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Tennis figure LaPenna returns to bowling and wins a tournament

It's not just tennis that keeps Tom LaPenna feeling young these days at age 76.

It's bowling, too. Or, rather, a return to bowling.

"I quit bowling 45 years ago, I've been back for three," LaPenna said the other day as he was wrapping up a tennis lesson he was giving at the Village Glen Tennis Center in Williamsville, which he used to own.

Last weekend, LaPenna shot a 699 scratch, 807 with handicap, to win the Class AA Division (ages 75 and over) of the Greater Buffalo USBC Association's Stan Kowalski Senior Singles open at Kenmore Lanes.

LaPenna shot 266, 219 and 214 for his 699 series with 36 pins handicap added for each game.

LaPenna averaged 199 in the season just ended, bowling in the Monday Couples League and the Storm/Bowlers Choice Senior Shootout at Transit Lanes.

"I quit bowling to take up tennis," said LaPenna, who has been active in the racket sport as a player, coach, administrator and official. He is the boys coach at Nichols School and at one time was an assistant coach at Niagara University.

"Us old guys still want to compete," LaPenna said, laughing.

Family reasons brought LaPenna back to bowling.

"My daughter moved back to town and wanted to bowl in a mixed couples league," he said. Tom; his wife, Catherine; and his sister, Lucille, the former owner of Alden Lanes all got involved.

In addition, Tom started bowling in the Senior Shootout at Transit, in which most of the top senior bowlers in the Buffalo area compete.

"I fell in love with it again, and I'm still doing a lot of tennis," said LaPenna, who was an owner at Village Glen for 25 years before selling.

He's been retired from the business end of tennis for four years now.

Tennis competition are an occasional doubles tournament in Florida.

Years ago, LaPenna called the lines for the Toronto-Buffalo Royals World Team Tennis matches in Memorial Auditorium. He officiated the Royals' first-ever WTT match against Cleveland at the Canadian National Exposition grounds in Toronto.

He also produced a series of local tennis matches for International Cable. He remembered having to find a site for a championship match between the Rev. Bob Hetherington and Dave Loder because of a scheduling conflict at Amherst Hills (now the Miller Tennis Center). They held the final at the backyard court of Bobby Banck in Williamsville, and it all worked out.

LaPenna is getting a lesson on how much bowling has changed since the years when he bowled in the Bowling Proprietors Team Travel League and other top competition. He had a black hard rubber ball, which he used for four years, and had a high series of 718. Amazingly, he shot a 704 last season as a much older man using modern equipment on different lane conditions.

In the Kowalski, LaPenna bowled better than most bowlers many years young than he.

"The way the game is today, you can get hot," is how he explained his big tournament.

One thing was missing from his triumph. His older sister, Madeline, passed away in March. Madeline LaPenna was a director in the Buffalo Women's Bowling Association and the Women's International Bowling Congress as well as a successful business woman as the owner of an insurance agency.

Putting it in simple words, LaPenna said: "It would have been nice to have her there."

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