I bowl at Fireside Lanes in Citrus Heights, California. It's about 15 miles east of my home in Sacramento. There are plenty of bowling centers closer to me than Fireside, but I doubt that any of them offer the value that Fireside does. Part of that value is monetary. I bowl two scratch leagues at Fireside.
In one of them, I pay only $15 dollars a week to bowl six games--three of singles and three of doubles. Granted, the prize fund isn't all that big, but this league offers an affordable way to get some good practice in a competitive format without breaking the piggy bank. And the people who bowl are a nice, friendly group. Not only that, but the guy who runs it is one of the nicest persons I've ever met in my life. I think the world of him. And, by the way, he bowled a 900 series in tournament play many years ago, before Glenn Allison famously bowled his perfect series. The format wasn't sanctioned, and you won't see his name on the USBC list of 900 series bowlers. But he was in the Guiness Book of Records for awhile for his accomplishment. I really enjoy this league. I just wish we had more bowlers in it.
My other league is a PBA Experience league with adult and junior participants. Bowlers Journal International's 2009 Junior Coach of the Year Debbie Haggerty runs it. We bowl four games of singles for $14 per week and bowl on each pattern for three straight weeks. There are some excellent adult and junior players in this league. Of course, this kind of league tends to draw bowlers who are interested in more than just high scores and averages. They want to improve their skills on the more challenging PBA patterns.
One of the most noteworthy of these players is a young man named Caleb Nakata. I am very impressed with the progress I've seen him make since I first watched him bowl three or so years ago. He used to come watch the PBA Experience League. Now, at the relatively tender age of 19, he's kicking butt and taking no names in it. Last week he bowled a sizzling, league-leading 299 game and 997 series on the Scorpion pattern. Nobody else was even close. This week, he bowled 850 on the Shark pattern. I know because I was on his pair and he destroyed my sorry posterior. It's true that I'm struggling right now to change my approach and release to generate more power and am failing miserably. But it's also true that Caleb Nakata is bowling very well and is clearly dedicated enough to get better and better. What's more, he's one of the nicest kids you'll ever meet.
One of the real pleasures I get out of bowling is watching guys like Caleb start out as beginners and blossom into fine players. Another fine junior bowler in the league is young Amanda Fry. She won the girl's division of the California state tournament last year. The first time I saw her bowl several years ago, I knew she'd be good. Her smooth, left-handed style is very reminiscent of Tish Johnson's, even though I'm not sure she's ever even seen Tish bowl.
I feel blessed to bowl in these kinds of leagues and be surrounded by these skilled and dedicated bowlers and fine human beings.