Standout left-hander Rich Strath is finally living the dream he’s had since he was a youngster, and he’s enjoying it to the fullest.
Strath, 61, is in his second season as a full-fledged professional bowler and member of the PBA50 Tour. The Colonie High School graduate always wanted to test his game with the best in the world, and now he’s getting his chance. He’s definitely making the most of this opportunity.
“This is my dream,” said the retired longtime postal employee. “It’s something I wanted to do all my life. I had a career in the postal service, but I always planned to do this. I’m going to do this as much as I can and for as long as I can.”
Basically self-taught, Strath picked up valuable pointers along the way from former PBA touring pro Kenny Hall and former Capital Region star Mike Christie. He’s rolled 86 perfect games, registered roughly 30 800 triples and once averaged as high as 235 at Towne Bowling Academy. Strath also earned his share of local tournament victories, including one Northern Bowlers Association triumph at Town & Country Lanes and numerous Huck Finn Capital Region Bowling Show crowns.
But those performances pale in comparison to what he’s trying to accomplish at the elite level of the sport.
“I’m competing on both the national tour and the regional tour. It’s quite an eye-opener,” Strath explained. “You see a different level of bowling than what you see on the local level. These guys are the best bowlers in the world. I’m learning an awful lot out there. My friend [fellow PBA50 member] Sammy Ventura took me under his wing. We roomed and traveled together at a lot of the events, and we’ve been working on my game, bringing it to a new level with different equipment and a better mental status.
“I’ve been really enjoying the entire experience. I like the traveling. I retired two years ago, and now I’m doing what I always wanted to do. I have no real expectations. Whatever happens, happens, but obviously I’m competitive and I want to win out here if I can.”
Strath said he had to make some adjustments in his already solid game to battle the big boys.
“I changed my equipment for one thing. Now, I’m using all Storm and Roto Grip equipment,” he said. “I’ve also learned a little more about hand position changes and speed control. I’m learning more about my equipment and what the lane dictate to me on different oil patterns. The whole thing is quite a different light for sure. Trying to make the right adjustments under pressure is really cool.”
Last season, Strath rolled his first perfect game in PBA50 competition, and he’s cashed in numerous events since then.
“That perfect game was quite an accomplishment in my first year on tour, but I also came in sixth in a tournament in Pennsylvania. I was also sixth in the PBA50 Hammer Zone Open. Besides the PBA50 tournaments, I finished second in another tournament down in Maryland, and last February I finished sixth in a Senior NEBA [New England Bowling Association] called the FX Senior Open. I was the high qualifier in that one. I even bowled with the kids in a regular PBA regional last month and picked up a senior check in that one,” he said.
Strath said he’s not afraid of the competition and relishes the opportunity.
“I feel pretty good. I’ve had some injuries in the last few years, but I keep myself in good shape. I exercise a lot. As we get older, our bodies tend to break down, but I feel I can still compete,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that this is a lot harder to do than one would think. There is no room for mistakes out there. You need to really know your game. It’s a learning process. But the camaraderie is amazing. I get a chance to meet a lot of new people and talk to them about the game. It’s so much more than just the bowling part of it.”
CHALLENGES TO THE SPORT
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the bowling community very hard. Local centers are under tremendous pressure to stay afloat during the sport’s long shutdown from last March through last month. Now, they also have to deal with new safety guidelines which have dramatically changed how the sport is conducted.
Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges for the area centers is the new rule mandating the use of masks even while bowling. The only time a competitor can take the mask off is to eat or drink, and even that can’t be done in the bar or restaurant any more. All food and drink must be delivered to the lanes by staff members.
Safety measures, like plastic lane dividers, social distancing throughout the center and numerous sanitation stations, are also mandatory. Bowlers who like to mingle during competition now must stay near their own lanes.
As a long-time bowler myself, I understand how many of these changes affect the bowling experience. For example, some of us who wear glasses are having trouble picking out our target on the lanes as they tend to fog up under the masks. Others are finding breathing difficult with a mask on while doing athletic activity.
But bowlers are a loyal bunch, and I’m sure most will make the sacrifices necessary to keep their sport going.
Several proprietors have told me that league attendance is down. Some centers have lost entire leagues because of the pandemic. The sport has been through difficult times before, and hopefully, it will bounce back with the help of the bowling family.
STRIKES & SPARES
Very sad to see the passing of two popular members of the local bowling family this week. Tom Walsh Sr., the proprietor of the Walsh family bowling centers, including Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy, Cohoes Arena and Green Island Lanes, died at age 84. He was a great friend who I got to know very well when I was the secretary of the Cohoes Men’s Individual league at Cohoes Arena. He also helped me learn the ropes when I was a rookie bowling columnist for The Troy Record 40 years ago.
Also stunned to hear of the loss of Henry Hurst, an avid bowler who rolled the first perfect game in the history of the Amateur League Bowlers Association of New York tournament series at Sportsman’s Bowl. Hurst, a Shaker High School graduate and Albany resident, was a chef for The Addictions Care Center at Albany. Battling health problems recently, he was just 44 years old.
The first Schenectady USBC Bowling Association board of directors meeting of the season will be held Sept. 27 at the Rotterdam Fire House at 5 p.m.
Don’t forget about the new USBC regulations about weight holes in your bowling balls. They are no longer allowed.
The legendary Dick Ritger died recently after a brilliant career. Not only did he win 20 times on the PBA Tour, but he also was a famed bowling coach and proprietor of Dick Ritger’s Bowling Camp. Ritger was a past president of the PBA, a two-time Steve Nagy Sportsmanship award winner, and was a member of the PBA and USBC Hall of Fame.
A couple of major leagues started this week, but most, including the Sportsman’s Majors and the Reis Group Brown Memorial City League, will begin competition next week after delaying their usual openers. Junior bowling for most centers starts the first week of October, although Towne Bowling Academy was scheduled to begin their program this weekend.
The Blizzard Bowl, which was interrupted by the pandemic last March, will hold three more squads at Boulevard Bowl: this Sunday, Sept. 27 and Oct. 4, each at 1 p.m.
All three Schenectady USBC Bowling Association centers are looking for bowlers to fill leagues. If interested in joining a league, call Boulevard Bowl (518-374-4171), Sportsman’s Bowl (518-355-4330) or Towne Bowling Academy (518-355-3939).
The Albany TNBA’s Trios Tournament will be held Oct. 24-25 at Towne Bowling Academy. Bowlers must be Albany TNBA members to compete.
Saw a Facebook entry this week that featured former local standout Jim Lewis along with PBA Tour legends Johnny Petraglia, Teata Semiz and Schenectady’s own Sonny Dorstek. Don’t forget that both Lewis, former proprietor of Uncle Sam Lanes, and Dorstek were two of best local bowlers ever. Lewis once held the national record for high league average, while Dorstek won an impressive 10 PBA regional titles and is the all-time victory leader in the now defunct NBA with 37 triumphs. Dorstek was still competing on the lanes in senior events in recent years.
Green Island Lanes is the host for the 33rd annual Charlie Bechard Memorial Tournament for seniors age 50 and older. Entry fee is $25. Remaining squads are Saturday, Sept. 23, Sept. 25, Sept. 26, Sept. 27, Sept. 28 and Sept. 30. All squads begin at noon. Divisions will be Class A (age 50-60), Class B (61-71) and Class C (72 and older). Call 518-640-8330 for more information.
Congratulations to Savannah Swiatocha, who along with her teammate finished fifth in doubles at the Parker Bohn III Junior Scholarship Tournament at Howell Lanes in Howell, New Jersey, earlier this month.
John Mecca delivered a 261-971 four-game series as the Frank DePalma Boulevard Classic opened the season Tuesday night at Boulevard Bowl.
Schenectady USBC Hall of Famer Joe VanDerLinden opened the season with a 290 game, a first-three triple of 806 and a four-game series of 1,053, and Professional Women’s Bowling Association member Liz Kuhlkin tossed a 267-1,009 to pace the Reis Group Kim Brown Memorial Mixed Doubles league Wednesday night at Towne Bowling Academy.
FRANK DEPALMA BOULEVARD CLASSIC
D.A. Parisi & Co. 5-0, Downs Roofing 4-1, Derenzo’s Tax Service 4-1, Mason’s Automotive 1-4, Boulevard Bowl 1-4, Kalpro 0-5.
Keith Lawyer 243-184-194-183 — 804, Kyle Wilkins 172-213-204-150 — 739, Joe Carusone 222-144-191-200 — 757. Totals: 637-541-589-533 — 2,300.
D.A. Parisi & Co. (5)
John Mecca 248-237-261-225 — 971, Jeff Williams 244-214-152-183 — 793, Ken Wilkins 222-201-178-203 — 804. Totals: 714-652-591-611 — 2,258.
Derenzo’s Tax Service (4)
P.J. Derenzo 205-196-258-189 — 848, Spark Derenzo 179-202-207-174 — 762, Bob Tuttle 203-206-190-191 — 790. Totals: 587-604-655-554 — 2,400.
Mason’s Automotive (1)
Jim Parker 212-184-203-224 — 823, Robin Fredenburgh 141-187-179-159 — 666, B.J. Smith Jr. 210-183-232-235 — 860. Totals: 563-554-614-618 — 2,349.
Downs Roofing (4)
Ryan Karabin 245-245-161-231 — 882, Tony Bianchi 212-26-169-243 — 893, Phil Kilmartin 212-169-212-193 — 786. Totals: 669-683-542-667 — 2,561.
Boulevard Bowl (1)
Tom Siatkowski 192-185-199-190 — 766, Brian Hart 214-169-174-212 — 769, Craig Smith 161-198-190-190 — 739. Totals: 567-552-563-592 — 2,274.
REIS GROUP KIM BROWN MEMORIAL MIXED DOUBLES
Team 18 20-0, Towne Bowling Academy 19-1, Team 16 18-2, Team 19 15-5, Next Level Detailing 15-5, Team 11 15-5, Team 13 15-5, Team 6 13.5-6.5, Team 4 13-7, Team 9 13-7, Team 3 7-13, Team 10 7-13, Team 5 6.5-13.5, Team 20 5-15, Team 12 5-15, Team 14 5-15, Team 1 5-15, Team 15 2-18, Team 8 1-19, Team 17 0-20.
Team 1 (5)
Michelle Largeteau 146-153-140-128 — 567, Tony Pasquarella 226-162-172-204 — 764. Totals: 485-428-425-445 — 1,783.
Next Level Detailing (15)
Kim Swiatocha 178-235-194-246 — 853, Matt Swiatocha 226-270-253-218 — 967. Totals: 430-531-473-490 — 1,924.
Team 3 (7)
Jenn Schissler 270-199-237-217 — 923, Chuckie Schissler 234-182-169-183 — 768. Totals: 550-427-452-446 — 1,875.
Team 4 (13)
Erika Poje 182-229-193-204 –- 808, Joe Wolf 222-226-245-247 — 940. Totals: 451-502-485-498 — 1,936.
Team 5 (6.5)
Jackie Malone 188-204-215-233 — 840, Paul Dumas 180-198-236-212 — 826. Totals: 400-434-483-477 — 1,794.
Team 6 (13.5)
Lindsey McPhail 203-228-215-195 — 841, Don Herrington 231-224-233-236 — 924. Totals: 454-472-468-451 — 1,845.
Towne Bowling Academy (19)
Debbie Capullo 246-237-210-221 — 914, Ryan Gahan 218-214-232-210 — 874. Totals: 489-476-467-456 — 1,888.
Team 8 (1)
Elizabeth Criscuolo 161-147-153-127 — 588, Gabe Criscuolo 142-235-224-200 — 801. Totals: 379-458-453-490 — 1,693.
Team 9 (13)
Kaitlyn Barnes 205-223-190-206 — 824, Nick Barnes 245-232-203-201 — 881. Totals: 495-500-438-452 — 1,885.
Team 10 (7)
Renee Earl 181-147-205-161 — 694, Tom Earl 201-212-237-263 — 913. Totals: 419-396-479-46 — 1,607.
Team 11 (15)
Kris Impellizzeri 215-218-190-203 — 826, Scott Rogers 233-224-224-212 — 893. Totals: 471-465-437-438 — 1,811.
Team 12 (5)
Janelle Irwin 206-194-212-204 — 816, Steve Irwin 214-222-198-191 — 825. Totals: 454-450-444-429 — 1,777.
Team 13 (15)
Kate Clark 193-214-190-267 — 864, Jamie Duncan 214-246-180-174 — 814. Totals: 456-509-419-490 — 1,874.
Team 14 (5)
Kelly Chrzanowski 193-182-159-182 — 716, Tom Rogers 215-219-210-223 — 867. Totals: 456-449-417-453 — 1,775.
Team 15 (2)
Amber Dominic 204-165-235-207 — 811, Vinny Struffolino 168-188-215-201 — 772. Totals; 421-402-499-457 — 1,779.
Team 16 (18)
Aliyah Liberatore 203-210-216-231 — 860, Ben Empie 206-157-222-205 — 790. Totals: 485-443-514-512 — 1,954.
Team 17 (0)
Ursula Pasquerella 178-193-221-175 — 767, Joe Venduro 162-202-221-199 — 784. Totals: 380-435-482-414 — 1,711.
Team 18 (20)
Lisa Rathbun-Read 203-235-259-203 — 900, Cliff Ruth 213-223-229-208 — 873. Totals: 461-503-533-456 — 1,953.
Team 19 (15)
Liz Kuhlkin 258-267-226-258 — 1,009, Joe VanDerLinden 290-279-246-247 — 1,053. Totals: 559-539-474-507 — 2,070.
Team 20 (5)
Chris Allen-Valenzuela 222-221-233-181 — 857, John Askew 225-277-252-236 — 990. Totals: 470-52-508-440 — 1,939.