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?


  1. Very impressive, but not a desireable trend in the game, IMHO.

  2. Especially if you own or manage a bowling center. ;-)

  3. It won't be long before the oil pattern designers develop a pattern to thwart this I bet. That aside, one thing that is not talked about much regarding the two handed style is the amount of wear and tear that this puts on the hip. I bet we will not see Belmo or Osku in the senior PBA. They'll have hip replacements by then. LOL. The simple natural motion of the standard release is one thing that allows us to keep bowling well into old age -- but not for two handers. That is my prediction anyway...

  4. Frank, I think you're probably right about the two-handed style's abbreviated shelf life. Interestingly, Belmo asked yesterday on his Facebook wall whether we'd prefer to be good professional bowlers for 10 years or #1 for one year and then stop bowling. The virtually unanimous answer was, "Good for ten years." However, I think Belmo's going to be at or near the top for a long time, and maybe that will be worth whatever physical price he has to pay for it. Or maybe his style will prove not to be as taxing on his body as you and I fear. Yet, however it turns out, I doubt that he'll have the stupendously successful longevity of Pete Weber. I just don't see how his style could ever allow that.

  5. not a fan of the style. thats not bowling.