Splits, spares and strikes: Lessons pay off for Virch with big series three weeks later

Even for one of the best bowlers in the area, it’s taken Hope Virch a few weeks to adapt to some changes in her game.

But there’s no doubting it now, the lessons she took from several professionals are starting to pay off.

Virch, 53, bowled one of the highest series ever by a woman in the area on Friday night, a 758 in the 800 Mixed League at Superior Lanes.

That was despite opening the night with just one strike in her first six frames. But she finished her first game with five of the next six strikes for 212, then threw 20 of her final 24 shots for strikes to end the night with games of 268 and 278 using her 14-pound Storm Marvel Pearl reactive resin ball.

This actually wasn’t Virch’s highest series, just missing the 762 she rolled a few years ago in another Superior Lanes league in April 2008.

But it was still quite gratifying to her after she and several other area bowlers traveled to Sheboygan, Wis., exactly three weeks earlier to take lessons from Storm Products’ Steve Richter and several other pros.

“I’m a little more balanced when I’m in my approach now,” she said about the steps she takes to the foul line in delivering the ball. “(Pro) Jeff Carter got me so I’m not trying to reach out so much when I let go of the ball.

“He got me to move up on the approach so I can just let go of the ball.”

Not everything went perfectly at first, however, once she got back to Marquette.

“I was so worried about what Jeff told me to do, I forgot to throw the ball,” Virch said. “Just a couple days earlier, I finally realized I should go back to doing what I know.”

She said she’s still using the things that Carter taught her, but now they’ve become second nature instead of something she has to think about every time she picks up a ball.

Carter, by the way, has made several appearances on Pro Bowlers tour TV finals and won one of those tournaments after turning pro about seven years ago. Before that, his claim to fame is holding what is still the highest-ever league average over a whole season, 261 in 2000-01 in his home of Springfield, Ill.

Back to Friday, though, Virch opened the night with four spares, a strike and another spare to give her 116 in the sixth frame.

“I wasn’t throwing it bad, they were all corner (7- and 10-pins) pins except for a 6-10,” she said. “So I made a little move on the approach.”

And it worked wonders, the highlight being a “Andy Varipapa” 300. It’s not a real 300, but one where you throw 12 straight strikes over two games, named after a long-ago pro who claimed how many of those faux perfect games he had thrown.

For Virch, her “Varipapa” was the final six strikes of Game 2 and the first six of Game 3. The third-game bid for 300 ended when she started thinking about perfection.

“For some reason, the thought crept into my mind that if I throw 300, I’ll have a 780 series,” she said. “And the next shot, I sent it wide and I left a 7-pin.”

She couldn’t complain about it, though, considering she threw a crossover “Brooklyn” strike to open the game.

“I did everything you can imagine wrong on that shot, but I have to thank the bowling gods. That one was a gimmee,” she said.

If she had gone off the sheet with all those strikes for 780, that would’ve set the area record, and possibly an Upper Peninsula record, for series by a woman still held by her stepsister, Diana Windahl, of 779 bowled back in December 1996 at Country Lanes in Ishpeming.

As it is, the 758 is the fourth highest on record in the area behind Windahl’s, her own 762 and Amber Lancour’s 767 rolled in January 2005 also at Superior.