THE SOCK MAN COMETH!!!
Written by Darrell Bradley
Edmonton, AB – Open Zone Qualifying - It’s the 17th game (of 20) in one of the most competitive zones of the country and yours truly is nowhere near the top. I start to do some serious looking at the leader board. There is a major cluster of men fighting for only 9 spots. The top 6 are pretty much locked so that leaves 3 spots open with four games to go. There is at least 10 men all within striking distance, anything can happen……
“Yes, you betcha! Great shot!” I hear someone yelling from a couple of lanes over. Still not knowing who it was, I look over and see the “turkey cooker” appearing on the screen. Hmmm, I think to myself, who was that? Someone was heating up, then, I realize it’s him, the man that I have been looking up to for 15 years since I started in the Adult Tournaments. The man that has taken me under his wing soo many times, the man that has fought from the depths of agony, the man that shows no quit, the man who wills himself into the fight…. THE SOCK MAN COMETH!
Finishing game 17 with a 316, and following with 229, 295, 306 finish Lynn Howell has made his way to 7th spot, good enough to make the mixed team. After more coaching than playing experiences of late Lynn has made yet another team. The Sock Man Cometh, and deserves to be on any team, making this team stronger by reputation alone. (With a bowling style that requires a big slide, Lynn is the only bowler I know who sometimes wears a stock on his left foot to help him with his slide on sticky approaches).
This year is a special one, it marks Lynn’s 5th decade of making an Open team. Think about that, making an Open team for 5 straight decades. He has made the team in every decade since the 70’s. Either he is old, or damn good. I say both, ha ha, but really I say he is amazing. Lynn Howell is a Legend. The fist pumping, lip snarling, sock wearing, big sliding, short pudgy guy from Edmonton is one of the most known and respected bowlers in this Country. He has been travelling Canada since the 70’s and has made many friends all through this great sport of five pin bowling. Lynn is not shy and has probably had a conversation with 95% of the bowlers and spectators out there.
Lynn is an extremely proud man, especially of his son Christopher, daughter Stacey, and wife Sue of 31 years (whom of which about a 100% of us know wink, wink). His most recent accomplishment even brought Lynn to say he was proud of himself. Five decades. My guess is he will make it to seven or eight.
Lynn and I shared some time recently at an Edmonton Oiler Hockey game. There was lots of time to talk as the Oilers weren’t exactly lighting it up. From similar questions as my Eastern compadre please read on to see answers from the Sock Man, my mentor, the legend, Mr. Lynn Howell.
At what age did you start bowling?
7 I think
Did you play YBC? Yes
If "yes", do you remember what you average was in Bantam, Junior and Senior?
Last Year junior 192, Last Year Senior 252
How many league games do you currently play per week?
Just one league, 5 games, match play
What is the highest number of leagues you've ever played at one time?
3, Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 1975 – 1986
What is your current average?
What is/was your highest EVER league average?
270, 3 times
At what stage(s) of your development did your average drastically improve, and what lead to the significant change?
From the age of 17 – 19, maturity and the desire of wanting to be better
In your prime, did you normally practice each week? If "yes" approximately for how long?
No just league
Did you specifically practice before a big tournament? If so, what methods/drills do you use?
No, just a lot of positive mental thoughts
How many "sets" of balls do you own? 2, but only use one set, 47/8, 3lbs 6c soft acrylic
What is/was your favourite event to compete in, and why?
Probably the Autumn Open in Calgary at Thanksgiving because in the final round you can’t be eliminated and can always bounce back, but any high competition is great.
What is/was your favourite bowling centre(s), and why?
EDMONTON – Windsor, and Bonnie Doon
CALGARY – Chinook and Paradise Lanes
SASKATOON – KG
I always feel confident in these places and had many great accomplishments.
Which conditions/environments do you prefer? String or Freefall, Wood or Synthetic
That has never really affected any of my results
If you are throwing the ball consistently and are punching HEADPINS in bunches, how would you normally adjust?
I was stubborn and never really changed many things in my prime, I just kept throwing at the middle. Head pins are frustrating but are a part of our game, being afraid of punching is more damaging than actual punching, the idea is to put good fingers or rotation on the ball and if you don’t get a strike at least break up the middle and get a spare. Being afraid to throw a shot is a lack of confidence, and that will kill you.
If you needed 16 points in the tenth frame to win a match, what strategy would you use? In other words, would you throw normally or play thin/chisel? Explain.
First thing is positive thoughts, and then execution, never ever throw afraid.
What was the best or highest scoring "singles" that you were involved in?
450 3 times, one time in tournament and 2 times in league. 3 different bowling alleys, 2 String and 1 Freefall
What is your proudest moment in bowling?
So many great moments and accomplishments that stick out. Being a good teammate and all the respect from bowlers across the country is unbelievable. I have had the luxury of bowling with some of the best bowlers in this country on Edmonton teams and Alberta masters. Winning the 1995 tournament singles in the masters in Saskatoon sticks out, I was 17-4 in round robin play and averaged 298 for 4 days including a 600 double in the finals. Throwing 1235 triple in Kelowna in 1994, 30 strikes and four corners out of 34 balls. 450, 399, 386 and 318 average for 10 games. Making the Edmonton zone Open Team this year 2011, to make 5 decades of bowling in the Open, first year 1975 in Calgary.
Being a part of the Saskatchewan Youth Bowling School for approximately 20 years and working with the kids always make me feel good. I could go on forever, the game has been good to me.
What is your have a "most embarrassing" moment? (If any)
Any time I have lost my tempter and didn’t control it accordingly, after preaching good behaviour.
Personalized bowling balls have been around for just over 20 years now. Before that, players had to adjust not only to different lanes, but to the different sizes and types of house balls. While personal balls are good for the image of 5-Pin, I also think that they have levelled the field somewhat because players can use different balls for certain conditions. Would you agree with that assessment and do you think that they're good for the game?
I felt differently, I think personal balls have widened the gap in our game. I think the 235-240 average bowlers have some flaws that keep them at the level and the 250 and above bowlers now have more consistent equipment that has raised their game. The better bowlers are better thinkers not just bowlers and now can be even better with personalized equipment.
Growing up, what mentors or idols (if any) did you have? And how did they influence you?
I watched everyone to see what worked and why and watched how they handled themselves and what people had to say about them. Brian Goodhope, Dwight Anderson, Roy Cunningham, Stan Black, Clare Lakeman all from Alberta, Wayne Davies from Vancouver, Tom Paterson from Saskatoon, Doug Wood and Norm Shanas from Winnipeg.
Who are some of the rivals that you really respect? What about them makes them great?
I respected everyone, the minute you don’t respect them, they kicked your butt because you were not mentally ready, but I never feared anyone.
What current players do you enjoy watching, and why?
Anyone throwing the ball well is fun to watch. Bruce Morter for sure, I have had the pleasure of watching, competing with and against, and is the most dynamic player I have been associated with. He has raised the entire level of bowling in the Province of Alberta for the last 30 years.
Because of their different styles I like Dave Jorgensen, pure smoothness of Mike Bates and Greg Gigliuk, the emotion of Kevin Holdsworth and Matt Schultz and the pure talent of Geno Ziebarth, Brian Goodhope, Tom Paterson, Tom Stevenson, Mark Jackson, Doug Mosdell, Doug Wood, Wane Davies, Blair Pizzey, Mark Johnstone and many others. This game is always enjoyable to watch.
What positives do you see with the current "state" of the game?
The coaching and the potential in all these good young bowlers.
What, if anything, really concerns you about our game?
The lack of concern some proprietors have for the higher average bowler and the amount of drinking alcohol with some of the younger bowlers.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
I love soccer just as much as bowling, and I am a real wimp with pets!
And finally, what advice would you give to a bowler who's looking to improve their game?
Don’t try to be perfect because you always dwell on the negative, instead be consistent, the best thinkers usually win not the best throwers. Understand your own game, get a routine so you can execute consistently and always, always give yourself positive reinforcing thoughts.
· 450 Perfect Game, 3 times
· 1235 Triple
· 3182 for 10 games
· 21 Strikes in a Row
· 7 Cash Tournament Victories, and nearly $200,000 in career earnings
· Over 150 games of 400 or better
· Averaged 270 three times
· Been to 39 National Championships, 25 Tournament Masters and 14 Open Nationals
· 16 Nationals as a Player, 18 as a Coach, and 5 as Singles
· Medalled 28 out of 39 times including 17 Gold Medals
· Medalled in every province who has hosted a National tournament
· 1995 Gold Medal Masters Singles Champion where average 298 over 4 days
· Has started with 9 strikes in a row 12 times
· Made an Open team in 5 straight decades
· Selected as a one of Canada’s Top 100 Bowlers of All Time