When the last frames are bowled at Tustin Lanes and New Kona Lanes in Costa Mesa on Tuesday, it will mark more than just the end of the Women's International Bowling Congress tournament.
While the three-month WIBC tournament will draw to a close, Tuesday will also mark the end of Augie Karcher's 19-year career as public relations manager for the congress.
Karcher, 63, announced his retirement before the tournament began and was wrapping up his duties at the WIBC's national offices in Greendale, Wis., earlier this week.
Speaking by telephone from Wisconsin, Karcher offered nothing but praise for both the organization he represented and its most recent tournament, which has been running at the two Orange County lanes since April.
"This was a nice tournament to go out on," Karcher said. "This one was definitely a little different from all of the rest, especially with that 300-game (by Pomona's Rose Walsh in May) and all.
"We had good California representation (in play) this time around, too. Bowling is quite popular in California and that quality came to the fore--it has always been a year-round sport for you.
"Plus, we (bowlers) probably had as many things to do away from the lanes as anyplace else we've been, too."
Karcher cited his advancing age and the simple need for change as the main reasons for retiring at this time. He will be succeeded by Paula McMartin, editor of The Woman Bowler magazine.
"I've been cleaning out the filing cabinets, getting rid of things I know my successor won't need," Karcher said. "I'm what you'd call a string-saver--I've filed away a lot of little things here--but so far no old ham sandwiches yet."
Karcher will also file away many memories of the annual tournament, beginning with his first one in 1968 in San Antonio.
"The tournament has always been my first love," Karcher said. "There's nothing else like it. It's the greatest thing in the world for the woman bowler. Usually after a woman has bowled in her first tournament, she's hooked for life after that."
By Tuesday, more than 51,000 bowlers will have participated in the tournament, making it second only to the 75,000 who turned out for the 1983 WIBC tournament in Las Vegas.
Karcher cites that tournament--the first time that either women or men had played a major tournament in Las Vegas--as a milestone in the event's 67-year history.
"A lot of skeptics felt that you couldn't mix the two--bowling and a traditional gambling area--but we showed that they could coexist side-by-side without much trouble.
"I think that tournament opened things up for Las Vegas hosting other family events as well."
Karcher began working at the WIBC public relations office in 1967, following a stint on a weekly newspaper in Wisconsin. He had worked in a similar position with the American Bowling Congress from 1964 to 1966, so he was familiar with working with the media.
Before his public relations work in bowling, Karcher was a newspaperman on and off for 21 years, having covered the Lakers for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune when the team played in Minnesota in the late 1950s.
"(Hall of Famer) George Mikan retired the day that I got that assignment so, no, they didn't win any NBA championships while I covered them," Karcher said.
Karcher sees his own retirement as a similar march of time.
"We've got a real young (public relations) staff now--the oldest person in the office is 30," Karcher said. "The future of this game is with the young bowler, so maybe all of the kids in this office will think like young bowlers do and draw more of them to the sport."
For his part, Karcher and his wife of 42 years, Bernice, will simply take it easy from here on in, with Karcher no longer having to make the 23-mile drive from his home in the Milwaukee suburb of Sturtevant to the WIBC offices in Greendale.
"We're just going to enjoy life, to have a little time to ourselves," he said. "There's a lot of household projects I have to do."