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BOWLER GIVES BACK

Boyd Comer bowls at Strikers Family Sportscenter on Wednesday. Comer will be inducted into the state bowling hall of fame.
Boyd Comer bowls at Strikers Family Sportscenter on Wednesday. Comer will be inducted into the state bowling hall of fame.

Saturday night, Boyd Comer will join elite company of about 20 bowlers from across the state in the state bowling hall of fame. But first, early Saturday morning, Rock Hill's Comer will do what he has done for almost 30 years on early Saturday mornings: teach kids to bowl.

Then, he will put on a suit and accept his plaque.

"The kids always come first," Comer said. "It's a great honor to be selected, but the priority is always the kids."

Guys such as Comer are the beauty of bowling, what makes a place such as Strikers Family Sportscenter in Rock Hill on an after-work Wednesday evening a place where the real America meets. All walks of life, at alleys that bond people together. Comer is 57 years old, a field service dispatcher for Carolina Cat, short for Caterpillar. He has one of those granite chins like war heroes and movie stars have, and a gracious smile that can't be faked.

He works all day and bowls at night and on weekends, whenever he can find a league or a lane that will have him. In one Monday night league, Comer's team is called "The Rowdy Bunch." One of his eight bowling balls is a yellow Miller High Life ball, complete with the logo from the beer bottle. Another ball has "Black Widow" stenciled on it.

His nickname is "Fossil." Another nickname is "Judge."

Try finding nicknames like that at martini bars.

Comer even works part time in the Strikers pro shop to boot.

Don Clarke, another bowler from Rock Hill who was elected to the hall last year, called Comer "The consummate bowler."

"As good a bowler as you will find, been good for years and years, but committed to the next generation of bowlers who are coming along," is how Clarke described his friend and bowling coach named Boyd Comer.

Youth bowling leagues for York, Chester and Lancaster counties, headquartered at Strikers, are the largest in both Carolinas, Comer said. Bowlers his age, with his experience, have to take time with younger bowlers to make sure the sport continues to be popular. Bowling is among most popular participation sports in America. The National Bowling Museum says 90 million people bowl.

Comer estimated he's bowled at least 10,000 games in his life. His average at his age is 208 -- very high for any age of amateur bowlers -- and he's had three perfect 300 games. But he doesn't bowl quite as much as he once did: He owns only eight bowling balls instead of 12. But the bowling ball collection changes constantly, because Comer is always giving bowling balls away to younger players.

Comer's son, Ray, was such an alley rat following his father around growing up that Ray is now a regional professional bowler.

But Boyd Comer wasn't always a bowler. He played golf when he was young but came home one afternoon and, "My wife sold my golf clubs."

Bowling was the easy choice.

Comer's wife, Nellie, has put up with him bowling forever. But on Wednesday night, after Comer put all those bowling balls and his bowling shoes back in his bowling bag that is so big it has wheels -- just like a rolling suitcase, but heavier -- he had to skeedaddle, and quick.

"Line dancing at the VFW," Comer said.

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