Column: Advice from a legend improves even this sorry bowler’s game

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 31, 2002

Sometimes when I interview somebody for a writing job, I like to do a little exercise. I have them interview me and write a short story based on my answers. It’s a quick way to tell if somebody can ask good questions and write a decent story.

Well, it would be pretty boring if I had them interview me, the editor guy, who doesn’t have much going on that’s worth writing about. So, I tell the candidates to pretend I’m a guy who has just won the city bowling championship, and he’s writing a little feature on me.

I have my fake story all worked out: I started bowling when I was two years old when my parents gave me a ball for Christmas and had me roll it to knock down pop cans in the kitchen; I went on to compete in junior leagues; this is my first championship after finishing second last year; and so on.

Email newsletter signup

This is all about as far from reality as it can get. I like to bowl, but I’m not good enough at it to win any tournament among bowlers over age six.

So, it made me a little apprehensive to go down to Holiday Lanes Friday night with my wife to take part in a pro-am tournament, where actual professional bowlers play right alongside schmoes like me (except most of the other schmoes would surely be much better than me, too).

Most of the good bowlers, you’ve surely noticed, spin their

ball in such a way that it hooks right into the center of the pins and scatters them. That’s a much more effective way to knock them down than my method: Run up there and roll the ball straight down the middle. Hope it goes right into the head pin. Hope most of the pins fall down. Grit my teeth in frustration when most of them don’t.

The pro-am Friday was part of a weekend of activities at Holiday Lanes, where they’re hosting an event like this for the first time. There was another pro-am Saturday night, and today they’re going to have 40 professionals from the regional senior pro tour in for a tournament. It’s a bowling event like none Albert Lea has seen.

Among the celebrity pros there was Dick Weber, who, one person told me, is the Ted Williams of bowling. He’s won more PBA championships than I have teeth and, says Holiday Lanes manager Loren Kaiser, has bowled on an airplane, in a parking lot, and on David Letterman. If you care about pro bowling at all, this is probably the guy you’ve heard of.

Before the pro-am began, they staged a charity celebrity bowl-off that included Mayor

Bob Haukoos, lawmakers Dan Dorman and Grace Schwab, and pros Dick Weber and Bob Glass. They all had to bowl on lanes with the inflatable bumpers in the gutters, and their rolls didn’t count unless they bounced them off the bumper. The winner got to choose a charity to which $100 would go.

Weber admitted it was a bowling exercise even he had never tried. It’s also probably the only circumstances under which he’d lose to a politician.

When that was done, the pro-am got underway, and I was bowling as usual. In the first of three games, I rolled a 124. That’s actually better than my average, sadly enough.

The pros would move over to the next pair of lanes after three or four frames, so everybody got to meet all the pros and bowl with them. Late in that first game, I got my chance to bowl with Weber.

When he showed up, I was having my typical problems: not rolling the ball into the center, missing half the pins.

After one particularly ugly roll, Weber casually put his hand on my shoulder and gave me some advice: &uot;Line up your left shoulder with the center arrow, then roll the ball straight over the arrow,&uot; he said.

Okay. You don’t ignore advice from the Ted Williams of bowling. So I tried it the rest of the night. Did it help? Well, I managed a 146 in the second game &045; among my all-time best.

Thinking about it later, it made plenty of sense. I’m left-handed, and since all I do is roll the ball down the middle, it would obviously help if my arm was lined up with the middle of the lane. Stupid me, I was lining up my feet without thinking where my shoulder was. Obviously, you don’t roll with your leg, so it makes more sense to line up your arm. Basically, Weber’s lesson was a class in basic anatomy.

Now I can always say I got a bowling lesson from a legend &045; and it worked. At least, as much as any advice can for a bowler who’s much better in fake interviews than he ever will be in reality.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays.