Like a true and trusted friend, Glenn Ayotte's old bowling ball always seems to be there waiting for him. The old ball is a 15-pound Hammer Vicious reactive resin ball that he bowled the full range of U.S. Bowling Congress honor scores with during the 2010-11 season - games of 298, 299 and 300 along with an 800 three-game series.
On Oct. 24, Ayotte gave up on another ball - his Storm Virtual Energy - after five games during a double shift of bowling at Country Lanes in Ishpeming in favor of the Vicious. Ayotte bowls six games regularly on Wednesdays, first with three games during the Superior Iron Range Federal Credit Union League followed up by another three in the Country Trio League.
The ball change paid dividends immediately. Putting the "new" ball into play for the last pair of shots in the 10th frame of his second game, those two shots served as practice balls for his final game of the night - a perfect 300.
It was his fourth sanctioned 300 and seventh overall during regular tournament and league conditions.
This latest 300 followed up games of 210 and 172 for a 682 series, which Ayotte seemed just a little chagrined that he didn't hit 700.
But considering that 600 wasn't in the cards if he didn't improve from game No. 2, his total doesn't look so bad.
And all the credit goes to his old "friend."
"The Vicious has about 1,000 games on it, and it goes longer down the lane," Ayotte explained to me. Going further before it starts its hook is important for his rather unusual two-handed style that he first employed regularly at about this time in 2009.
Like wildly successful pro bowler Jason Belmonte of Australia, Ayotte's ball has all the revolutions and all the hook that any bowler could ever want, ripping the pins off the lane as if they're empty cardboard toilet paper tubes, not the 3-pound pieces of wood they really are.
Successful two-handers usually throw the ball as hard as they can just to keep some semblance of control. Having the right ball - of which most of Ayotte's don't have a thumb hole drilled into it - sometimes doesn't matter. At other times, like that particular Wednesday, it made all the difference.
"I was getting over/under," he said about his Virtual Energy ball that caused a modern bowling phenomenon where the farther this righthander threw his ball to the right near the gutter, the more it ended up to the left. The reverse is usually true at the same time - the more you miss your target to the left, the farther the ball ends up to the right and light in the strike pocket.
You have to see it to believe it, since its goes against intuition, especially if you came up in the bowling ranks under traditional conditions like I did in the early 1970s. Some 20 years ago, I had to experience this over/under phenomenon repeatedly and then have it explained to me just so I'd understand it - actually so I'd believe it.
What you'd normally think is that if you miss your target to the left, the ball would end up to the left, which would happen if, say, you shot a free throw on the basketball court.
This opposite reaction occurs because of how reactive resin balls react to the "oil" conditioner on a lane. If they hit a slick spot, they literally hydroplane and go perfectly straight.
But if they hit a dry spot with little or no oil, the somewhat out-of-balance inner core will make the ball hook. If you throw it like Ayotte, the ball hooks immediately and usually pretty violently.
It's great for carrying all 10 pins for a strike when it works right, but can get ugly when it doesn't.
Ayotte said that unlike last season, when he carried multiple averages nearing 230, this year he's only had a couple series where all three of his games made it to 200. That's fine when you hit 300, like he did on Oct. 24, but that doesn't happen very often.
So he may have found something that will bring consistency back to his game.
Before I forget, and in place of this week's Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week, I wanted to publicize the area high schools' bowling team tryouts which are coming up this week or next for the winter season.
Marquette Senior High School head coach Hope Virch informed me that her boys and girls tryouts are coming up before deer season starts. If you need more information, contact your particular school's principal's office.
You don't have to have bowling experience, just an interest in the sport to try out.
Ishpeming and Negaunee high schools have combined for one school team for more than a decade, and just a couple years ago, Westwood formed its first team, though it's only ended up with a girls team the past two years. That could change with enough interest by the boys, from what I understand.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.