In the Pocket: Capital District Challenge League is fun time for everyone

The Capital District Challenge League, with many members shown here, bowls every Tuesday night at East Greenbush Bowling Center. A different oil pattern is used each week. (Photo provided)

The Capital District Challenge League, with many members shown here, bowls every Tuesday night at East Greenbush Bowling Center. A different oil pattern is used each week. (Photo provided)

Eric Morrett’s Capital District Challenge League is unique, fun, safe and extremely successful.

For starters, the CDCL, which is hosted by East Greenbush Bowling Center every Tuesday night, is not just a league. It’s also a mini-tournament on different oil patterns every week. It’s loaded with various ways of earning extra cash. Many of the adults — and juniors — who test their games in the CDCL end up performing well in other major tournaments contested on demanding lane conditions.

“The CDCL is a weekly, no obligation singles scratch league featuring junior and adult bowlers on the same stage competing for cash prizes and scholarships,” states Morrett on his Web site, cdclbowling.com.

The league is also very safe, as Morrett and the East Greenbush Bowling Center staff followed the pandemic safety guidelines to the letter, including maintaining strict social distancing.
“I wanted to see them be in a comfortable environment, and that’s what [proprietor] Bill Cornell allowed me to do with our league,” he said.
Morrett, a Scotia-Glenville High School and University at Albany graduate, is an excellent bowler himself, and he understands what it takes to truly improve your game. The 41-year-old database administrator has been mentored by several outstanding instructors over the years, including the late

Mo Pinel, the remarkable coach and innovative bowling ball designer who was working with the Radical bowling company when he died recently.

“We initially got started in the fall of 2017,” Morrett recalled. “At the time, there was really no outlet to bowl on different patterns other than asking for the proprietors to put out a pattern to bowl on or for a tournament,” he said. “I always thought there ought to be room in the middle to bowl on something harder than a house shot but easier than a major tournament or [pro] regional shot. There is a huge gap between those types of shots.”

So Morrett went to Cornell with his idea of starting something completely different. It started out relatively small, but during the height of the pandemic, the CDCL really took off and reached a high of 48 bowlers one week, which was one bowler short of a sellout because of the pandemic rules.

“We do have 28 patterns that we provide,” Morrett explained. “They range from a fairly loose pattern close to a house condition, to the kind of pattern where you can play many different angles.”

Morrett said he doesn’t like to see his bowlers struggle with incredibly difficult shots, but he wants them to learn and adjust.

“My goal is to have the leader for the night to be over 900 for the four games. That’s 100 pins over [scratch] and I feel like we’re there 90 percent of the time,” Morrett said. “We have so many different patterns and shapes but different kinds of bowlers will bowl well on each one. It’s very difficult for someone to lead the scoring for more than one week. Only three people have gone back-to-back-to-back in our history, and they are Tom Hankey, Craig Taylor and Mark Taylor.”

Mark Taylor, the co-director of the popular Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour, is the all-time leader in weekly wins with 27. Preston Oakes recorded 15 wins, while Craig Taylor has won 14 times. Regional pro Don Herrington, who competes on the PBA50 Tour, is also high on that list with 12. Others with notable win totals include Morrett himself (11), Brandon Vallone (10) and Hankey (seven). Some of the other multiple winners are Parker Brown, Ryan Ladlee, Zach Doty, Sam Beardsley, Mike Neumann, Alex White, Andrew Robitaille, Lauren Piotrowski, Andrew Hall, Casey Schoonmaker, Matthew Flandreau, Britany Myers, Chris Fawcett, Suzie Morine, Jordan Byrnes and Steve Gabriel.

A lot of them credit the CDCL with sharpening their games just in time for major tournament wins.

“We have all sorts of different styles in our league,” said Morrett, who struggled with arthritis in his wrist a couple of years ago, limiting his own bowling, but he is much better now. “There are so many people who just want to bowl well. There are some rev-dominant players and others are speed-dominant. Bowling is a constant improvement sport. You are never going to master everything.”

Morrett continually polls his members to find out if they like the way the CDCL is run. In his most recent poll, he got a 95% positive rating.

“We bowl four games, and you pay a $19 base fee,” Morrett said. “That base fee puts you into a showdown pot and a leader pot. There is also a front-7 strike pot, a 300 game pot and a final-frame pot. If you strike out in the 10th frame of all four games you can also cash. We also have side action, like two separate pools, a survivor pool and a four-bracket one, where we reseed for every game. We also have a finals and a consolation match. We don’t force anyone to bowl any of the side action. Some people just pay the $19 and bowl.”

The junior bowlers compete for scholarships.

“The part of the league I find very rewarding is when the kids win and beat the older bowlers,” Morrett said.

The no-obligation rule is very appealing in the CDCL, especially because it’s a year-round enterprise. There are no weekly dues.

“We bowl every week unless there is a holiday,” he said. “We average 50 weeks a year. That allows you to maintain momentum. Some leagues only bowl 30 weeks, and you are committed to 30 weeks. With the CDCL, when you don’t bowl, you don’t pay. You can come in and bowl for 10 weeks, and then take some weeks off. You can come and bowl during the summer if you want to. You would be surprised to see how many regulars come in from Massachusetts and bowl regularly with us. It’s not just a local draw for us. We’ve become regional. Some bowlers come from fairly long distance to bowl with us.”

One of the highlights of the league — and for Morrett personally — was a special appearance by the legendary Walter Ray Williams Jr., the PBA Tour’s all-time leader in victories.

“It happened toward the end of the season,” Morrett explained. “Don Herrington approached me around noon on a Tuesday and he told me Walter Ray wanted to bowl with us. I thought that was incredible, and we decided to try to work out how we would handle it. I proposed that we should make it about the kids, and Walter Ray agreed. So what we did was have Walter, Don and Rich Strath — all professionals — bowl on lane 9, with all of our youth bowlers bowling on pairs surrounding the middle pair. After bowling, we had a chance to sign memorabilia and have a meet-and-greet with Walter. It was one of the best nights we ever had, and it was an honor personally for me to meet such a great, humble guy. He’s very private, but very nice.”

Morrett said the CDCL has given out roughly $5,000 in scholarships over the years, and he is proud to do his part with promoting the game to area juniors.

The CDCL celebrated its 152nd session this week.

JUST IN TIME

PWBA standout Liz Kuhlkin, who finished third in the USBC Queens in Reno, Las Vegas, last week, announced on Facebook that new rules provided by the CDC will allow spectators to watch her compete in the PWBA Albany Open June 4-5 at Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center in South Glens Falls.

The change in pandemic protocols include discontinuing pre-event COVID-19 testing for the bowlers. Masks will only be required if mandated by state and local regulations at a host facility. Spectators will be distanced a minimum of six feet from all player areas, and there will be a private entrance/exit provided for all athletes and credentialed attendees.

Kuhlkin, who is thrilled that her many local fans will be able to watch her bowl in person, is competing in the PWBA BVL Open in Farmingdale this weekend before the area stop. The PWBA Tour continues with seven more events through Aug. 24-31. The PWBA Fall Classic will be held the last week of October at a facility to be determined.

STRIKES & SPARES

After a six-week break, the PBA50 Tour picks up again with the PBA50 Cup in Lubbock, Texas June 27-30. The PBA50 Tour then continues through the PBA50 Masters Sept. 13-19 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Colonie’s Kenny Livengood shot plus-168 in the eliminator round and rolled a 259 to qualify fourth in last weekend’s New England Bowling Association stop, the Rip Callahan Memorial, in Newington, Connecticut. He cashed for $250.

Town & Country Lanes will host the TNC Summer Series every Thursday night through July 15 at 6 p.m. Each night will be a separate tournament. Entry fee will be $20, plus a $5 membership fee. There will be four games of qualifying across four pairs, with the top four bowlers advancing to a seeded single-elimination bracket. Mark Taylor (22.5), Jim Mueller (16) and Billy McGaffin (15) are the top point producers through the first two tournaments. Call 518-456-1113 for more information.

Sportsman’s Bowl’s Baker Trio league runs for 10 weeks every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The cost is $20 per week. First place will be $1,800, based on 16 teams. Each team bowls six games on the same pair each night, and each bowler will bowl two of the six 10th frames. Call 518-355-4330 for more information.

Sportsman’s Bowl’s PBA Experience League runs every Thursday for 10 weeks at 7 p.m. Cost is $12 a week. Three-person teams bowl four games per night and five different sport patterns will be used.

The Electric City 600 Club is hosting the NYS Women’s 600 Bowling Club Tournament June 11-12 at Boulevard Bowl. The association’s annual meeting will be held June 13 at 9:30 a.m. at the Rotterdam Elks. This is the first time in the 53-year history of the event that it is being hosted by Schenectady.

Don’t forget that most Capital Region bowling centers are open through the spring and early summer for leagues and/or open bowling.

That’s a wrap for this season’s column. See you in September.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

Categories: Sports

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