Thursday, March 31, 2011

Steve Barker's 23 Questions

23 Questions with…Jeff Young

I might get fired for this! Wait, can volunteers even get "fired"?

When Jeff and I started talking about adding an interview segment to his site, unbeknownst to him, he was one of the first people I had in mind.

I first really noticed Jeff when he was just out of YBC. He was a fiery, demonstrative little guy, with loads of talent and attitude. You didn't have to be KRESKIN to realize that once he matured on the lanes and gained some experience, he'd be a force to be reckoned with. Well he has, and he is.

In the last several years, Jeff has turned himself into one of Ontario's finest players.

Jeff has 2 Tournament wins in the MBAO and has 2 Golds, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze in the Masters Nationals.

On two occasions, Jeff has won Mens team Gold at the Ontario Open and at the 2009 Open Nationals, he was named to the All-Star team.

During those 2009 Provincials, Jeff went on a remarkable run, bowling 10 out of 14 games over 300, and setting 8-game (2641), 9-game (2949, with a 202 first game) and 14-game (4267) records!! Incidentally, his 14-game record beat the previous 15-game record by 65 pins! Jeff also shot his high triple of 1101 and his high five of 1790 during this stretch.

Other career bests include a 440 single and a 270 average. Jeff is currently averaging 267 and each year is one of the more popular "Pros" at our O5PBA Bowling School.

Jeff also joined some other Canadians by competing and having some success in Duckpin events States-side. He recently placed 17th in "Bowler of the Year" rankings, having played in only 4 of the 8 events. His 148 average was 6th on the tour and he was the first Canadian to be named "Rookie of the Year". His best single of 212 included a four-bagger, which is rare in Duckpin!

I hope you enjoy Jeff's honesty and candid insight as we take a look at the man behind "5-pin Bowling Canada".

Tell us a bit about your bowling career got started.
I started bowling around 3 or 4 years old. I used to bowl with my family down the street from my parents’ house at a place called Mohawk Lanes. When I was enrolled in YBC I started a Sherwood. I played at Sherwood until the start of my last year of bantams where my parents enrolled me at Mountain Lanes. I returned to Sherwood to bowl with my brother for his last year of YBC then went back to Mountain to finish my YBC career.

You switched between Sherwood and Mountain? Did that cause any dissention with folks? I've heard there was a "bit" of a rivalry between the two centres.
I was actually threatened to be fired once from Sherwood for switching back to Mountain Lanes. That speaks volumes of the dislike there was between the two places. Aside from that one year in seniors, my brother bowled at Sherwood and I played at Mountain. There was always the attitude that you always wanted to win, but if you didn’t win, you hoped to hell that other bowling alley wasn’t the one that finished first.

And what was your average throughout your time with the YBC program?
Bantam: around 150
Juniors: just under 200
Seniors: 255
I was around 215 or so after my first year of seniors. I went to a relatively new concept the following summer in my hometown of Hamilton called Bowling School and saw my average jump to nearly 240. Spending a week during the summer around the best in the province made me want to stand in their shoes one day more than anything. I think it was a real experience for me to see what was attainable if I worked hard.

Who coached you in your younger years?
There were a lot of people that I feel are responsible for where I am today. Obviously my parents, and my grandmother as well. They taught me goal setting and mental imagery even at a young age. Switching over to Mountain in bantams was one of the best moves for me. I was lucky enough to have Kristy Hyatt (now Luker) coach me in Bantams. She made bowling fun for me while having goals to go after. I remember bowling 287 in back to back weeks on the team she coached while still throwing with 2 hands. Juniors and Seniors had me learning from Mountain Lanes legends Don Hyatt and Mike Bentley. Bentley would spend hours on a Friday night coaching myself and another until sometimes 2am. That was the first time I ever had someone be critical of the shots I made. Sometimes I would throw strikes and he’d point out flaws still. He taught me that getting a good result sometimes isn’t reflective of throwing a good ball.

There were many Hamilton players about your age who have gone on to success in the adult ranks. Who were some of your rivals back then, and how much do you think it helps having lots of competition growing up?
The two that really come to mind are my brother John and Dave Birkby. Being 2 years younger than John and 1 year younger than Birkby really pushed me to work at my game. They were the bar that I set my standards on. To always have that bar set above anywhere you’ve ever reached before, by guys a couple years older than you really makes you WANT to be those guys when you get to their age. The general competition back then in Seniors was absolutely crazy in Hamilton. I remember qualifying for Senior Mixed with a 1428 for 5. My brother was over 1400 in second and third was just under 1400. Also, in my brother’s last year of YBC we fielded a team from Sherwood where everyone on the team was 245+ in average AND we fielded my brother as the singles competitor. To be surrounded by that level of competition even on a weekly basis in league, really gave you a sense of urgency to work hard at your game so that you didn’t get left behind.

Growing up in Hamilton, as you hit the adult ranks there were many great players to learn from. Who, in particular helped to positively influence your career?
There are a lot of people that took the time to make me better and there were always people that helped me get better without saying a word. I’ve always been strong at reading people and I spent A LOT of time watching people, how they attack situations, how they handled pressure and stuff like that. I found my game really took off after bowling a year with Mike Bates on a league team. I’ve implemented so many things from him into my game to this day. He was an elite player that I got to watch up close on a weekly basis AND talk to him about some of the smaller less noticeable parts of the game. He was always big on strategy and I took all that knowledge in over time. I also spent a lot of time watching Connie Ward, Brenda Walters, Matt Dragun and John Conti playing in elite situations and how they went about success. Watching those that succeed allows you to see what makes them into winners. Those players never saw success by accident, and to watch how they went to work and how they play the game is a valuable thing to take notice of.

Your Mom, Priscilla was a wonderful lady and a great supporter of our game. Sadly, she succumbed to cancer following a valiant battle with that terrible disease. When you were younger, you were "ultra" intense and I felt that sometimes your emotion and temper got the best of you. Following your Mom's passing, you seemed to really mature on the lanes and thus, your career really took off and your game went to the next level. Do you think this was coincidental as you were just a little older and wiser, or did the terrible ordeal of losing your Mom give you a little more "perspective" that there was more to life than bowling?
To say I was a "mommas boy" would've been an understatement. We shared the same birthday, were both left handed and worked at the bowling alley for years together. She was the reason I played competitive bowling and still is to this day. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer I made her a promise that I'd win a Masters National title for her or win an event. Looking back at it now, I can't believe I made such a profound promise. I hadn't done ANYTHING of significance previous to that moment. I'll spare the details but there I was, in Gatineau QC, making a phone call to my mom with one game to go, having clinched the Gold. That's honestly the last time I've ever been nervous bowling. I don't remember much about that last game other than I barely held it together. It was a feeling of absolute joy while being torn into little pieces at the same time. Since that very moment I’ve played to make her proud. That would be where the difference lies. I still HATE to lose, but now the reasons are different. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I'm still beyond intense, I just harness that energy differently I guess.

During Open qualifying this year, you and your brother John battled for the last Singles spot? What was it like competing against your brother and how will the two of you get along on a team? Do you have any other previous memorable battles with John?
My brother and I are two peas in a pod. We play the game the same way and are intense to the very last ounce. I haven’t been lucky enough to play on the same team as my brother since YBC, and even then it was on a very rare occasion. I know how we’ll get along on the same team, however I fear for the rest of the team. Ha-ha. Over the past couple years he’s really worked hard to get where he is and it’s great to have him doing great things on the lanes. As for competing against my brother, I don’t really looking at it as against him. I am my brother’s biggest supporter and fan so I am pulling for him to reach success even if it means at my expense.

As for previous battles, I’d like to give you some crazy thrilling battle between my brother and I, but it hasn’t really happened. Coming up through YBC he was always way above my abilities in bowling and I was better known as John’s brother than as Jeff. A couple years after I was out of YBC my brother quit bowling altogether. It hasn’t been until the past couple years that he’s gone back to competitive bowling. I find that makes for an exciting future with hopefully many memorable battles yet to come, but battles where we’re on the same side, taking it out on others.

You've always had to compete in one of the deepest and most talented zones in Ontario, so your "years of Open experience" might pale to those who've always played in easier zones. Do you resent this, or do you appreciate the fact that every time you DO qualify, you'll be on a great team with a chance to win?
I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My girlfriend (Jen Galbraith) says Hamilton is like its own little world when it comes to bowling. We take our game very seriously here and we work really hard to get where we are. I think we all appreciate qualifying to make the Open, and I think everyone should regardless of where they play. You can’t take things for granted because things can change quickly and there’s always someone out there working hard to take your spot. Now that I live in a different zone, I still elect to play for Hamilton, not because I think one team has a better chance than another, but because I’ll always see myself playing for Hamilton, playing with my close friends that I grew up competing with.

As I mentioned above, in 2009 you went on an unbelievable run at the Open Provincials, amongst other things, averaging over 350 for 6 consecutive games. Were you aware of the numbers you were putting up, and how were you able to sustain that level for so long?
And did it help that, while you averaged over 300 for 14 games leading off, that Mitch Davies was shooting over 290 during that stretch while bowling 2nd?
First off, I don’t think Mitch has ever really gotten the recognition he deserves for not only playing at that level at the open, but doing it as a rookie. As for the bowling on my end, I really attribute the environment I was in for really being responsible for how I played. To start, as you said, I had Mitch bowling behind me averaging 290 in the 2 spot. There were games where I started on 5 or 6 in a row and was in danger of Mitch being ahead of me after 8 frames. That’s healthy competition. Second, if you look at the team, they were people I consider family. It’s easier to be comfortable in a pressure tournament when you have absolute trust in your teammates. You don’t worry about throwing the strike, because you have faith in the other guys being there to throw the strikes if you don’t.

The thing that I think makes The Open such a great tournament to play is that each game has the same importance. It’s nice to have a 350 game but starting the next game you’re right back at zero bowling against someone who doesn’t care what you had the next game. We all realized I was putting up some good scores but it wasn’t like there was a scoreboard to look at adding up each and every game. After we finished, and I got talking to people, I realized exactly the scores. To this day I still say that I’ll never bowl a day like that again.

Your run was one of the most amazing things I've seen so, as a fan, what are some of your most memorable bowling moments involving others?
3 definitely come to mind….I’ll save the toughest for the last, because it wasn’t more of a fan point of view, but much deeper.

1. Watching Kris Babuik dismantle the entire stepladder on his way to winning the Ontario Open singles. To say he was on fire wouldn’t fit the part. I wish I could remember his exact scores but all I remember was the crowd booing him every time he didn't throw a strike. And I can tell you, there weren’t many opportunities to boo, that’s for sure.

2. I remember Santo Chiodo and Jason Procher bowling at NEB’s in a Master’s event head to head match play. They both started on the first 9 against each other. Procher ended up tossing the last 3 strikes to win his match.
Ah yes, Santo picked in 10 for 387 and Jason struck out for 450. The funny part about that one was that Santo didn't know it was a double-knockout and thought he has done for the day.

3. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, they gave her 6 months tops to live. The following bowling season she was back bowling in league, averaging just under 200 while battling cancer. She was a fighter and a bowler to the very end.

You mentioned those who have helped you with your career, but simply as a fan, who do you enjoy watching?
I’ll answer this question in a different way to start, and then I’ll give you the more traditional answer. If I could create in my mind, the perfect bowler, I would take Connie Ward’s versatility, Brenda Walters’ consistency, Mitch Davies’ technical background, Jim Head’s release and Matt Dragun’s charisma. Each have amazing strengths but in different ways.

As for the more traditional answer, I’ve always enjoyed smooth fireballers like Matt Schultz, Lee Escott and Bernie Hipkins (duckpin). I think Eric Ridgeway throws the smoothest ball I’ve ever seen anywhere in the country. I’ve also definitely enjoyed watching my girlfriend Jen’s daughter Sam bowl in 4 Steps as well, knowing that she’s around the same level I was at the same age yet throws a way nicer ball than I did back then. The kids in YBC are the future of our game and their progress shows us where our game will be in the years to come.

What is your favourite centre to play at?
Definitely Sherwood. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that knows me. I don’t mean the Sherwood everyone sees for the Open at Easter time every year either. I mean the bowling alley you walk into week after week. That place can make you want to pull out your hair, tests your sanity and in the long run, makes you a better player. 48 lanes broken down into quads of 12, and I assure you those quads could be considered 4 different bowling alleys.

And what is your favourite tournament, and why?
Definitely the Ontario Open. I really think that you really wouldn’t understand how impressive this single event is until you’ve witnessed it. I’ve told YBC bowlers and anyone really looking to find that drive to be better to come by and just watch. It’s really something to see some of Ontario’s finest players, doing amazing things on the lanes in this pressure packed event. I mean, there are bowlers out there who base whether their entire season is a success or failure strictly around this tournament. The experience is just unbelievable from both a spectator and a bowler point of view.

Your career best game was 440, so I must ask, on the 12th shot did you miss or pick?
Pitched out right. Didn’t rush the shot, everything was smooth, I just flat out missed. I’d like to say I was rusty since it was the first game of the year in our Wednesday Pro League but the truth is, I’d been playing the Duckpin Tour in the States during the summer. I’ll get that 12th shot one of these days I’m sure.

You're coming off of a couple of excellent years on the lanes, but what accomplishments are still on your bowling "bucket list"?
I wouldn’t say I really have a bucket list I guess. I’d definitely like to play singles at the National level but if I don’t I won’t lose sleep over it. I think maybe priority number one would be to medal at the Open Nationals on the men’s team. Not necessarily for my own accord but I know that there’s a group of guys from here in Hamilton that have worked really hard to achieve some success at the National level and it’s escaped us to this day. If I was wearing a gold medal around my neck one day at the Open Nationals for singles and the guys I play with were there on the men’s team with their first gold as a group, I think be a bit disappointed not to be there standing with the other guys I consider my family. I’d pick a team title over singles any day just for the fact that I’d have others to share it with.

You've joined Connie Ward and others in going south to play on the Duckpin tour. Can you tell us about some of the differences between the two sports, and is there anything from your Duckpin experience that has helped your 5-pin game?
Connie, Brian Whalen and I have talked about the Duckpin game improving our 5pin games. Stepping back to really think about it, I think Duckpin has fine tuned my aim. In the Duckpin game, since there are 10 pins, you sometimes are shooting at pins that have no place in the 5pin game, which really makes you assess the path your ball must travel to hit them. If I shoot at the 8 pin in Duckpin, I would throw the ball that would travel between the headpin and the right 3pin in our 5pin game

As far as differences in the games go, there are a few, but they aren’t really striking differences. Both games use the same sized ball. (Although they allow for a 3lb 12oz) The Duckpin tours are organized in the way that you must check in 30 minutes before your shift, and they measure the diameter and the weight of all the bowling balls in your bowling bag to assure they’re within regulations. I think this is something that could be implemented into the game of 5pin. I know several people that use overweight or bowling balls beyond our size limitations. What’s the sense of having these limitations when they’re never enforced? The biggest adjustment I had to make while playing Duckpin would be the courtesy rule they have. Ours is ball for ball courtesy but Duckpin uses frame for frame courtesy. There were many times where I’d throw a shot and leave say, the 10 pin and step off the lane and look at the guy next to me. He’s waiting for me to shoot my spare shot before he can go. That took a good few games to get used to.

What are the main concerns you have with 5-Pin and what can be done to improve our game?
We need to be PROACTIVE to improve this game. I hear people frequently complaining about where the game is going or how everything’s gotten stale. Everyone involved in bowling is to blame- Our organizations, leagues and even down to the bowlers. If there are changes needed to be made to gain exposure or to slow reducing numbers, make changes. I understand that not all changes are a simple fix but I think everyone needs to check their egos at the door and work to fix any problems that they come across. Here in Hamilton we were at risk of our Wednesday Night Pro League folded due to reducing numbers. The league was always a Men’s league strictly and some of the prouder long standing members fought the concept of changing it to a mixed league. There were heated debates, hurt feelings etc, but finally we opened up the league to a mixed format and our numbers have soared. That’s not to say that we can get complacent now and that the league will be a success forever. Just like it took some of the bright young stars coming up in that league voicing their concerns and sharing their ideas to fix the league, we may see the same trend in the same league for a different fix years down the road. The world is constantly changing and bowling is no different. Bowling will only be as successful as we allow it to be.

I also carry the concern of how our future stars of the game are not getting the attention they deserve. I hear yearly at our Bowling School that they don’t really have access to coaching or they don’t know who to turn to for bowling advice. This is the main reason I started this blog site. I was really lucky to have bowled in Hamilton my entire life and was always surrounded by great players that taught me what I needed to be successful. Not everyone out there is that lucky. If we can’t bring the knowledge they need to the lanes, at least we have an internet source for them to check out, and get into contact with some stars and legends of our game from across the country.

And finally, what advice would you give to bowlers who are looking to improve?
Every bowler has strengths and weaknesses. I would offer that if you’re looking at improving your game, and let’s face it, we all are, then you should identify your weaknesses and work on them. If there is something you find that you’re not happy with, it won’t simply fix itself. It deserves the attention needed to improve that aspect in order you make you a stronger bowler altogether.

Also, challenge yourself. When I was in Juniors I joined an adult mixed league. The league had averages ranging from over 250 to 150. Being around the 200 range I strived to get my level to the higher tiered bowlers in the league while still in a comfortable environment. As I said before, there’s always room to improve and you should never take your abilities for granted. As NBA star Kevin Durant has said, “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

For those bowlers that are already in the higher percentage of average (I’m talking 230+ range), consider reading sports psychology books. I read a book called “The Talent Code” a few years ago and it really elevated my game and thought process. Right now, I’ve started reading a book called “Choke” that I’ve already found useful.

You've put a lot of time, effort and resources into this website, and I understand that you've gotten some positive feedback on it so far. Keep up the good work!
Thanks Steve, this site’s success is reflective of all the contributors’ time and effort to help improve our game and your contributions have gone a long, long way in where we are today on this site.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Defying The Odds – Better With Age?

By Fraser Hambly

Is it possible that a bowler can have the best years of his/her career past the age of sixty? Like a good wine that gets better with age, John Mattioli seems to exemplify that adage. In all sports, one’s ability diminishes with age. Even in golf, the oldest winner ever on the Regular Tour was 52. On the Senior Tour the oldest winner has been 63, and there have only been a few winners over the age of 60. Obviously, in sports you don’t get better after a certain age, but in 5-pin bowling, John Mattioli seems to DEFY THE ODDS.

Born in Fano, Italy in 1938, John immigrated to Canada in 1959, settling in Toronto in 1960. Always a fine bocce player, John won numerous tourneys with Vic Terminesi in the 60’s, and started 5-pin bowling in 1962. He quickly established himself and bowled with the famous Darrigo’s team in the top major leagues of the day. In fact, he qualified to bowl on the early CBC show in 1963 – only a year after he started bowling. John continued to improve and was a member of the Eastern Canadian Men’s team representing Toronto in 1968. Entering the final game, the Toronto team was 239 behind the Niagara team when John bowled a 389 as part of a 1500+ game that propelled the Toronto team to a 14 pin victory. In ’72 and’73, John won the high average in the Friday night Major league with marks of 269 and 275, and he captured an Ace Invitational in ‘72 with a final game of 378 to overtake “yours truly” who had the lead and bowled a 335. He also won the Streetsville Classic in the early 70’s. Clearly, John was a fine player, but the best was yet to come – many years later!

John cut back on his bowling beginning in ‘74 because of arm problems and he developed a “rubber-banded duckpin reverse spin” delivery. John bowled only once a week from ’74 to ’83 and qualified intermittently for the Open. In ’83 John joined the MBAO and started working on his game once more. In ’85 he switched back to a conventional delivery. He started averaging 260 in his leagues, but not in the Masters and he wasn’t winning tournaments.

John began to turn it all around in ’88 at the age of 50, and he won some important titles in his 60’s and he is still winning at the age of 73. From ’88 on, he qualified for the Ontario Open virtually every year and he almost won the Singles in 2000 losing a tough final to David Michael 285-320. He was a member of the 2002 victorious Central Ontario Men’s team, 34 years after having won with Toronto!! In the MBAO he kept improving and won 2 tournaments in ’98, and was a member of the ’99 and ’00 Ontario Men’s team – the ’00 team winning gold. In addition, he won the strong MBAO Senior men’s scratch aggregate in ’01, ’07 (won POA also), ’10, and he leads in ’11 after the first 3 tourneys. John also became successful in other tournaments and high averages. He won the NEB’s 369 tourney and $2000 in ’01 and he won the high average in the Toronto Major League in ’99 and ’01. He also won the Streetsville Majors high average in ’98, ’99 and ’00 averaging over 270 each year, and he has won the Brampton Majors high average every year but twice since ’03, and is presently leading again with 267. John also won the prestigious Cadbury Bowlerama Ontario Match Play tournament in ’02. He opened the ’03 season with a victory in an MBAO Seniors Event and has won 4 more times since, including the opening event this year. He also threw the winning shots in the inaugural Ontario Senior Open in ’04. It’s truly remarkable that he has had this incredible success, especially in his 60’s and 70’s!!!

All of this begs the question – How did he get better with age? Obviously John always had considerable talent. Like most other good players, he went through a rough spot in his bowling career. However, what’s truly remarkable is that John eventually retuned to a level higher than before, and he did it at an age when most other’s careers are on the downturn. John credits his resurgence to several factors. Personalized balls and improved shoes were important to him. Bowling more again was beneficial, his ball working better on the newer lane conditions, and keeping in good physical condition were also factors. But the two biggest factors were that he was hungry to get back into competition, and that success started breeding more and more confidence.

John was inducted into the Central Ontario 5-Pin Bowling Hall of Fame in ’00 and into the O5PBA in ’04. Although other bowlers across the country have performed at a fairly high level into their sixties and seventies, probably nobody has had so much success – and he is most likely not done yet – after all he has DEFIED THE ODDS successfully already!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


23 Questions With….Stephane Lapensee

When we're little kids, birthdays mean cake, ice cream, pizza parties, friends and lots of cool presents. As we get older, a birthday hopefully consists of spending time with family, and often those you don't get to see as much as you'd like. On Monday, March 14th, Steph Lapensee of Arnprior, Ontario was celebrating his 37th birthday, and it was going just fine. You see, Steph was able to enjoy a birthday dinner with his 17 year-old son, Sean. It was the first time since Christmas that the two were able to sit down together. It was a perfect birthday- and it didn't end there! After dinner, Steph headed off to West Park Lanes in Ottawa for his Monday night league, no-doubt ecstatic about the evening he'd had, and unprepared for the magic that was left to come.

A five-game league at West Park, Steph started slowly with a 229 start. In the second game, he started with 7 consecutive strikes and finished with 312. In his 3rd game, Steph went one better, starting on 8-in-a-row and shooting 374. With 915 for the first three, the average person would call that a great "present" and would cruise through the rest of the night. Well Steph is far from the average person. In the fourth game, he didn't stop at 7 strikes, nor did he stop at 8! In fact, he didn't stop at all! That's right, Steph, on his birthday, threw all 12 strikes for his second career "Perfect" 450 game!! Incredible!!

He'd go on to add a 258 fifth game to his four-game total of 1365, giving him a whopping total of 1623! His average is now 286!! (That's 1430 per night, kids!)

Steph's bowling career started in 1986. His best friend would take off for a couple hours each Saturday, until one time when he just asked Steph, "Why don't you come and try it"? Well he did try it, and loved it, and joined the YBC that day. In his first year of Junior, Steph averaged 163 and qualified for the 4-Steps to Stardom where his team won the Zone Championship, allowing Steph to advance to his first Provincial final.

The next year, Steph's first year of Senior, he raised his average to 203, winning the league's Most Improved Bowler award and once again made it to the 4-Steps Provincials.
He would continue to improve, and in 1993 qualified for the Ontario Winter Games in Cornwall. Although he wasn't the highest average on the team, their coach, Alex Vande Pol saw something in him and put him in the "anchor" position. Steph went on to average 268 for the event, being named to the All-Star team in the process.

The rest, as they say, is history. Steph has gone on to become one of the premier players in the country. Although he may "fly a little under the radar", because he resides in the east end of the province, and hasn't played much in the Tournament Masters- he shouldn't!!

In Steph's first try at the Open, he won the Ottawa Valley Zone, which included shooting 3040 for ten at Walkley Lanes in Ottawa! He has gone on to represent Ottawa Valley 13 times at the Provincials, winning one team title. On 10 occasions, Steph has qualified for Singles, finishing as high as 3rd. He will once again head to Hamilton this Easter as Ottawa Valley's Zone Champion!

In 2006, Steph appeared on the TSN series and won 3 matches before losing to his good friend, Terry Little in the final. Steph earned $5000 in that event, and the very next month won the Sherwood Challenge, pocketing $8000 more.

Steph has several other local Tournament victories under his belt, including the event in Smiths Falls that he has won 4 times!!

When they're not competing on the lanes, Steph and his wife Diane (a fine player in her own right) are giving back to the game by running the YBC program at Opeongo Bowl in Renfrew, just north of their home in Arnprior. Their kids Sean, Pascal, Carly and Brayden also keep them busy.

I was able to interview Steph, just days after his "magical" Monday.

Steph, thanks for doing this, and happy "belated"! Take me back a few days, did you get a "sense" that something special was about to happen?
It was already a special day, getting to spend time with my son. As far as bowling, I had no idea that something like that was going to happen. My first game was 229, and it wasn't even HP problems. After that, I just got on a roll. (I'll say!) And having an opportunity to bowl one 450 in a lifetime is great, but bowling two of them is beyond what words can say.

You have one of the most balanced and consistent approaches anywhere, did this come naturally or did you have to work at it?
I had to work at it as I used four steps in YBC, starting at the back of the approach. I shortened it three or four years into adult competition.

What or who else helped in your development?
Once I was out of YBC, I joined YABA where most graduating bowlers end up going to bowl their tournaments. I soon realized that my 218 average was not competing with a lot of the adults. Now don't get me wrong, 218 is respectable for YBC bowlers competing with YBC bowlers, but for the adults…not so much. From that point forward I said to myself that I had to get better. I approached two of my coaches, Rick Morin and Kevin Jepson, and asked them "how can I improve as a bowler?"

Also, it helped that for the next five years I worked at Walkley Lanes and took advantage of being able to practice. I worked 3 nights a week and bowled 2 nights a week. I would go into work an hour early each shift to practice the things I was being told to work on. At that point every year, I gave myself personal goals. In my first year, my goal was to average 230 and my actual average ended at 236. My next goal was to reach 240 and I finished that year at 244. The next year, my goal was 250 and I ended up averaging 256. That's when I started trying money tournaments and the OPEN.

Wow, hard work does pay off doesn’t it! To give our readers a sense of your lane "strategy", what do you use for a target?
My "spot" is the center arrow.

Do you aim for a particular pocket?
Yes, I aim for the left pocket. Having said that, my common mistake is dropping my shoulder, which forces me to twist my wrist. I realize that when that happens, the ball will cross over to the right pocket, still giving me a chance at the strike.

How many sets of balls do you take to a tournament?
I have three sets of balls in my bowling bag. 2 sets are Softrolls (different sizes) and I have one set of Aramiths.

Do you have a set you use most often, and how do you decide which ones to use?
I finally decided 3 years ago to try a set of Softrolls and I've been using those ever since, improving my average a little bit.

How do you adjust if you're picking a lot of headpins?
Well, that depends on the reason I'm punching those famous Headpins…If my ball is moving too much I will move up a little to try to get the ball there a little bit sooner. If that doesn't work, I change the position of my thumb when I'm in my stance.

Steph, you play in one of the most talented and deepest zones in Ontario, so qualifying 13 times, including 10 as a Singles rep is amazing. Do you ever wish that you were in an easier zone? Or do you like the challenge of having to compete with so many good players and also knowing that you're always going to be on a strong team if you make it?
Easier Zones?? The zones are starting to be more competitive, but I wouldn't want to change a thing as I enjoy the competition way too much!! What do they say? If you want to be the best you have to bowl with the best and that's what I would like to be at the end of my journey.
Don’t worry about offending anyone Steph, I said "easier" not "easy". Things are definitely much tougher out there now that more zones have amalgamated, but your zone as well as Hamilton, Central, and several others have a much deeper talent pool than some of the others-mine included! Just stating the facts! (And awaiting hate-mail)

From your first Youth Challenge experience, you've always been put in a prominent position in the line-up, usually anchor or first, and always playing top bowlers on opposing teams. Do you find this mentally straining over a grind of eight or nine team games in one day, or do you simply enjoy the challenge? Or do you even think about THAT?
I'm the type of bowler that will not back down from a challenge, and bowling in those pressure positions is what I enjoy! It can be straining mentally, but as you mature as a competitive bowler you find a way to handle those situations.

You mentioned a couple of your coaches earlier, but have any players or coaches helped you with your adult career?
During a YABA tournament at Neb's in the late 1990's, I was supposed to bowl in Scratch Doubles with Marc Goneau, but he ended up not being able to attend. Mike Wegman, who ran our league at the time, ended up finding me a replacement in David Michael, whose average at the time was 281, which was much higher than mine. As the tournament went on, David pointed out some of the differences in our games, and how it affected us average-wise. One of the stats he pointed out, and I still use to this day, is efficiency in sparing corner pins. He was about 90% and I was around 75% so I worked on that and have improved it now. Thanks, David!!

Are there any fellow players that you really enjoy watching now?
I enjoy watching Hall-of-Famer, Bernie Menard. I first met Bernie when I worked at Walkley Lanes in the mid-90s. It was the same day that he appeared on the CBC Championships and I couldn't figure out how he made it back to Ottawa so fast from bowling that afternoon in Winnipeg (Until he told me why). He's been my idol since that day.

One of the times that you won the Smiths Falls tournament, you apparently didn't need to play the same number of frames as your competitors- please explain.
It was a weekend where we had to move our clock forward, and I had forgotten. I was on a city bus on the way to meet my ride when I got a call on my cell. At that point my ride had to leave as I was about 20 minutes away, so I called one of my friends, who drove me to Smiths Falls. They were in the third frame when I got there, so I started in the fourth frame. I think I bowled 186 for that game. With 2 games to go, I needed a 712 double to pass the top score which was 2940. I ended up bowling 356 and 370 to win the tournament. I couldn't believe it!

And there was something different about your first ever money tournament victory. Can you tell us about that?
Well, before joining the YBC in 1986-87, I bowled Youth 10-pin the year before, but didn't like it, so I switched to 5-pin. Later on in my YBC years, my family still bowled 10-pin in a fun league on Friday nights, so I also joined again. They had an event at Prost Lanes in Kingston called the "Survival Tournament". It was 20 games in one day. A lot of our league bowlers attended so I decided to try it. I was averaging 162 that year and this was a handicap Tournament. I averaged 189 and won $800!!

Luckily, there are lots of tournaments in the Ottawa area and into the Gatineau region of Quebec to keep you busy, how much of a grind is it to get to other events in Southern Ontario, many of which are 7 or 8 hours away?
The tournaments that I look into are the ones that will give me a chance to pay for my trip if I was to make the cut. Having said that, a tournament around Toronto is probably going to cost me $300 to $400, so if I was to make the cut and receive $200 or better, I would most likely be there.

Okay, here's a coaching question. It drives me nuts to see kids with all kinds of talent, but who are unwilling to change a few things or work a little bit harder to improve their game. I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without making changes when I was younger and luckily I had a great coach who I respected and who also gave me a swift kick in the pants when needed. We just read how hard you had to work to get where you are. We never want to "grandstand" or use ourselves as examples when working with kids, so how frustrating is it for you trying to work with someone who could improve, but won't listen or try something new? And how do you handle it?
You are not alone Steve! It drives me nuts, too. Now if we, as coaches can't change their minds, all we can try to do is stay positive for as long as he/she is in our program, and try at every opportunity that we have to encourage them. Someday, they will realize that the coach is right.
Agreed! Although our program has so many kids, I end up spending time working with the ones who want to improve. Sometimes talking to the parents helps. On more than one occasion, I've said to a parent "I've suggested this and this and this to Billy and he won't listen…Guess he wants to average 140 all his life". Blunt, but sometimes it works.

What is your favourite thing about 5-pin?
My favourite thing is the competition! It is so great! When you could have 80-90 of the better bowlers in Southern Ontario in one spot at any time….That is awesome!!

And finally, what advice would you give to others looking to improve their games?
Well, for the young ones coming out of YBC…You are not in YBC anymore! The competition is a lot better. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you become a better bowler!

For the rest, do what I do. My goal, every time I go bowling, whether it's league, tournament or even just to practice, try to throw as many good balls as you can! Our sport is the hardest to master of all the bowling games out there so remember that!

Great job, Steph and thanks for your time.

Thanks a lot Steve, it was fun!!
See you in Hamilton!

Can't wait! We'll see you there.

Monday, March 21, 2011


By Tom Paterson

There is no argument that the follow through represents the most important skill set. You can have all sorts of malformed approach and delivery nuances or have the very best of a simple flowing approach and delivery but… the bottom line remains ‘a productive efficient follow through will make or break anything that precedes it. It is therefore obvious, if there is any one skill set to master make it the follow through.

It seems from my observation that Instructors and coaches are now just beginning to understand the elements of an efficient follow through. As importantly instructors, coaches as well as the athletes are now beginning to get a firmer idea of how to meld the elements of the follow through into one productive and efficient package.

The elements of the follow through include; legs, torso and arm. Let’s look more closely at each of these elements.

The Legs
The sliding leg must do exactly that ‘slide’; secondly the knee bend is critical. The inside angle of knee bend should fall somewhere between 110 and 130 degrees. As well the foot should be pointed straight towards its target, thus ensuring that your body remains square to your target.

With the knee bend the athlete benefits in three distinct ways. One, it helps get the bowler down low to the lane so that release can be just inches (centimeters) from the lane surface. Two, the knee bend helps set up a scenario where if the torso is in the correct position the follow through is sturdy. This sturdy feel can help assure the maintenance of balance. Thirdly, the knee bend provides a source of power, which when transferred properly through the slide can help the release provide tremendous mixing action to the ball. Also of note for those who enjoy tossing the ball as hard as they can, becoming educated about the power within the slide can…act to stabilize speed issues. (see illustration 1)

Illustration 1

The trailing leg also has a purpose, by keeping the trailing leg in contact with the lane surface during the follow through it can help anchor your delivery so that your body remains square to the lane. This position is typically referred to as the ‘anchored follow through’ (see illustration 2)

Illustration 2

The Torso

The torso refers to the position of the athlete’s back during/in the follow through. Quite simply its position should be akin to an airplane taking off from a runway. The torso position allows for the transfer of body and arm motion to extend through the follow through. The term extend is frequently referred to by instructors as reaching. The idea to plant within the bowlers mind is that the body should extend/reach out to the pins, as if on a fisherman’s line and being reeled in. The line is pulling the bowler to the fisherman, (pin target). This particular position for some is difficult to grasp, however if the bowler is taught that the torso position is initiated as early as the second step they can find themselves entering into their follow through with the ideal torso position intact. (see illustration 3)

Illustration 3

The Arm position
The arm is the easiest part of all. It simply reaches towards its target. The trick comes in avoiding over extending (ending too upright) or under extending (staying too low such as a curlers delivery position). Illustration 3 demonstrates a solid arm position albeit for some a bit high it remains very effective. The height of your armswing is dictated by the momentum of your approach and delivery.

Now lets get on to the business at hand that drew us to this particular chapter; strategies for correction. At the end of this section on the follow through you will find eight specific follow through drills to incorporate into your teaching.

Independent Drills For The
Follow Through - LEGS

The Legs
The usual problem addressed with the legs is in not getting low enough. Phrases like bend, and get down resonate with bowlers who tend not to bend sufficiently. Not bending sufficiently leads to too much vertical lift (the distance the ball is from the lane surface when released) An illustration follows (see illustration 4 & 5)

Illustration 4

Illustration 5

There are a couple of useful independent strategies you can teach your athletes to reduce their vertical lift.

Strategy 1 – lowering the release point
The Garbage Drill
1. Place a piece of crumpled paper on the approach floor.
2. The athlete stands a bit more than one full step away from the paper.
3. The athlete executes a one-step drill with the goal being to pick up the crumpled paper and toss it into the symbolic garbage can under handed in one smooth motion.

Strategy 2 – lowering the release point
1. The athlete stands at the end of the approach with ball in hand.
2. The athlete bends the sliding leg as if they were about to release the ball. The foot is now snug against the end of the approach.
3. The athlete must roll the ball down the lane, making the release as quiet as possible.
*to draw attention to the different sound of a ball released low and one with too much vertical lift toss a ball purposefully out onto the lane with very little knee bend.

Strategy 3 –athlete is standing more or less upright at the end of their follow through
1. The athlete executes their approach and delivery with the intent of keeping their trailing leg on the ground but also back of their body. (refer to see illustration 3)

Strategy 4 – extending body through the use of the sliding leg.
1. Use the one step follow through drill
2. During slide use your knee much like a hinge, bending to release and as you release allow your knee to straighten slightly.

Instructor Assisted Drills For The
Follow Through – LEGS

Always explain in advance to the athlete what you the instructor/coach will be doing in assisting the execution of the drill. There should be no surprises in terms of a instructor/coach having ‘instructive hands on’ their players. Also…importantly check into whether the athlete has any particular physical injury or disability that prevents them from executing the drill requested.

Strategy 1 – lowering the release point
1. The athlete delivers a ball as they normally would. Ask the bowler to freeze (hold) their follow through position.
2. Once frozen – the instructor moves in and pushes on their back to lower it and…grabs their throwing arm moving it back and forth to simulate the release point.

* often times drawing attention to the fact that the instructor will come up and re-position the athlete is enough to lead them to execute properly.

Strategy 2 – lowering the release point
1. The athlete delivers a ball as they normally would. Ask the bowler to freeze (hold) their follow through position.
2. Once frozen the instructor reaches over to their sliding leg (with their leg) and gently kicks the knee forward causing the athlete to bend their knee more.

Strategy 3 – trailing leg is close to body, body is too upright.
1. Athlete is instructed to keep trailing leg well back of body, so that it anchors their follow through. And…hold their position until the instructor re-positions the athlete as needed.
2. The instructor re-positions the bowlers leg position, and pushes down on the back to keep the bowler low. The instructor may also find that they need to kick the inside of their sliding leg so that their knee is bent sufficiently. **always be prepared to physically support the bowler if required.

Independent Drills For The
Follow Through - TORSO

The bending of the torso is for some a difficult task because it is simply not something they are prone to doing. In some cases this ‘stiff back’ is compensated for by way of a strong arm and upper body, acting as stabilizers.

Strategy 1 – aligning back position
1. Using the one step drill place the athlete into a bent back position (simulating the proper back position for release) prior to initiating the one step drill.
2. Execute the one step drill (keeping back position bent until after the delivery)

Strategy 2 – aligning back position
1. The instructor simply yells out bend bend through out the early part of their approach. The goal being to trigger the athlete’s awareness of when to bend in their approach and delivery. The instruction given by the coach needs to come just prior to entering the second step of the athletes’ approach and delivery.

Strategy 3 – aligning back position
1. The athlete uses a mirror to give immediate feedback to them regarding their back position. (place the mirror in front of the bowler, and also to the side). A video works well as well however the mirror can provide instant feedback whilst in the motion of their approach and delivery.
2. Initially do this exercise without a ball. In fact this can be a drill done effectively at home using the hallway within the home.

Instructor Assisted Drills For The
Follow Through – TORSO

Strategy 1 – extension
1. The athlete delivers a ball as they normally would. Ask the bowler to freeze (hold) their follow through position.
2. The instructor is standing approximately 1 foot past the foul line (on the bowler’s delivery side). As the bowler freezes in their follow through grab their wrist of the throwing arm and pull it gently forward. This action will force the athlete to bend and extend with their back.

Independent Drills For The
Follow Through - ARM

Strategy 1 – at completion of follow through – throwing arm too low
1. Using the one-step follow through drill the athlete reinforces sliding and reaching forward with their body and extending with their arm with their throwing arm, careful not to over extend.

Strategy 2 – at completion of follow through – throwing arm too low
1. Dry land – (off the lane) Mark a spot on a wall as the end point for their follow through arm.
2. Using the one step follow through drill extend the throwing arm to touch the spot marked on the wall.

Over extending
Over extending is often a speed related problem. If so also watch for shoulders turning and pointing away from the target. Foot of sliding leg should be pointed to target and trailing leg should be straight behind.

Strategy 1 – at completion of the follow through – throwing arm is over extended
1. Place a towel length wise close to where the trailing leg should end. A bowler who turns their shoulder may also be turning their trailing leg. The towel location builds an awareness to the degree to which they are turning away from their target.
2. Goal of the bowler is to maintain a sliding toe pointing straight ahead and…not hit the towel away from where their trailing leg should end.

SEE SPEED SECTION for further drills/exercises

Instructor Assisted Drills For The
Follow Through – ARM

Generally speaking if the follow through arm position is too low, than the lift is minimal.

Strategy 1 – at completion of follow through – throwing arm too low
1. Coach stands past the foul line and holds their arm out over the lane at the preferred height for the follow through.
2. The athlete executes their approach and delivery and must extend with their throwing arm through after release, hitting the hand of the instructor.

Strategy 2 – at completion of follow through – throwing arm too low
1. The athlete delivers a ball as they normally would. Ask the bowler to freeze (hold) their follow through position.
2. The instructor is standing approximately 1 foot past the foul line (on the bowler’s delivery side). As the bowler freezes in their follow through grab their wrist of the throwing arm and pull it gently forward and UP.

Strategy 3 – at completion of follow through – throwing arm continually falls back to side of body.
This drill is as much a torso drill as it is an arm drill. The root of the problem may lie in the position of the athlete’s torso during entry into the follow through position, as well as in the follow through. If the bowlers torso is bent forward too much it shifts the center of gravity such that it becomes very difficult for the athlete to maintain the arm position in the completed follow through. The key to correction is giving the athlete an imagery cue so that they can differentiate between too much bend and the right amount of torso bend at the waist and extension.
1. The athlete initiates a one step drill, without a ball.
2. The instructor moves in and repositions the body as needed. (often times the one-step drill corrects the problem).
3. The athlete attempts their regular approach and delivery incorporating the feel of the one step drill as it relates to body position.

Strategy 4 – at completion of follow through – throwing arm continually falls back to side of body.
1. The instructor isolates each step of the approach in slow motion even static (stopping at each phase) – no ball.
2. The athlete mirrors the instructor.
3. Repeat this process several times, to assure the athlete has awareness to the feel for each position.
4. The athlete repeats the process but at a bit quicker pace, (still not at the regular speed). The instructor may count out the steps (pace) so that the athlete moves in time to the count. Once this is achieved move to ‘real time’ speed. – without ball
5. The athlete attempts to implement the new position(s) into their approach and delivery (with ball in hand).
6. The instructor watches closely (quality control) if regression occurs bring the athlete back to an earlier phase of this drill.
*As this skill develops the instructor may find it necessary to move out onto the lane and repeat strategy two.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

DB Files - The Running of the Bull

To watch someone “run” both sides of a match play tournament is pretty special. I have witnessed several people attempt this feat, and the most recent was Karie Kreutz at the Coca Cola Classic in Regina. Unfortunately winning both sides fell short by one match, but he did manage to beat local Jeff Hiibner in the finals to earn his first Major Cash Victory.

A quiet fellow, but with a big heart and a total genuine attitude, Karie is becoming one of the staples of making the cuts at big tournaments. His bowling style is mostly power but with great precision. Get him on a roll and watch out, he is going to start throwing “bombs” and keep them running!

I recently caught up with Karie and picked his brain about the victory.

Did you practice leading up to the tournament / how much?
Yes I did, for 1 1/2hrs once a week for 4 weeks leading up to the tournament.

After qualifying in the top 31, how did you feel? Were you confident or were you simply just happy to make it?
I was fairly happy with my bowling that Friday.

During Sunday, did you ever feel yourself tighten up and feel the pressure?
I felt the pressure against Jordan Schuss, he was a young bowler that people were talking about. I struggled a bit off the start but with all the B.C. People cheering for him behind me it actually helped me concentrate and fueled my need to prove myself against the young opponent.

Whowas your toughest match?
My toughest match was against Geno Ziebarth. It wasn't the game that was tough it was the mental block I had with Geno. He was the guy I looked up to coming through YBC and a friend that I have competed along side for 7 years. Plus the last time we met against each other in a big tournament was the TPC in Callingwood where I faced him in the “B” Final and he pretty much demolished me.

In Regina, the first 6 frames I missed the middle5 times, spared 4 of them, and had a headpin. Not a great start considering this was the 8's on the “B” side against Geno. So I went and grabbed something to drink and focused on my shot and came back only to lose that game by one, I took control of the match through the next 2 games and felt a huge weight lifted off my chest as I had just beat one of the very best the game has to offer.

Was there 1 person(s) that helped you or said something inspiring or followed you throughout the day?
My wife Julie stayed back in Alberta. I kept in contact with her after every game, texting her how the matches were going and she kept encouraging me and not letting me get down on myself.
Greg Gigiluk also was a big part of my game being sharp on the weekend, he knows my shot pretty good and he would throw me some reminders when I was getting stubborn and throwing shots away.

Did you need to adjust at any point?
Just my focus.

Did you take into consideration what you were wearing?
If you saw the picture, I did not. My shirt collar was all bent out of shape and I was the only one wearing a hat.

What did you eat / drink on Sunday?
Bacon & Eggs, half a piece of pizza, 2 powerades and a bunch of beer afterwards.

At what point, did you know that this was going to be your day?
4th frame of the last game against Jeff Hiibner.

Simply put, why did you win?
Calm and steady, stayed within myself and made sure I put the ball in a good spot.

What tournament have you won before, and did you draw from that experience as the day was progressing?
I won the Central Alberta Open where I threw the perfect game and that had a huge impact on the way I kept my calm late in the day.

What will you do with the money?
Already spent, we just built a house last year so the money is well spent.

Congratulations Karie, that is a well deserved win, and I wish you all the best in future events. Just not the Open, especially when I am playing or coaching against you! If you don’t mind, I would now like to ask you some generic questions.

At what age did you start bowling?

Did you play YBC?
Yes, I did. Not sure what my averages were early but I do remember my last 3 years of YBC was 239 across the board.

How many league games do you currently play per week?
Just 4 Games.

What is the highest number of leagues you've ever played at one time?
3 leagues. I played three leagues while I was in YBC, all on Monday night. I played Monday YBC after school, then bowled the Monday Scratch and finished off with Monday Jackpot. So all in all I played 10 games from 4 pm. To 10:30 pm.

What is your current average?
I thinks it is 252.

What is/was your highest EVER league average?

At what stage(s) of your development did your average drastically improve, and what lead to the significant change?
The big change came when I took the Masters technical course. My average jumped probably 12 pins that year.

In your prime, did you normally practice each week?
Since I'm in my prime. I have to say I didn't at all really until after the Open trials this year where I really struggled all weekend. I was frustrated with my shot because it seemed dead. So I decided to head down to the local bowling centre and practice a bit. I practiced hitting my spot once a week for a month, about an hour and a half each time up until Regina, and well I guess it payed off.

What practice methods/drills do you use?
Just mostly hitting my pocket and the release. I don't practice corners too much unless I'm on a surface I'm not comfortable with, such as a fast approach or a really sticky one.

How many "sets" of balls do you own?
Well that's a tricky question, I actually only own one set but have 5 single balls.
1 set of Hardballs, single Softroll, Solid Paramount, Urethane, Starline, Scorpion.

How many would you normally take to a tournament?
I take 4 single ones, the Softroll, Paramount, Harball, and the Urethane.

What is/was your favorite event to compete in, and why?
Masters is my favorite because all the pressure is on your shoulders to make the provincial team against most of the best bowlers in the province and then you get to compete with them against most of the best players from the rest of the country.

What is/was your favorite bowling centre(s), and why? My favorite bowling centre is Heritage Lanes in Red Deer, the reason is I enjoy the atmosphere and the competitors there.

Which conditions/environments do you prefer?
I enjoy string just because I have never played on free-fall. I like wood but the consistency of synthetic I enjoy more.

If you are throwing the ball consistently and are punching HEADPINS in bunches, how would you normally adjust?
Simple, either forward or backwards for me. Give the ball less time to move or just a little more is my motto.

What is your proudest moment in bowling?
That would be winning Masters Nationals in Saskatoon for a team GOLD. The energy was crazy and plenty of good matches.

What is your have a "most embarrassing" moment?
I doubt he will remember this but it was my first Masters tryout and I was just practicing the 15 minutes before it begins. I was nervous as it's my first year in adult competition and I was meeting the names in the game for the first time. So here is Bruce Morter and Lynn Howell just chillin' on the bench chatting it up, and I'm on the lane probably throwing 2 pins because I'm so nervous. I go and talk to a couple friends that I knew from YBC and then go back on the lane and decide I was going to throw as hard as I could and get some of the jitters out. I end up landing smack on my face cause I forget to take off my slider cover in front of Lynn Howell! Are you kidding me, thank god Bruce had moved to another lane or else it would have been twice as embarrassing.

Growing up, what mentors or idols (if any) did you have? And how did they influence you?
My obvious one is Geno Ziebarth, he is one of the biggest reasons I am where I am today in the game of bowling.
My mentors are my parents, they allowed and encouraged me to play sports and not just any sports, the ones I cared about the most. Without them and their support I would not have been half the athlete I am.

What current players do you enjoy watching, and why?
I enjoy watching Mark Johnstone, Matt Schultz, Adam Weber, Bruce Morter, Geno Ziebarth, Greg Gigiluk and plenty more sorry there is just way too many to name, and the reason is because they all make the game exciting.

What positives do you see with the current "state" of the game?
The youth is a positive and the “veterans” that encourage the youth are the big positives and that's what our game relies on.

What, if anything, really concerns you about our game?
The lack of public support for the game. I've played in many sports at all levels and I have yet to find a sport that has this many good hearted people in it and it astounds me how big companies just over look it.

Is there anything else we should know about you?
I obviously enjoy playing baseball and golf. Go Blue Jays Go!

And finally, what advice would you give to a bowler who's looking to improve their game?
As cliché as this is “practice makes perfect”.

Career Highlights
Masters Teams 2 Nationals, 1 Gold.
Single (450) – Twice, once in Open Qualifying and once in the Masters
Best Triple (1117)
8 game (2278)
10 Games (2852)

Tournament Wins 2 Provincial Masters, 1 Central Open, Bowler of the Year National and The Coca Cola Classic

YBC performance 6 years straight Youth Challenge Provincials.

Previous Coaches Geno Ziebarth, Greg Gigiluk, Lynn Howell, Robert Gallaugher and many others.

Monday, March 14, 2011


The game of five-pins went through a period of relative dormancy during the dark years of the Depression. Unemployment was very high - upwards of 20% in the city of Toronto, and a number of the bowling facilities that were opened during the roaring ‘20s simply closed from lack of business. Once the economy started to gain traction in 1937, things started to turn around, and people started to bowl again.

The period from 1939 onwards saw a dramatic increase in the numbers of bowlers taking up the game. A substantial number of company and factory leagues were created during the war period to provide recreation for people, and the numbers who became competitive grew exponentially as well.

In Toronto, the City Major League had grown to 40 teams, and the Ladies City Majors had 16. The 40 teams in the Men’s league were divided geographically into 5 sections, who bowled 3 series of 7 weeks in a round-robin, with the section winners meeting (after a 9 game playoff) in a 25-game total pins playoff across 5 houses. Players were signed up to teams which were sponsored by the bowling houses for the most part along with distilleries like Seagram’s and Hiram Walker, and the league played Saturday afternoons at 2:30pm. They played a 3-game ‘home and home’ schedule, with half the weeks played on home lanes. The playoff rounds and singles finals would routinely draw 800-1000 spectators, according the news reports.

One of the houses in the downtown core was Acorn Central. This 32-lane, 2-floor house at 22 Sheppard Street was directly north of where First Canadian Place (BMO) is today, and was right across the street from the massive offices of Bell Telephone. Karry’s Temperance, a 10-lane house originally opened by Tommy Ryan as the second Toronto Bowling Club, was also right across the street up on the 4th floor.

Acorn Central was well frequented by people working downtown, who bowled a game at lunch or after work, and it was also a beehive for pot-bowling with lots of sweeps action. The Manager, Frank O’Connor had 3 teams in the City Majors, plus a top Ladies team in the Ladies Major league. The Central #1 team was created with two of the Managers at Central, George Kerr and George Corbridge bowling on the team (both are O5 Hall of Famers). They also had Bill Brown, and Harold ‘Junior’ Kellett on the team, who won the CBA singles title that year.

1939 also marked the first high average crown for George Corbridge at 265. George was known as ‘the Grim Reaper of Sheppard Street’, a quiet man with a very slow deliberate style playing the down the middle of the lane. He was 56 years old at the time. George would later go on to mentor two of the games legends, Billy and Jimmy Hoult, who set pins at Central and Town Bowl where George later worked. In ’39 George Kerr won the City Major Singles tournament at Karry’s Terauley, coming back from 280 pins down to win by 47 over Tommy Mallon. One of Central’s rivals in their division, Karry’s #1, captured the City Major title that year.

The ‘Central Fives’ as they came to be known, made a couple of additions in the next season. Al Gard (O5 Hall of Famer) who was one of a large bowling family in the city was added, along with Harry Cockrell. Then they started to take root. They went 13-2 over the first 5 weeks and they ended up winning the City Major playoff title by an incredible 942 pins over a 15-game final, while only averaging 243. This win gave them $200 ($3000 today, more or less). George Kerr won the average. In 1941, they stayed intact and two of their players won the average and singles crowns – Bill Brown at 255, and George Kerr won the singles.

In 1942, though they made a few changes that loaded them up with talent. Tommy Sutcliffe was a young fellow in his late 20’s who actually had a Manager, Art ‘Chunky’ Barnes, who wrote in the Toronto Star. Occasionally, articles would be written about challenge matches involving Sutcliffe, including one between him and Hamilton bowling legend Jimmy Morris over 20 games, and a doubles match involving Sutcliffe and George Kerr, proclaimed in the paper as two of the best money bowlers in the city, to bowl Morris and a partner of his choosing for a purse of $500 - that’s about $7500 today, and this was all in the newspaper! Not to mention the bookmaking on the side of all of this! There was even an article later placed in The Star that he would bowl anybody, for any amount of money – anywhere, and doubles too with George as his partner - simply hard to believe that they would publish things like this but they did.

Along with Sutcliffe they added Charlie Goldsmith, and Rolly Glandfield, another O5 Hall of Famer who was involved in the brokerage business, coming down from St. Clair Bowl. Rolly’s son Jim is well known to many veteran bowlers in the Toronto area, and he is retired and living now in B.C. This 1942 team started to shoot 4000 triples with some regularity, which was unheard of in these days of lanes hand set by pin boys, where depending on where you were they either could, or could not be your friend. They shot a 4231 set, which was a new record at that time, The team ended up high in the league on pin fall, averaging 1259.8 for the year, with George Kerr winning the average at 263. The section playoffs saw them in a wild scrap with Peoples Credit Jewelers, another downtown team laden with legends such as Red McQuaker and Eddie Hawkes. At Central for the last 3 game set, Peoples were down 85 pins, but shot 1557 to Centrals 1310 to take the lead with McQuaker firing 398 and Hawkes 397. The second game saw Central shoot 1349 over Peoples 1297, with the ‘Grim Reaper’ firing 407. The final game Central threw 1534 to beat Peoples 4193 to 4005. This was just to get out of the downtown section. In the 30-game playoff that year, they won by a convincing 1059 pins, let by Sutcliffe, who averaged 264.

In 1943 they went on absolute tear, with Sutcliffe being replaced on the team by Harold “Hoppy’ Hopkins (CBA Executive and O5 Hall of Famer). During this season they set what was then a record 4441 team triple, which came during a 6 week spell where they shot over 4000 5 times, and 3996 on the sixth. The highest averaged player on the team at that time (Junior Kellett at 270) sat out that day. At season’s end, Kerr ended up at 267, Corbridge 266, Kellett 264, Hopkins 262, Goldsmith 261, and Glandfield 255. They held the top 6 averages in the league.

They won the playoffs, and Hop Hopkins won his second singles championship – 20 years after winning his first. And, the Central team players placed in all of the top 6 spots.

It is interesting to note that this particular group wasn’t a bunch of kids out there beating up on all of the old guys. The team averaged 41 years of age at that time, and threw uniquely different styles on the lanes. The game would have been vastly different back in the day with teams having to play away from home, where the opponent could select a specific pair of lanes that they knew like the back of their hand, and of course when at home the same advantage could be exercised. They all would have been masters of the chisel shot too. A team like this would have been something to see.

John Honeyford

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Steve Barker's 23 Questions: Karen Armstrong

In this edition of "23 Questions", we head to Winnipeg, Manitoba to meet Karen Armstrong. As with Connie, Brenda and Erica previously, I would NOT refer to Karen as one of Canada's best female bowlers, but instead, I WOULD call Karen one of Canada's best bowlers period, who just happens to be female.

A "slam dunk" member of the C5's "Century of Excellence", Karen's list of career accomplishments is staggering! A veteran of 28 combined National Championships, she has also appeared on TSN 7 times, including a 2nd Place finish in 2003. In 2004, Karen won the CBC Series!

Karen has competed in 16 National Opens, winning Team Gold on 5 occasions! She is a 6-Time Manitoba Singles Champion, and in 2009 she won the National Singles Title to go with three previous Silver Medal finishes. Karen has amassed 16 National Open Medals, as well as being named to the All-Star Team 5 times!!

Karen has represented Manitoba at the Masters Nationals 12 times, 6 of those as the Singles representative! She won Singles Gold in 1996, 2002 and 2007, in addition to a Singles Silver in 2006, and two other Team Bronze medals.

She has enjoyed other tournament success as well, winning the Manitoba Open in 2008.

Karen has also bowled two Perfect Games, with another 448 to boot! Other personal bests include a 1046 Triple, 1332 four-game set, 1688 for 5 and 2950 for 10!

Upon returning from the "Coca-Cola Classic" tournament in Regina, Karen took time to chat with me.

Karen, we thank you for taking the time to do this.
At what age did you take up this glorious game?
5, but before then I was one of those kids running around the lanes while my family bowled.

In YBC, do you recall your average in Bantam, Junior and Senior?
Just a guess:
Bantam 150
Junior 180
Senior 225

At what age did your game really take off?

To what can you attribute the improvement?
I had tried to qualify for the Open right after finishing YBC and never did qualify. I stopped trying for a few years, then in 1992 I decided that it was time for me to get serious and practice to try and make it again. So I guess just having the drive to want to play competitively

What is your current average? 

What was your best ever league average?

For those who haven't seen you bowl, live or on TV, could you describe your shot?
I look at the middle arrow, 3 step approach, and ball speed medium to fast. (For a girl.) Throw pretty much straight up the gut, sometimes with a small hook at the end.

Do you normally aim for a pocket or just throw right at the Headpin?
I just throw at the headpin, though some days it would be nice to hit a certain side.

And if you're punching a lot of Headpins, what adjustment would you make?
I have a few different ones. The ones most used are a ball change, move to the left or move back a bit.

Do you like to know where you stand during a tournament, or do you ignore the scoreboard?
Depends on how I am bowling. If I am tearing it up I don’t need to look. If I am struggling then I need to know where I am and how far down I am.

How about during a singles match?
I pay attention to the score board but don’t watch my opponent throw any shots.

Are there any situations where you would play thin (chisel)?
No generally I do not try to chisel. But after losing to Jodi Craig in the final of TSN by punching a headpin I wish I would have tried. Lol.

You have two 450's and a 448 game. In which order did you get them?
450, 448, 450. The 448 and the second 450 were 3 months apart.

After your 1st Perfect game, did the 12th shot get easier in your subsequent 448 and 450 games, with the experience of having been there before?
No I don’t think so. I was still shaking like a leaf.

You appeared on National Television a remarkable 8 separate years, and Bowl Canada (Formerly BPAC) and TSN/CBC did a pretty good job with their series, but can you think of anything that might have improved the broadcasts, whether through production or format? And I don't think that "The PINS GAME" format works especially well for 5-Pin. Did you like the "PINS GAME" or do you think the TSN series would have been better with straight "Match Play" from the start?
I think the match play format works better for 5 pin. Though I do understand why they did it. Since CBC was match play they wanted something different. As for the production side I have a few ideas. We need a bigger gallery, host it in a city where you know they can fill the seats.  The audience needs to get more involved in cheering. If you watch 10 pin at all you see the crowd is a lot more rowdy. The bowlers themselves can maybe try to be a little more colorful with their body English (try and get a little more pumped up), and play along with the crowd.  Also better advertising, even at the provincial level would help. Make sure the bowlers know about the competition. (That may get a few more entries). And lastly, what about a doubles competition to feed off each other and the crowd? Make it more exciting to watch.
I agree! I think any team event would add a whole new dynamic to 5-Pin on television.

With 16 National Open appearances, including 5 Team Wins and 1 Singles Gold, do any stand out as "extra special"?
Yes in 1997 I was 6 months pregnant and Linda Orne was 7 months pregnant. We lost our first match to Nova Scotia and never lost a match after. Our team average was over 1250. It was an awesome year. Everyone said we were cheating because we had 2 extra players on our team. Lol.

Karen, on many occasions you have been to the Nationals as a team member AND Singles representative in the same year, so what do you think of the new C5 rule limiting Provincial Champions to only compete in ONE event at the Nationals?
I really have mixed feelings on this one. I have been to Nationals 6 times as a single and have played both every time. For anyone who has done this, they know they are very long days, and a lot of games!!  There were a couple of years that I thought long and hard about only bowling singles just to try it. But I felt like I would be letting my team mates down if I would have left them. I do think you should have the choice but now for those people that wanted to try just singles and not do both don’t have to carry the guilt of leaving their team.

With an amazing 12 trips to the Masters Nationals, including 3 National Singles Championships to your credit, can you tell us what Masters highlights might stand out?
I have enjoyed each and every year of competition. Aside from my 3 gold medals, I guess the one thing that comes to mind is when I had the high average for the tournament. See the next answer (Chick Burn)

You were victorious in the 2008 Manitoba Open, was that extra gratifying beating the men?
Oh yes it definitely was extra gratifying to beat the men. It's always more gratifying! I like to call it Chick Burn. I know men don’t like that term but most women do
All these years I suffered from that affliction, but never knew it had a name! Maybe now I can take something for it!

Do you have any other accomplishments that you are especially proud of?
My children!! I have 3 boys- Garrett 18, Cole 13 and Brett 12. All are very involved with sports (unfortunately none of them bowl anymore). I love watching my kids play. It seems that the two big sports for my kids are volleyball and baseball. All have done very well at their sports at such a young age.

Having played this game from coast-to-coast, are the conditions specifically different from province to province?
Not that I have noticed, except for the shields.  We have only one centre with shields in Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg area is one of the Nation's hotbeds for talent. Which fellow Manitobans have made a big difference in your career?
Well, my Mom was my coach growing up. I remember watching Jackie Monchak when I was a junior and saying wow I want to be that good. Dylis Turner took over coaching when I started competing competitively as an adult. Geoff Born has also had a tremendous influence on my career, and the last few years my good friend Karrie Thibert has been helping me out.

We know you can't list everyone, but can you list some of your most respected competitors, or people you enjoy watching, from across the land?
Sandi Anderson (one of the best anchor bowlers ever), my brother Glen Howarth, Robert Shanas, Mark Johnstone, Matt Schultz, Bruce Morter, Connie Ward

What is your favourite thing about our sport?
The people and the sportsmanship. I don’t think I have ever had any trouble with unsportsmanlike conduct in all my years of experience.

Is there anything that concerns you about 5-Pin?
One thing that does concern me is that there seems to be 4 bodies of bowling, with YBC, Masters, Canadian 5 Pin Assoc. and the Proprietors. But there is too much conflict between the organizations. We should work together to make our sport grow and get stronger.

There are lots of 230-240 shooters around. What advice would you give these folks to help them get to the next level?
Practice, Practice, Practice and talk to a sports psychologist! The next level is mostly mental. Or at least read some sports psych books.
That is SO TRUE! There are tons of people who throw great shots, often times the only difference is what's going on "upstairs"!

And finally, what advice could you lend to our younger bowlers out there?
Bowl at least 2 times a week. Bowl in leagues where the bowlers are better than you. If you surround yourself with people that are better, you will become better.

Well said!
We will finish on that note. Thank you, Karen.

Don't forget to check back next week as we head west for Darrell Bradley's feature. In the coming weeks, we are aspiring to cover as much as this great land as we can, and as always, we appreciate your feedback, comments and suggestions.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Making the Switch: Mitch Seary's Story

Last summer I experienced something that I like to call “bowling deja-vu”. It’s the feeling that you’ve played a certain game of bowling before but, in fact, you never have. Having played half a season on the Duckpin tour in the States last year, everything felt like 5pin bowling while in fact is was nowhere close. The reason I mention this is that this must’ve been the feeling to a degree what our next feature bowler must’ve felt. While he certainly took things a few steps further, (and you’ll read exactly how far in this article) I can somewhat relate.

Mitch Seary of Nova Scotia had been a Candlepin bowler since the age of 4. Seary followed a path that many 5pinners also take, with being enrolled in the youth organization, graduating to the adult ranks to take his game further. The pressures of the adult ranks were no different in Candlepin as Seary would question himself at the beginning of his adult career playing on a team with his bowling idols. “I was bowling with the guys that I grew up hearing about; Jerry deGraff, Chris Poberenzy and the likes of those guys. As a young teenager I was very nervous with bowling with the likes of them. What if I mess up? What if I have a bad string? Are they going to get rid of me?” describes Seary on his first thoughts. But jumping into something like this can lead to great things and for Seary, this was no different. Seary had soon found himself a home.

After a few years playing the adult ranks, Seary felt he needed a new challenge, where with some luck in 2009, he found in 5pin bowling. He had frequently heard people talking about the game of 5pin, but had never actually ventured to try the game. A friend who Seary had bowled with in Candlepin, spoke of a 5pin tournament coming up that he would be able to participate in. Seary travelled to Greenwood, NS, to play in the 3 day tournament we know as The Open.

A major difference between Candlepin and 5pin is the actual ball itself. Switching from a Candlepin ball which typically weighs between 2lbs 4oz - 2lbs 7oz to our standards in 5pin, which would cause havoc to your timing. Imagine playing your province’s best bowlers, having never played the game before and throwing a ball that weighed more than a pound more than you were used to throwing. While the odds were stacked against Seary, adjustments were made, some fine tuning here and there, and by the end of the tournament, Mitch Seary was a provincial champion. In 3 days of playing 5pin, Seary had accomplished something scores of bowlers across the country have only dreamed of doing. Seary was heading to Saskatchewan to compete in the Open Nationals.

The thing with first impressions is, that there are 2 first impressions playing out at once. I can tell you first hand the kind of buzz Mitch Seary created once arriving to Saskatoon. The tournament had yet to start and his story was the most talked about already. But there was also the first impression forming in Seary’s head about 5pin bowling at the national level. “At nationals we bowled the team event first on the first day and I remember just walking into the bowling alley and again being amazed. There were stands in a bowling alley for fans, there were people from each province with all their shirts and stuff.“ explains Seary. Walking into a situation like that, having only bowled 20 games of 5pin in his life on top of it all, could have been very intimidating to Seary. Not one to be overwhelmed, Mitch Seary took to his game, amazing both spectators and competitors alike with his talent.

His talent took him to the podium in Men’s singles in Saskatoon in 2009, a feat that the province of Nova Scotia had not seen for a little while, was named to the Men‘s All Star team, and won the Rookie Of The Year award. Losing to John Walsh of PEI to win the bronze (they even needed a second game, after tying the first game, to decide who would play Martin Talbot of Ontario in the finals), ended Seary’s storybook tournament, but the impact on his feat are still strong. I know every year that I may be lucky enough to compete again at The Open Nationals, I’ll think back to that year, remembering what Seary had accomplished.

“The nationals itself was the best tournament I have ever had the chance to be part of; the events, the organization, the meals, the dances, the competition, the prestige. I have never been to a tournament where people had to qualify to be there, all my tournament have been ones where you just put a team together and go. So I felt very privileged to have a chance to represent Nova Scotia at this event because there are people that have bowled 5 pin all their life and never had a chance to reach the national event. “ reflected Seary when asked this winter about his experience in Saskatoon. “I experienced another 1st while bowling the head to head match, I was the only person bowling in the whole bowling alley and everyone was watching me bowl. I have never been the only person on the lane bowling and having everyone behind me watching. And the cheering, the people of 5 pin really get into the match even if they aren’t bowling in the match. I couldn’t believe how loud it was when I threw a strike or the big awe when I punched a headpin. It was so awesome having so many people behind me cheering for me, I have never been so happy to be bowling before in my life. I remember one of my friends (Cathy McPhee) yelling so loud that she lost her voice within the 1st couple boxes haha.“

Mitch Seary certainly impacted how I look at bowling. I used to look at every bowler I was competing against and just assume that their path to that moment was similar to mine. Now, I think that there are many interesting stories out there that are just waiting to be told. Mitch Seary has set a pathway for bowlers of some of the other types of bowling to follow in the future. Interacting with Duckpin bowlers from the States leaves me to believe that it’s only a matter of time before they slowly filter into 5pin as well, creating success and great stories similar to this one. The next time you’re bowling in a tournament, don’t be afraid to turn to the person next to you and carry a conversation on their experiences. You might find that they have quite the story to tell….