VIDEO: Legally blind at 96, West Palm great-great grandmother still bowls 200+ scores


96-year-old Kathryn Robinson of West Palm Beach bowls high scores despite being legally blind

She’s legally blind and almost 100 but you’ll be hard-pressed to beat West Palm Beach’s Kathryn Robinson at bowling.

Robinson, who turns 97 next Friday, has been bowling since she was 37. Her first husband died in a car crash a year earlier and her kids were looking for something to do.

“We had so much fun, we started going every Sunday afternoon.”

Sixty years later, she’s still going strong, though she’s lost all sight in one eye and most in the other. She had a high score of 202 last year. This year, she bowled a 183 — a disappointing drop for her — but the year’s not over.

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Over the years, she bowled a 258 and “a lot of 250s,” she said. Now her average is lower but the strikes and impossibly hard spares still come with a frequency that is astonishing, considering she can’t see the pins anymore.

Robinson bowls with her senior league team, the Teslas, every Tuesday morning at Verdes Tropicana Bowl on North Florida Mango Road.

It’s a cheerful group. One man wears a Superman tank top. A woman wears a “Strike!” shirt. One teammate wears a wrist brace, another, an elbow warmer.

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They approved that their No. 2 player was getting a write-up. “She’s already a star to us,” one teammate said.

Lee, Kathryn’s husband of 49 years, sits up front at the scorer’s desk, cane at his side, and tells her which pins are still standing. The retired flight instructor is only 92, she says. “I robbed the cradle.”

She rubs her left calf, sore from a gardening mishap, explaining, “I was watering the flowers and let go of the hose and it flew back and hit me hard.”

“It hurt like heck,” she added, the inflection of her Todd County, Ky. farm country upbringing ever present. “But it’s getting a lot better.”

Wearing loose, faded blue jeans and a blue-and-white striped shirt, she walks up to the lane and hoists her ball from the rack. She positions her feet by the dots on the floor and focuses as best she can on the arrow markers a few feet ahead.

With a fluid motion she winds up and hurls the 12-pound ball. It heads right, then reliably breaks left and arcs into the headpin.

Bam! Strike! She pumps her fist in the air. High fives all around.

According to her younger son, Ken Bradshaw, 74, Robinson almost didn’t make it to 96.

Twenty or 30 years ago, Kathryn tried for her flying license. While landing after a solo training run out of Boca Raton Airport, she flipped her plane upside down. She escaped unscathed but never set foot in a plane again, Bradshaw said.

She lived to bowl another day and watch her family flourish. Robinson has two sons; three grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild and another on the way. (A daughter died two years ago and two great-grandchildren also died.) Through Lee, she also has two step-children, eight step-grandchildren and five step-great-grandchildren.

That’s a handful. But every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., it’s a bowling ball she cradles.

The game keeps her young, active and entertained.

“It’s the smartest thing I ever did,” she beamed.

Follow West Palm Beach reporter Tony Doris on Twitter at @tonydorisPBP.

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