Splits, spares and strikes: Pool waits two decades between 300 games

In a sport where very good can actually be better than perfect, bowler Andy Pool was happy just to get back to the excellent-sounding latter category again.

The “very good” is a three-game series of 800 or better, which is actually about four or five times more difficult to achieve than a perfect game of 300, according to records I’ve researched over the years from the U.S. Bowling Congress.

But while the 50-year-old Marquette resident has hit the coveted 800 plateau three times in the past five years, he said he hasn’t achieved a 300 in more than two decades.

Until last Wednesday, that is, when he opened his Country Trio League session at Country Lanes with perfection before adding games of 179 and 214 for 693.

“The last one was in ’93,” he said about his previous 300 he also shot at Country when the Ishpeming center was in just its second season. “I’ve had a couple 299s, a 298 and a bunch of 290s since then, though.”

His third perfect game came using a 14-pound Hammer Arson Low-Flare ball he’s only owned for about three or four weeks.

“It’s not as jumpy as resin,” he said about the typical reactive resin balls that are nearly the exclusive domain for strike balls nowadays since they provide so much power in the strike pocket.

Their drawback is that they tend to act erratically when the oil conditioner changes as is inevitable as a league session wears on.

Actually, while his Arson Low-Flare is still made of a reactive resin material, it doesn’t behave like it because of the shape of its weight block, the denser interior that acts like the motor for a ball’s hooking action.

This ball’s particular weight block mellows out the hook, making it act like the previous generation of urethane balls and giving Pool maximum control no matter how conditions change.

“It’s like a smooth urethane arc, but stronger than that,” Pool said about his new ball. “It’s really nice to use on a ‘fresh’ shot. The first time I used it (at Superior Lanes) in Marquette, I hit 700.”

A “fresh” shot is an oil pattern right after the lane machine has applied it throughout the heads, or front part of the lane. The back ends nearer the pins are left virtually oil-free. Balls slide like crazy through the oil, then “grab” and hook through the much-less-slippery back ends.

But like a rambunctious boy who plays outside in the mud and then tracks it onto his mother’s spotless kitchen floor, bowling balls pick up oil in the heads, removing it from there and carrying it to the clean back ends, changing how – and how much – a ball will hook.

Pool felt every ball was a quality shot in his 300, and explained the big drop-off the next game to a number of 10-pins that remained standing on one lane. That and missing the spare on one of them, not to mention an unconverted split.

Now for The Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week for Nov. 8-14:

Top billing goes to Amber Buckmaster in the Wednesday Industrial League at Superior Lanes after she shot 132 pins over her 187 average, just missing 700 with a 693 on games of 244, 225 and 224.

Next came two more Superior bowlers with Hope Virch coming in at 117 over her 186 average with 675 and a 248 top game in the Tuesday Night Mixed, and Wendlyn Pitts at 113 pins over her 118 average with 467 and a 195 high in the Wednesday Industrial.

For the guys, Dave Kangas won a close race at plus-125 in the Tuesday Major at Country Lanes with a 180 average, 665 series and games of 190, 241 and 234.

Eugene Larson was just two pins back at 123 over in the Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial at Country with a 164 average, 615 series and biggest game of 215. Third was a tie between Wednesday Industrial leaguemates Denis Johnson, who had a 183 average and shot 660 with a 258 high, and Mark Duquaine, coming in at a 196 mean and recording 699 with a 246 tops.

With my travels to the state football finals this weekend, I’m taking next week off in this space. But look forward to two weeks of BOWs on Dec. 10.