Friday, March 30, 2012

Video: Dick Weber Tribute

Here is a wonderful video tribute to bowling's all-time great ambassador and one of its greatest practitioners ever.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Jeff Richgel's Early Advice for the 2012 USBC Open

"The shot played tough, the carry was terrible, and I split on most shots that did not hit the pocket." ~ Pete Couture

"I think a team commitment to playing the lanes together becomes more crucial the flatter the pattern becomes." ~ Jeff Richgels

For those of you brave or foolish (or brave AND foolish) enough to bowl the USBC Open Championships this year in Baton Rouge, four-time Open champion and USBC Hall of Famer Jeff Richgels has two primary points of advice for you based on his conversations with USBC head lane man Eric Pierson and his observations of the following video.

First, expect more challenging conditions than you've encountered the past few years; and, second, it's imperative that if you want to bowl well as a team, you all need to be on the same page as to how you play the lanes. You can't start out with some guys playing straight up five and others swinging 15 and expect to carve out a forgiving shot that generates competitive scores.

Bowling great Pete Couture's team apparently went the rugged individualist route, and Couture ended up lamenting, "I think it's time to retire from bowling the USBC National tournament" after struggling to shoot 539 in the team event in which his team managed a disappointing 2964.

You can check out Richgel's informative blogpost here and watch the USBC's first official webcast of the tournament below.

Bowling Video--Pete Weber Egomania Rap

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Practicing Next to Leanne Hulsenberg

Yesterday I had the privilege of practicing next to Leanne Barrette-Huslenberg, who is gearing up for the USBC Queens tournament next month and to defend her U.S. Women's Open title in June. She told me that the televised finals of this year's Open will be held outdoors on a main street in Reno.

As I've mentioned before, Leanne, who's a 27-time national titlist and USBC Hall of Famer, is one of my favorite bowlers of all time, and I'm delighted that she and her husband Gary own a pro shop in my home house, Fireside Lanes, near Sacramento, CA. and also bowl in the venerable Steve Cook Classic scratch league there along with PBA Hall of Famer Steve Cook, P.J. Haggerty, and a host of other outstanding local bowlers.

I also have the privilege of bowling in a senior scratch league at Fireside that numbers PBA Hall of Famer Larry Laub and his USBC Hall of Fame and former U.S. Women's Open champion wife Betty Morris-Laub among its members. I really feel blessed to bowl in a house with so many great bowlers of the past and present and to even compete against some of them.

For those of you who missed the historic and exciting U.S. Women's Open last year or would like to see it again, you can read my blogpost about it and watch the embedded videos of the entire televised finals here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brian Valenta: Bowling's Lord of the Loft

Jason Belmonte and Osku Palermaa are the undisputed stars of two-handed bowling, but there's another two-hander out there who shouldn't be overlooked, even if, unlike me, you're not a big fan of the two-handed style. His name is Brian Valenta, and even though, unlike Belmonte and Palermaa, he puts his thumb in his strike ball, it doesn't noticeably diminish the awesome power he unleashes on the pins.

Since being a member of Junior Team USA, leading Lindenwood University to the Intercollegiate Team Championship in 2005, winning the Intercollegiate Singles Championship in 2006, and joining the PBA in 2008, Brian has cashed high in several Tour events, and he finished a respectable 42nd place in the recently concluded U.S. Open.

One way he managed to perform so well on the hugely challenging lane conditions of the U.S. Open was to draw upon his remarkable ability to move extremely far left (we're talking NEXT-LANE far left) on the approach when he needed to and loft the ball 30 feet down the lane with freakish consistency and accuracy to crush the pocket.

It's an amazing sight to behold, and, fortunately, the short video below provides a glimpse of what I'm talking about. It comes from PBA Xtra Frame's coverage of later cashier's round play in the U.S. Open. It just so happens that Mark Roth was sitting in as guest commentator on Xtra Frame at the time, and even Roth, who isn't particularly fond of the two-handed style and has seen and done so much in bowling that he seems forbiddingly difficult to impress with any style, appeared to be almost dumbfounded by Valenta's prodigious demonstration. It should also be noted that Valenta replicated the results shown on the video several times in that game en route to a 255 score. It was stunning!

It's true that modern oil patterns, reactive resin bowling balls, and high rev releases are prompting more and more right-handed players to move far left and loft the ball over the gutter cap and that guys like Belmo, Osku, and Mike Fagan do it routinely and very well in the latter games of rounds. Yet, I must say that I've never seen anyone do it quite as impressively as Valenta. And to put an exclamation point on his loftmeister skills, the second video shows him executing a tamer but still mighty impressive version of Osku Palermaa's now legendary loft-over-the-barchair trick shot strike of a few years ago.

I know that some people don't like this modern freakshow development in the sport, and I have to admit that I too am not thrilled that lane conditions and bowling equipment are such that anyone would ever need to take such drastic measures to score well. But necessity is the mother of invention, and I can't help but marvel at the mind-boggling loftmeister skills of a Brian Valenta.

How do you feel about this? Are you similarly impressed and enthralled, or do you recoil in repugnance and horror at this wholesale desecration of the traditional bowling game?