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Bowling Insider: A member of five Halls of Fame, Alfie Cohn still going strong at 86

Alfie Cohn | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

Alfie Cohn | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 24, 2014 6:17AM



He was once dubbed the “king” of Chicago bowling.

He’s in five Halls of Fame.

He’s imparted his knowledge to hundreds of bowlers seeking to improve their skills.

And at 86, he’s keeping as busy as someone half his age.

Tinley Park resident Alfie Cohn is the anchor man on his first-place Van Henkulum Funeral Home team that competes on Tuesday afternoons in the Builders Tee Club league at Oak Forest Bowl.

Cohn also competes in a three-cushion billiards league and belongs to a duplicate bridge club. During the summer he and several of the bowling league members play golf once per week.

“I’ve always stayed active, and I’m healthy enough to do it,” Cohn said. “It’s good exercise and keeps my interest up. I still like the challenge of it.”

And meeting it with a lot of success.

Cohn is the top bowler on his team with a 198 average. He still has as part of his arsenal a Black Roto Star that he used in the late 1960s.

He doesn’t begrudge the explosion of high averages and the number of 300 scores that seemingly increase every year. But he is a bit wistful that bowling has become a power sport in which revolutions rule.

“The game has changed so much, it’s really not the same game,” Cohn said. “The averages are so high, and they’re high because the proprietors and the ball manufacturers must want it that way. The proprietors strip the alleys and clean the back end so that the second half of the alley is completely clean every day.

“They oil the front half and leave the back half clean and dry. If you don’t throw the ball hard, it hooks too much. You must throw with a lot of velocity. The hard throwers are today’s better bowlers, where back in the day it was more of a finesse game, more controlled, smoother.”

Back in the day, Alfie Cohn was king.

That became official in 1971, when he was chosen for the annual award by the Chicago bowling writers after a year in which he averaged a national-best 235 in a league at Palisade Bowl in Chicago. During one stretch he threw 62 consecutive games of 200 or better and had seven consecutive 700 series.

A few years earlier, Cohn competed on the PBA summer tour and made two finals in a field of bowlers that included Dick Weber, Wayne Zahn, Dave Soutar, Dave Davis, Bill Allen Don McCune and Carmen Salvino.

“I stopped because I couldn’t make enough money,” Cohn said. “It was a lot of traveling, but it was fun, competitive.”

During his bowling career Cohn has thrown 17 USBC-sanctioned 300 games and captured four USBC National tournament titles, eight city titles and four state titles. In 1985, he was inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame. He also is in state, city and Calumet Region Halls of Fame as well as the Sullivan High School Hall of Fame.

In 1992, after a 25-year career as a furniture salesman, Cohn became a bowling instructor at Burr Oak Bowl. He continued as a bowling mentor until retiring in 2012.

Cohn has no plans to stop bowling, however.

“The legs aren’t as good, and maybe I’m a little slower,” he said. “But speed (for me) was never a requirement. I’ll keep going as long as I can keep doing it.”



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