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Rick Benoit's Expert Bowling Tips

The Mental Side

      This week we were in Akron, Ohio for the Bayer/Brunswick Touring Players Championship. We bowled at Stonehedge Family Fun Center. After bowling on a lot of friction the previous month, the players were asked to shift gears this week. There was plenty of oil. Usually when we have a major tournament, you will see low scores, but not this week. The scoring pace was high and not everybody liked that. There are those that think all the "Majors" should have challenging conditions. I say WHATEVER!

      Bowling is relative, and I have no problem with any condition. I choose not to fall into that trap. If the pace is a 200 average, so be it, if it is 230, then deal with it. It is my opinion that they are both challenging. I know several people who can average 200 on anything, but put them on a high-scoring condition and they just don't have the mental ability to string strikes. I would hate to see it one way all the time.

      Even more challenging this week was the way the lanes played each day. Each day was different, and as soon as the field attacked them differently, they broke down differently for the rest of the day. Practice day had everybody playing "out," there was a little hold and recovery as well. The first day of qualifying did not play the same. There was a huge oil line to play up against so the players stayed "right" almost all day. You could get to the pocket if you chose to hook it but, the carry was not as good and you were setting yourself up for a 2-10 split at any moment. It was rather obvious that the high scores were going to come by using less projection and using the oil line around 10 to hold the ball on line. I was shocked to see this since it was not as obvious on practice day. This shot was on both the left and right sides.

      The second day of qualifying was tighter overall except the heavy oil line was not there. There appeared to be less oil in the middle of the lane. There was plenty of oil but it could not be used as hold. I understand that Kegel is using a new cleaner and the reasoning could be how this effects the hardness of the lane surface. They are testing the hardness of the surface each day. The second day indicated the surface was softer, so I guess that it might have something to do with it. I will hold my opinion on that until I gather more information. There are other possibilities as well. After the pros practiced on "practice day," they reran the lanes for Pro-Ams with the house shot. Maybe they didn't clean them very well before the start of the first round of qualifying, because it looked like they were bowling on a house shot. I don't like to get too hung up on "why," just react to the "what."

      When things are not quite what you expect you find bowlers reacting in different ways. The majority of the bowlers choose to complain; I think it is an advantage to approach this in a different manner. Complaining puts you in a bad state of mind and does not allow you to adjust and repeat as well. It looks as if I have a couple frame advantage on the other guy if he is a complainer.

      Anyway, the field played deeper on the second day because they did not have the hold and they wanted to avoid the hand to the outside. Once the shot opened up in the track, the scores took off again. Certain bowlers were less affected by the changes than others. On the right, a couple of bowlers who were less effected by the differences were Steve Hoskins and Pete Weber. Hoskins, because of his forward tilt and high revs, could continue to use a similar projection that he did the previous day. His roll does not need as much oil to the inside to hold it on line and a combination of his projection, tilt and revs allows for more consistent recovery then those going more left to right. Weber has the opposite, extreme tilt, slow speed and revs. This combination allowed Pete to not see the hang to the right as much as the other players. On the left, the lanes were not affected by transition as much and as good as these lefties are it does not surprise me that they went to the top. To avoid the lefty/righty conflict, I will say that there is no way to make lanes totally fair so "deal with it." Almost always a shot develops on the right because some part of the lane opens up because of the increased lineage. On the left if they have a shot, it does not go through the amount of transition, but if they don't it *never* opens up.

      The third day of qualifying gave us a different look. There were only 36 bowlers competing, and I was told the surface hardness was back up. Well, there appeared to be less friction in the middle but still there was not the oil line to hold the ball on line. This is why the straighter players that were up at the top early in the week began to falter. The bowlers needed to create room right, and to do this revs were a big advantage. Since the lanes usually get tighter as the week goes along adapting speed to the given lane was a must as well. Outside of five appeared to hang but you could move away from it and find all you needed. That took us to match play on Thursday night when the track opened up and the scores took off again.

      The last day of competition had some of the bowlers scratching their head. There was no hold to be found and because there was less lineage, the track was not going to open up as fast. The strangest thing was that the players could square up to the gutter and play it. There were bowlers playing all over the place on Friday. I think that the gutter shot was there all week. When there are more bowlers that part of the lane gets trashed pretty quick and you have to play "how the field breaks them down." Since there were fewer bowlers on Friday, it did not surprise me to see them move right and break the gutter down first. Once the gutter broke down the field was able to play that part of the lane just like they were able to play the track earlier in the week. There were a lot of up and down scores on Friday, this was because of the variety of the ways the field was playing them.

      I cannot elaborate what happened on the show, I was not there. I was driving to Indy for the WIBC Queens tournament. My congratulations go out to Steve for his victory. So I will see everybody next week were my report will be from the Queens tournament.

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