Bowlers Reunion 2024: Rolling Down Memory Lane

By Matt Stevens
April 5, 2024

In March 2024, the Australian bowling community rolled back the years at Wyncity Keon Park, celebrating the rich tapestry of its history with the Bowlers Reunion 2024 (BR24).

This event wasn’t just about strikes, spares, and turkeys that was going on at the John Sullivan Senior Australian Open that was running throughout the event; it was a profound gathering that underscored the enduring spirit, camaraderie, and legacy of bowling in Australia.

A Vision for Unity and Celebration

Warren Stewart, the visionary behind BR24, was inspired to create a space for bowlers to reconnect and honour the sport’s history. “Leone Star’s initiative with Cheryl Munson on social media sparked the idea, but it was the realisation that we were losing members of our community and that truly set the wheels in motion,” Stewart recalls. “BR24 was born with a sense of urgency to celebrate life and connections within the bowling community set the tone for a heartfelt reunion”.

The reunion became a beacon for bowlers across generations, many of whom had not seen each other in decades.

“The bowling family is an incredible beast,” he remarked, highlighting the deep connections formed within the sport, transcending time, and distance.

“It doesn’t matter where you bowl, where you travel to, across the globe, you meet fellow bowlers and they become your friends.

“You may not see them for many years, but they are there, the connections made, remain, even decades down the track” added Stewart.

A Momentous Weekend

The weekend was filled with nostalgia, laughter, and tears. From red carpet arrivals to heartfelt memorials, each moment was designed to honour the sport’s legends and foster reconnections.

The weekend served not just as a competition but as a living museum of Australian bowling.

“Simply incredible,” Warren remarked about the reunion’s atmosphere, indicating the profound impact of reconnections that spanned decades.

“People hadn’t seen each other for over 40 years! I met former junior players from my junior President Shield days I haven’t seen since 1979, yet it was like yesterday when we met.

“We had 10 Hall of Fame members in the one room at the one time, and you wouldn’t see that very often, if at all” Stewart added.

Stories of the ‘old’ days and ones not heard before were being told by many. The atmosphere was electric while taking the trip down memory lane.

“Sydney’s St. Leonards bowl got a very big run with stories, Rachuig history and photos from the 60’s-90’s, FIQ, individual bowler success stories, we tried to include everything we could think of,” Stewart explained. “We had a collage wall that proved extremely popular, pull up and drop-down banners everywhere you could see, and at the dinner the 1983 World Cup Trophy was shared by the legendary Jeanette Baker plus her 1983 SPC trophy”.

With so much nostalgia and history in the one spot, touching moments were expected and showcased in beautiful ways throughout the presentation dinner.

“No doubt for me, the Remembrance of the Bowlers that have passed and especially the lighting of the candle by Ava Lustig in memory of the Australian Jewish athletes Greg Small and Yeti Bennet that were tragically killed at the 1997 Maccabiah Games in Israel when a bridge collapsed was very touching to be part of,” shared Stewart.

Learning from the Legends

Tenpin Bowling Australia (TBA) National Bowling and Operations Manager, Nathan Stein, was in attendance emphasising the importance of such events in bridging the past with the present.

“It’s critical for the sport to recognise and celebrate those who have forged the path for today’s athletes,” Stein stated.

He shared how the reunion served as a learning opportunity for the community, underlining the significance of drawing from past experiences to shape the future of bowling in Australia.

“It’s also a wonderful learning opportunity for today’s custodians as whilst change is inevitable, building from previous experiences is just as important”.

Highlights a plenty and a Legacy Rekindled

The highlight for many was the acknowledgment of the sport’s history and its champions. The display of trophies, memorabilia, and a special presentation by Warren Stewart offered a tangible connection to the sport’s golden years and was meticulously coordinated to provide highlights a plenty for visitors.

“For me, the buzz, the feel in the bowl with all the bowlers, seeing the smiles on the faces was a real highlight.” explained Stewart. “Then the culmination of BR24 at the Presentation Dinner, having over 100 guests, it was incredible and of course, having both Steve Mackie and his wife Dana Miller Mackie here for the reunion was icing on the cake”.

Inducted into the TBA Hall of Fame in 1987, Steve Mackie and his wife Dana travelled all the way from the United States of America to be on hand for the special night with his presence appreciated by many in attendance.

“Hearing from Steve Mackie was a highlight for me” explained Stein.

“Listening to his perspective as a former elite level athlete, entrepreneur and industry leader combined with his current ownership of a bowling centre with high league participation in New Mexico, USA was a great interest for me.

“I took away that there is no silver bullet solution, however both here and internationally there is a need to work collaboratively with industry to support the existing participation base and our top-level athletes” added Stein.

The event not only celebrated the past but also pointed towards a collaborative future. Both Stewart and Stein reflected on the profound impact of the reunion on the community.

“For everyone, these events are all about community,” Stein remarked, stressing the emotional and mental upliftment provided by such gatherings. “It reinforces our focus of working with the bowling industry, to ensure there is access to the centre for leagues, tournaments, and events”.

Rolling into the Future and a Unified Path Forward

With the success of the Bowlers Reunion 2024, the stage is set for future gatherings that celebrate the sport’s legacy while embracing the new chapters yet to be written. As Warren Stewart appropriately put it, “The Bowling Family is an incredible beast,” one that continues to thrive on connections, memories, and the sheer love of the game.

“Hopefully BR24 will get other bowlers/groups to have their own reunion, whilst also forging a stronger appreciation for bowling’s heritage”.

As the bowling community looks ahead, the message is clear: honouring the past while forging a path to the future is essential for the sport’s growth.

Stein and Stewart’s visions align in the belief that bowling’s inclusivity and camaraderie are its greatest strengths and with the youth given an upper hand in tools to help maintain the connections within the sport, everything is in place to keep this benefit of the sport rolling along.

“I think the younger bowlers are very connected. They have a thing called the internet and social media” said Stewart with a laugh. “They are very good at using these devices but it’s important to treat the bowling community like a family, know and respect the past”.

“Theres some great social media accounts highlighting the past such as Tenpin Memories. The archiving and capturing of history for future generations is important for the current generation to acknowledge and understand, whilst also acknowledging that the future is a path unknown that we need to collectively build” added Stein.

Tenpin Bowling Australia wishes to acknowledge Warren Stewart for the marvellous job he did to put this special event together whilst also thanking the bowling community who attended and contributed to its success.