By Dale Bowman
Mary Markham is an old pro at Beat The Champions.
Even so, the 66-year-old from Country Club Hills finally made her first finals of BTC. The women’s finals of BTC begin at noon Sunday at Elk Grove Bowl in Elk Grove Village.
“I have been practicing after bowling,’’ Markham said.
She has friends and bowling people telling her to turn her body and face the pins, correct small mistakes.
“I am trying to get myself up to get through the tournament,’’ she said.
She knows bowling and BTC, both. Four years ago, she won the Pick-A-Pro promotion in BTC and earned a $1,000 for picking Carolyn Dorin-Ballard to combine with her own scores.
Markham advanced from Castaways Bowl out of the fabled O’Hare Monday Morning league, but she also bowls at
Burr Oak Bowl (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and Tinley Park Bowl (Thursday). She rolls a hybrid ball primarily straight, but with a bit of hook.
“Hopefully, I can bowl a decent game,’’ said Markham, who averages around 160. “I guess I always get in because of the leagues. But it is also fun. There are much stronger bowlers out there.’’
BTC is a handicapped tournament. Bowlers receive 90 percent of the difference of their average of under 210.
“Hopefully, I will be in the top,’’ Markham said. “So if I don’t get the car, I will get one of the big prizes.’’
Everybody receives a prize at the finals, from a bowling ball on up. The big prize is a 2015 Ford Fiesta from the Local Ford Stores. The real prize is the $2,793,600.36 raised for charity from more than 5.7 million entries in the first 53 years of BTC, cosponsored for 54 years by the Sun-Times and the Chicagoland Bowling Proprietors Association.
Markham knows her BTC history. She also owns a piece of postal history. As a window clerk, she served the last customer at the old Post Office building in downtown Chicago in June of 1996. She retired in 2004 after 33 years of service.
She does not plan to bowl Elk Grove before Sunday, though she will have friends and bowling people there Sunday.
“I am at the point where I will come and take my chances on the lanes,’’ she said.