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Reactive resin a savior for this longtime bowler

Lucky man

September 20, 2011
The Mining Journal

Tossing and turning the other night trying to go to sleep for an early-morning shift here at the Journal, I of course was struck by the best ideas.

With my planned Bowler of the Week put on hold for a bit, my mind was working overtime for a topic for this column, and I got thinking how lucky I've been with this sport.

Bowling is something I've done pretty much continuously for 38 years. And do I feel old saying that.

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The longest I've gone without knocking over at least a few pins is three, maybe three and a half months, mostly in the late 1980s and early '90s when I lived in Houghton and didn't bowl summers.

Every single year from September to May, it's been at least one league, sometimes as many as four. And four more often than one.

That's part of the luck. I've never had any kind of illness or injury that kept me out of commission for more than a week or two.

But even more, I'm lucky the game has come to me. What I mean is that changes to bowling over the years have covered up some of my deficiencies and accentuated what I do best.

I first bowled at age 11 when my late father took me to a center in Saginaw - an old Bowl-O-Mat, known for the hollow metallic sound you heard throughout the place from the pinsetting machines.

Soon after, I joined my first league. I was terrible, so bad in fact, I won free bowling at the end of my first season for worst game of the year - a 38 or 39. No, I didn't frame it in my bedroom.

And I was so bad that when I was supposed to move up an age division the next season, nobody realized I was that old and they left me in the Prep Division. I had a teammate who was a couple years younger - and about a head shorter - who had an average around 50 pins higher.

Of course, it didn't hurt that he was the son of the center's manager, and that manager later went on to win a Senior Tour title when that part of the PBA first started.

But being bad was actually a blessing. Why? I had tons of room to improve.

And that I did. During that first year I steadily raised my average all the way up to 84, and I was able to hopscotch around to a number of milestones involving games, series and average, though averages were always my benchmark.

Within three years I was averaging in the 120s, and by the end of high school I hit 160 in a summer league.

This was around 1980, when rubber balls were the norm, but balls made of plastic were where it was at.

If you wanted to be good you better be able to heave the ball down the lane hard with a lot of good roll and be able to snap your wrist to put some hook on it.

That wasn't me, not this 130-pound kid.

Then urethane balls were introduced in the early '80s, and the hook-ball era was born. You still needed really good technique and strength to shoot the 300s that men, women and children were all starting to get.

But it still wasn't me.

Yes, I raised my average to the low 180s, but it hardly compared to guys who had averaged close to 230 a decade earlier on the easy shot Saginaw houses put out.

When I got lucky was at the start of reactive resin ball era, coincidentally about the time I moved to Marquette County in 1993.

Resin created a powerful ball for the everyman. I remember checking the top scoreboard at Country Lanes in Ishpeming one time in the mid '90s, and something like 10 of the top 12 games were posted by guys ages 50 up to nearly 80.

That was me. A 66-year-old's strength in a 33-year-old's body. Which is how old I was (33, not 66) when I bowled my first perfect 300 in 1995.

Resin's key, as far as I am concerned, is consistency and adjustment, rather than raw power and a lot of hook. This ball provides the latter two attributes.

For those with awesome physical talents, resin is like putting a leash on the Tasmanian Devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

If he wants to behave, he's great to have, but when he doesn't, it's totally out of your control.

My Tasmanian Devil is on Ritalin. Even on a bad day, small children can go up and pet him safely.

But if I can find a target line, and a ball speed, and a certain hand release, things I naturally fiddle around with all the time, he's still a Devil.

And while the pins may not always fly, they often fall down apparently out of respect for my lil' Devil.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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