A great tournament that keeps the great Donato name alive

Joe & Tom Donato Scratch Singles tournament draws best from region and beyond
Tommy Donato, Tom Donato and Joel Donato.
Tommy Donato, Tom Donato and Joel Donato.

Featuring added money and a tweaked semifinal format, the 16th annual Joe & Tom Donato Scratch Singles tournament will draw the best bowlers from the Capital Region and well beyond.

They come for the lucrative prize fund, but they also show up to pay tribute to a pair of legendary bowlers known for both their skill and their promotion of the game.

Joe Donato was arguably the best bowler ever to come out of Schenectady, and started Sportsman’s Bowl. His son, Tom Donato, was also a talented performer who kept the family tradition going, and was a co-owner of Sportsman’s for many years. Both are Schenectady Bowling Association Hall of Famers.

The tournament was originally named after Joe Donato, but when Tom Donato died suddenly a few years ago, his sons, Tommy Donato and Joel Donato, took over the tournament and tacked on their father’s name to the popular event. The Donato name continues to stand for the best of the best in local tenpins competition.

What makes this tournament so unique is the quality of the field and the month-long qualifiers that draw so many competitors. Tommy Donato is hoping to have at least 300 entries this year.

Alpine Flooring is the title sponsor, and has kicked in added money to help pad the prize fund. Top prize will be $3,200, and all semifinalists are guaranteed at least $120. The entry fee is $60, except for the final day, when it increases to $70. Other sponsors include Action Bowling Supply, Carpet this and J&F Lawncare.

“It’s funny, the year my father passed away, there was no way I wasn’t going to continue to run the tournament,” Tommy Donato said. “But every year after that, I’ve wondered if I was ever going to run it again. I love it, but it’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot out of you.”

In the early years, the top local competitors such as Steve Wagoner (2003 winner), Mike Drexel (2004) and Gene Speenburgh (2005) dominated, but the regional pros from throughout New York and New England began to get involved and made their mark. Ryan Galli of Binghamton won last year. Mike Rose of Rochester is a two-time champion, and other well-known regional competitors such as Steve Ferraro, Mike Lichstein and Ray Cyr also triumphed.

“They local guys still carry the tournament. They still keep it going,” Donato said. “I know a lot of bowlers who still bowl because they knew my father and my grandfather. I don’t think the really good bowlers we have here in our area are afraid of the regional guys. Bowlers are bowlers.”

Donato said that regional pro Matt O’Grady, the surprise winner of this year’s PBA Tournament of Champions, has already signed up to bowl. “He’s bowled in our tournament before,” Donato said.

Qualifying begins Sunday at noon at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. In most squads, one in five bowlers advance to the semifinals, set for April 8 at Towne Bowling Academy. In a change of format this season, all semifinalists roll three more games to determine the 16 bowlers who will compete in single-elimination match play.

Some of the other qualifiers include March 16 at 7 p.m. at Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center in South Glens Falls; March 16 at 9:30 p.m. at Starlite Lanes in Gloversville, and March 17 at 1 p.m. at Valley Bowl in Randolph, Vt.

For more information, contact Tommy Donato at 518-788-0771.

I knew both Joe Donato (who tried to give me some helpful tips back in the day) and Tom Donato extremely well, and miss them both. This tournament keeps their names, and the great memories the bowling community has of them, alive.


The Schenectady County Community College women’s bowling team won its fourth straight NJCAA National Championship in Buffalo last weekend. Schenectady’s Lauren May Piotrowski was the MVP, and teamed with Bethlehem High School grad Jenna Lemke as national doubles champions. Quinn Hodson was the national singles champ and earned All-America honors. Ray Ross won his fourth consecutive Coach of the Year award, his sixth overall.

Both the SCCC women, and the men, who finished fifth, will compete in the USBC Sectionals Championships this weekend in Stratford, N.J.


The Mohonasen and Lansingburgh girls’ teams, the Guilderland and Lansingburgh boys’ teams and both the boys’ and girls’ all-section teams will be competing in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships this weekend at the Syracuse Oncenter.

Elizabeth Ross (220 average) leads the Mohon girls’ team that also includes Katie Adamec, Elizabeth Delorenzo, Mackenzie Simmons, Isabella Serafini, Savannah Swierzewski and Nina Serafini. Katie Lynch (213 average) paces the Lansingburgh girls’ team that includes Kylee Bristol, Cameryn O’Haras, Kristina Pondillo, Hannah Jacobs, Abby Golden, Sierra Morris and Abby Thornton.

Andrew Apollo (213 average) anchors the Guilderland boys’ team that includes Tommy Durand, Lauren Buess, Manny DiBella, Kyle Mastrangelo and Sebastian Van Deloo. Grant Laustrap (206) has the top average on the Lansingburgh boys’ team of Codi Genthner, Devyn Riffelbach, Jack Stevens, Mike Connally, Johnnie King and Marshall Cooper.

The boys’ all-section team includes Garrett Way (Johnstown), AJ Hurlburt (Hoosick Falls), Josh Kalwasinski (Mechanicville), Mike Westfall (Shenendehowa), Jahlil Young (Albany) and Hunter Chandler (Saratoga Springs). The girls’ all-section team consists of  Melanie Lemke (Bethlehem), Sierra Glass (Bethlehem), Carolyne Shultes (Middleburgh), Sarah Steele (Columbia), Sara Polomaine (Schenectady) and Shealynn Peckowitz (South Colonie).


Patrick Hyam Jr., 13, rolled his first 300 game last Saturday at Hilltop Bowl in the Joey Schmidt Capital District Junior Pro-Scoring league. Hyam bowls for Sportsman’s Bowl.

Kim Butler (664 Open Division), Gail Browning (524 Division A), Anne Torak (522 Division B), Laurie LaDuke (513 Division C) and Laura Simpkins (509 Division D) were the winners in the Electric City 600 Tournament last weekend at Sportsman’s Bowl.

Towne Bowling Academy will host a mixed doubles tournament March 18, with squads at both 9:30 a.m. and noon. Qualifying will be four games, with finals to follow. Top prize will be $1,500. Handicap is 80 percent of the difference between the team’s average and 460 with a maximum of 80 pins per game.

The Charlie Bechard Senior Tournament, named after the man who used to keep score on the now defunct TV Tournament Time bowling show, will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. at Green Island Lanes. Entry fee is $25. Other squads are Monday at 10 a.m., Wednesday at noon, March 17 at 1 p.m. and March 18 at 2 p.m.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.

Categories: College Sports, High School Sports, Sports

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