Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Dose of Bowling Reality

Last weekend, I got slapped in the face with bowling reality. I've been bowling only on a regular house condition in league and practice since last summer when I bowled in a PBA Experience league. But last Saturday, I decided to see what I could do on the new Shark pattern in tournament play. The tournament was a six-gamer using gold pins at Earl Anthony's Dublin Bowl in Dublin, CA. This was the site of the PBA Earl Anthony Memorial tournament held in mid-January of this year.

As soon as I walked in the door, I could see by the quality of the other participants that I was in completely over my head so far as being competitive was concerned. Some might argue that this is the wrong mentality to take into any tournament one enters, but when you're surrounded by the caliber of bowlers I was, guys who not only have won PBA national titles and dominate the local bowling scene but fly to far away lands to compete and cash in big bowling tournaments there, you know that you, as an older "typical house bowler" at best, have your hands full and then some.

Yet, I more or less expected this and entered the tournament largely because I wanted to use it as a yardstick by which to measure the current level of my game. What I discovered is that I have a tremendous amount of work to do on both my physical and mental games. I bowled 166-197-165-178-175-180 to finish 139 pins under for a 176.8 average.

Now this, in itself, wasn't that bad. By comparison, one of the top three players in the PBA Western region finished around 80 under and also had three games in the 170's or below, one in the 180's, one in the 190's, and only one game over 200. Not only that, but as you can see by the tournament results, the lane conditions had to have been very challenging to yield such low scores by such an elite group of bowlers. It took only +38 to win first place, and -33 was the last to cash.

But what I discovered is that my low-rev outside game with inadequate equipment simply won't cut it on long oil sport conditions. I could only get my ball to hook two or three boards at most, and when I hit the pocket from the angle I was playing--and I couldn't play outside because of the out-of-bounds area outside ten--I couldn't carry. Fortunately, I did a pretty good job with my spares or my scores would have been much lower than they were. But without getting at least a double or turkey every now and then, I was doomed to scoring the way I did. I encountered pretty much the same problem the next day when I practiced on an oil pattern meant to simulate this year's USBC Open pattern in Reno, although this condition seemed easier than the Shark pattern I faced the day before.

So, I've resolved to work with a coach to, at the very least, develop a more powerful release. I could go back to bowling thumbless, but then I would sacrifice accuracy. I want to throw a stronger ball with my thumb in it. I've also resolved to learn more about oil patterns and ball surfaces and layouts and to work with the right people to build and properly maintain a more effective arsenal. If I do those things, I think I can, even at my age, be a lot more competitive on demanding lane conditions.

And, after bowling in that tournament Saturday, I've decided that I want any future tournaments I bowl in to be on sport conditions. As one of the guys I crossed with, longtime local bowling luminary Max Epps, said, it's far better to bowl in a tournament where if you strategize and execute really well, you can cash by averaging 200 than it is to bowl in one where you have to compete with young whippersnappers spraying their buzzsaw balls all over the lane and averaging 250.

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