Bowling event proves a strike

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2008

One of the nice aspects of about bowling is that anyone can participate, and if you are good enough to roll with the big guys, you could have entered the Alaska State Bowling Tournament this weekend.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The annual tournament is in its 50th year, and Juneau residents are proud to host some very high quality scores.

Juneau Bowling Center owner Jeff Jones said Park Meyers shot an amazing 815 series in the singles, as George Nazarre and John Robarge shot perfect games of 300. Robarge also shot a 799 in a three game series, just missing an 800.

The Alaska State Tournament is bowled each year in a different bowling alley throughout Alaska, but it is predominantly held in the Anchorage area.

"Bowling alleys put in a two-year advanced bid to be able to host the state tournament, and this year Juneau won it," race director Pete Bednarowicz said.

Besides hosting the event, Juneau holds an exclusive distinction within the state bowling association.

"What is unique about this venue is that it is the smallest house as far as the number of lane beds is concerned," said Jim Topolski. "It is very unusual to have a statewide tournament only on 10 lanes, and so they extended the weekend to four days just to accommodate the bowlers who are coming in."

Next year the tourney will be in Fairbanks.

Bednarowicz said that the participation level always goes up from the local people in that area and the pot goes up accordingly with the population density of the region.

More than 125 contestants and 42 teams of five participated this weekend. The purse was roughly $11,500 and divided into numerous categories with the champ winning a trip to Las Vegas to bowl in the annual Masters event.

Categories include Singles, Doubles, Team, and the All Event. Each event consists of three games and a combined score except the All Event, which combines the three categories. In the All Event, a bowler throws nine games for a combined score.

Compared to an event in Anchorage, the purse in Juneau is a lot lower because a lot of bowlers do not come down due to convenience but the ones that did said Juneau was a good host and had a good showing.

Ken Sifford, of the Alaska State All Stars team, lives in Fairbanks and had never been to Juneau except during layovers with Alaska Airlines. Sifford liked the host city and was very impressed with Juneau's streak of good weather.

"I thought you said you get rain down here," Sifford said with a laugh. "No, I am enjoying Juneau because you get to get together and see guys that you have been bowling with for years and years."

Gary Rivera is on a team from Ketchikan and has been bowling in the state tournament for a decade and was very impressed by the competition he witnessed this weekend.

"It's kind of unreal, really," Rivera said. "I have never seen so many high scoring games. So far there have been two 300s and a few 299s and the house has been very consistent, and it's pretty exciting to see a 300 game, but I have seen two!"

Ketchikan does not have a bowling alley any more but still sent a handful of participants up to Juneau for the weekend because of their high scores from last year's tournament.

"We do miss our bowling and hope to get another one hopefully within the next five years, but we are up here more for the love of bowling. It is a great winter sport as it really gets dark early and all," Rivera said.

Juneau had similar problems about three years ago before Jones lifted Juneau Bowling Center back up and in the right direction.

Bowling started on Thursday and continues around the clock until 11:30 p.m. tonight.

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