The Mom’s Day Out Bowling Club has been filling up the local lanes and providing camaraderie every Thursday morning since 2004.
The 24 women who currently participate in MDO not only strike down pins at All Star Bowling and Entertainment in Tooele City, they also strike up conversations and friendships.
“That’s the main reason we go,” said Liesl Nelson.
The league started with Stansbury Park residents Nelson and Natalie Griffith. Both had bowled in Sandy, Utah, leagues before moving to Tooele Valley. They decided that driving that far was not worth their time and gas money, so they spread the word through fliers and invited all their friends.
Since Griffith had just quit her job to be with her daughter, the local bowling league gave her a needed social outlet. It was a chance to connect with other women in the same situation.
“There’s just a bunch of little fun things,” Nelson said. “It’s mostly not about the bowling but getting out once a week and talking to adults, and talking to other moms.”
When visiting All Star Bowling during MDO bowling league, you will find women gathered around tables, casually conversing while they bowl. They discuss everything from family life to politics to religion.
“I hope there aren’t any topics you’re not supposed to talk about — because we talk about everything,” Nelson said.
Danielle Williams joined MDO after she saw an advertising flier about the group.
“I was new to the area and didn’t have a lot of friends,” said Williams. “When I saw the flier, I thought that sounded fun and I could talk to grown-ups instead of stay at home with my son all day.”
According to Williams, members do not have to be a mother to bowl. However, it is a women’s only league. Men or husbands are welcome to come watch from a distance, she said, or to bowl on their own lane away from the teams.
“We even made the rule that your husband can’t sit at the table with you,” Williams said. “All visitors have to sit at the back table.”
The list of league bowling rules is also baby friendly and allows mothers to have their infants nearby.
In addition, All Star Bowling provides a room for on-sight daycare. The bowling alley employs daycare provider Brianna Barrett to work with the children. Among the activities the daycare offers are watching movies, coloring, eating snacks and playing with toys.
Of Barrett, Williams said, “She is awesome. She is really kind and sits on the floor and plays with the kids. If there are any problems it is fine because the moms are right there.”
The weekly cost for the bowlers is $9.50. That covers three games, prize money awarded in May, and the daycare cost. Everyone pays the same amount, regardless of whether they have kids in daycare or not.
The league is not sanctioned by strict rules of the U.S. Bowling Congress, which simply means it is a non-competitive league.
“That was their choice [to be non-competitive],” said All Star Bowling front manager Beth Gates. “They just come to have fun. It’s just a lot of friends getting together.”
The club is now in its 13th season. MDO meets at 9:30 a.m. and follows the Tooele County School District calendar. The first day of league bowling was Sept. 7 and goes until May 17.
There are 32 weeks in the season, consisting of two 16-week halves. To determine the overall team winner, the first half winner and the second half winner do a roll-off. The second place winners for each half then roll-off for third place.
To motivate the women in an additional way, All Star Bowling offers free drinks as incentive to the first team members who score a strike in the same frame. The MDO League has also named the fifth frame of each game the “quarter” frame. If you do not bowl a strike in that frame, you have to add a quarter to the prize fund.
“It is a lot of fun and it’s handicapped, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve never bowled before,” said Williams.
No prior experience bowling is required to join the league.
The handicaps are based on 90 percent of the difference between the bowler’s average and the score of 200. Bowlers get their average after bowling their first three games. After the first week, handicaps are calculated on the current average.
“It’s a good way to make friends,” Nelson said. “You’re on a team.”
Each team has three bowlers, so there are currently eight teams bowling. Plus, there’s room for up to 14 teams.
During league play, All Star Bowling keeps additional lanes open to the public. It has seven other active leagues, including a youth league that bowls on Saturdays. All Star Bowling is also willing to work with anyone wanting to start a new league.
For third-season bowler Nicole Knight, MDO “is a social outlet. I like bowling too, but I’m not really that terrific. It’s fun to just hang out with friends and as a mom, have a mom’s day out.”
Bowling is an opportunity for many to get away from their daily routine — like for Lisa Bunnow.
“It gets you out of the house and to do something other than chores,” Bunnow said. “If you like it stay, if you don’t, don’t.”
The club plans fun activities such as the Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl, where the highest bowlers win a frozen turkey. There is also a Halloween costume party, a $5 Christmas gift exchange and potluck, and a Valentine’s Day white elephant party/dessert potluck. This season, the final bowl-off for the winners will be held on May 10.
The last week of the season is called a “Cosmic Bowl” party. Outside food is only allowed during the league’s parties. And, of course, food and drinks can be purchased from the bowling alley during league play.
Current MDO president Stefanie Hulse said she started as a substitute bowler three years ago where she filled in for absentee bowlers. Now, she said, she is addicted.
“It is not super competitive, but can be if you want it to be,” she said.
After 13 years, Griffith and Nelson said MDO still provides what they intended: a place to socialize, make friends and just find commonality with other women in Tooele Valley.
Knight said those who are considering MDO should just come and see for themselves.
“It’s lots of fun,” Knight said. “A lot of us are not very good at bowling. It’s one of those things that they say practice makes perfect — but not with bowling.”