sixth of last year, Mark passed away. "I gave up the insurance agency but kept the NABI club because I also love running it. I also love all our bowlers because we're like a family," Sherry said.

    She now runs the NABI Tennessee organization with the help of her sister, Carla Sanders, who lives in the Nashville area. Sherry says it's "a labor of love."