Since bowling’s “season” starts in the fall, I thought “Cleaning the Gutters” was an appropriate name for this column. I want to thank the Times-News for allowing the sport of bowling to be covered each week. I will do my best to carry on the tradition of the previous columnists, Bill Menges and Howard “Pete” Peterson.
Early in the season, there have already been a few honor scores bowled locally. B.J. Curtis and Darren Durbin have both bowled 300 games at White Oaks and Bobby Lannon rolled a 298 game at Rainbow Lanes in Keyser.
People are often surprised by the scoring in modern bowling and wonder why scores are so much higher than they used to be. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the highest averages locally were in the low 200s and sometimes even the 190s. When we would watch Earl Anthony, Mark Roth and Marshall Holman on the Pro Bowlers Tour, it was easy to identify their greatness, because they averaged more than the majority of all league bowlers.
Just to show one example of the increase in scoring, last year at Rainbow Lanes, Derek Yates and Lannon both averaged over 230 and four more bowlers averaged 224 or better. Wes Mallot and Jason Belmonte led the PBA in average last year at 229. So, have league bowlers gotten better or have PBA bowlers gotten worse? The answer is not that simple.
Until the early ’80s the only bowling balls were made of plastic or rubber. Then Brunswick came out with the “Edge” a urethane ball that easily hooked more than any ball before it. More hook meant more strikes, as the angle a ball hits the pocket greatly affects your pin carry. In the early ’90s, this was taken a step further when “reactive resin” bowling balls were invented. The “Excalibur” was the first reactive resin ball. It allowed bowlers to throw harder and still have the ball hook into the pocket. The later the ball hooked, the harder it hit.
To combat the increased power of the equipment, the PBA has taken to putting down special “patterns” of lane conditioner to help hold down the scoring. Lane conditioner is the oil that is placed on the lanes to allow the ball to skid. Less conditioner means the ball hooks more and vice versa. Most leagues have an easier condition and the potential to have higher scoring.
White Oak Lanes has one league that uses the “PBA Patterns”. To show the difference in scoring, last year five bowlers averaged over 220 on the “house” pattern, with Chad Gable leading the way at 232. In the PBA league, only two bowlers managed to average even 200 with Mike Brobst leading the league at 209.
So, the answer is, the equipment in modern bowling is much better than it used to be and the bowlers on tour are still incredibly talented to be averaging as much as they do on very demanding conditions. Western Maryland also has many talented bowlers and I hope to showcase them in this column each week.
Joe Mullenax is the Cumberland Times-News bowling columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org