Originally created 07/25/99

Record crowd invades lanes



The sea of anxious juvenile bowlers appeared to have no end.

A veteran staff with a vast history of running bowling tournaments was greeted by 178 Georgia Games Championships hopefuls when they arrived at Brunswick National Lanes on Saturday morning. The turnout was greater than the staff had anticipated.

The sign-in line began at lane one and stretched nearly out the automatic doors. Despite their initial shock, bowling officials swiftly signed up the juvenile competitors and got them on the lanes. A Georgia Games record 560 bowlers occupied the 40 lanes at the west Augusta facility Saturday.

"You have to be patient," said David Checkle, Georgia Games bowling coordinator. "When problems come up, we overcame them and moved on."

So began the most hectic day of the 1999 Georgia Games Championships. The chaos scale almost matched the heat index, with 35 sports under way throughout the Augusta area from soon after sunup to well past sundown.

Some of the bowling officials have been conducting tournaments for more than 30 years. Their resumes include serving as hosts for the seven-state Southeast Bowling Association championships. Brunswick Lanes General Manager Dean Rose compared the turnout to a busy Saturday night crowd.

"It's been pretty hectic all day," Rose said. "We've got experience running large tournaments of this nature."

The madness continued at Newman Tennis Center, where Friday's opening competitions seemed to extend into Saturday. Tennis officials were occupied until 1 a.m. Saturday and returned at 8 a.m.

"It still feels like Friday to me," said tennis coordinator Dick Hatfield. "It really hasn't stopped."

Each of the 18 courts was utilized for the 230 athletes vying for Georgia Games glory. Hatfield's frenzied day was magnified by complications created by the intense heat.

Frequent water breaks resulted in slow play and subsequently caused delays in later matches. Matches regularly completed in 1 1/2 hours were taking two hours to finish.

"People are hanging in there," Hatfield said. "You don't like to have your players standing around, but you can't control play. Players have been very understanding."

Soccer also was affected by July's extreme temperatures. Officials mandated water breaks every 12 minutes to prevent dehydration. While not overwhelmed by high turnout, soccer officials had their own concerns.

The preventative measures extended game times, but with only 18 teams, volunteer supervisor Rick Marshall said competition progressed smoothly. Organizers began planning nine months in advance, but having run the 240-team Augusta Arsenal's Spring Shootout, heat was their only problem.

"We're keeping water on the fields; that's been our top priority," Marshall said. "This (turnout) is lightweight compared to the Shootout."

July is usually a dead period for soccer clubs. Select teams have been organized and generally kick off in mid-August. Soccer organizer David Jobe attributed the low turnout to vacations and camp participation.

"We didn't have the showing we expected," Jobe said. "July is a lull period for soccer."

Jimmy DeButts can be reached at (706) 823-3221.