In the Pocket: Martinez’s return to area produces win, good memories

Bob Martinez won the Underground Bowling Association’s Fight or Flight tournament last weekend at Sportsman’s Bowl (Photo provided)

Bob Martinez won the Underground Bowling Association’s Fight or Flight tournament last weekend at Sportsman’s Bowl (Photo provided)

Bob Martinez doesn’t bowl much these days. In fact, due to family priorities and a move to the Utica area a couple of years ago, the Colonie native rarely steps inside a bowling center, let alone compete in tournaments.

That’s why it was quite a surprise to see Martinez’s name pop up as the winner of last weekend’s Underground Bowling Association’s Fight or Flight event, hosted by Sportsman’s Bowl.

Martinez defeated Del Picard 256-247 in the championship game to earn $500. The event drew a solid 32 competitors, with the top eight advancing into match play. One of the unique aspects about this tournament was that instead of the normal seeding procedure for match play based on qualifying scores, the top seed got to choose who he or she wanted to bowl against from the remaining qualifiers. Then the second seed got to choose the opponent in that match, and so on.

“First of all, it was great seeing so many people I know in bowling,” he said. “Calling out an opponent in match play was really different, although I wasn’t so sure about that part of the tournament. I didn’t want my opponent to think I was calling them out because I thought they were an easy opponent. It was definitely a unique format, and a lot of fun.”

Why did Martinez come out of hibernation for this particular event?

“Some of the people I’m friends with, including Gabe Criscuolo of the UBA, told me they were starting a local franchise, and they asked me to join,” Martinez explained. “Unfortunately, I live out past the Utica area now, and I can’t commit to bowling every week. They’ve been asking me to bowl for a long time, but family is my big priority right now. My daughter keeps me busy with her dancing competitions, and bowling has taken a back seat.”

Martinez still works as an administrative aide at the NYS Justice Center, but with his move to the Utica area from Niskayuna, he now works out of the Utica office. Plus, his daughter’s dance recitals take up quite a bit of his time.

But the 45-year-old Martinez was once one of the top bowlers in the Capital Region with an impressive resume.

It all started with his junior bowling career and then competing on the perennial powerhouse Colonie High School bowling squad.

“I had some pretty good coaches when I was a kid,” Martinez noted. “My first coach was Harry Polomaine. Then my next coach in high school was Barb Leicht. Then Jim Burch coached me. I’m not sure anybody else can say they had those three legendary bowlers as their coach. I was talking to Bob Tedesco Jr. about that the other day. And by the way, he also has coached me. That’s a pretty good list of coaches.”

In high school, Martinez averaged 200 as a junior and a senior, but he still started the season on the JV team because the Garnet Raiders had the likes of Craig Taylor and Mike Drexel on the varsity. “We had some pretty good bowlers on that team. I get teased about my high school career, but I’m pretty sure I could have been on the varsity for most teams back then. We won the sectionals every year. In my senior year, we went to states and finished third.”

After graduating from Colonie, Martinez attended SUNY Schenectady and also began competing in adult major leagues. In fact, he bowled in almost every top league in the city, including the Galaxy, the Capital District All Star league, the Sportsman’s Majors, the Vitalo Classic, the Frank DePalma Boulevard Classic, the Ballston Spa Friday Night Men’s league, the City League and a major league at Hi-Way Recreation in Wynantskill at one time or another. He bowled in the Vitalo Classic for 15 years and was inducted into that league’s Hall of Fame.

Martinez’s highest average was a 238 in the Vitalo Classic, where he also rolled his best triple, a first-three 861 that included a 300 game and a 299. He rolled 23 consecutive strikes to begin the match and had 34 strikes in 36 frames. He left a 10-pin in his 299 game and had the first seven strikes before leaving a split in his final game. His four-game series that night was a career-high 1,107.

Martinez, who has 50 perfect games and 27 800 triples, also enjoyed a solid tournament career, as well. He was a member of the winning team in the annual Schenectady Bowling Association City Championship in both 2017 and 2018. He won a Huck Finn Capital Region Bowling Show tournament on television and once compiled a 2,035 all-events score in the USBC National Championships, finishing 80th overall. Although he didn’t crack the winner’s circle, he was also a regular at the old Northern Bowlers Association scratch tournaments.

When he was bowling regularly, he also was a solid teammate on many trips to the Lilac Tournament, the Green Mountain Open and other regional events.

By the way, Martinez has also given back to the sport he loves. He was the assistant coach for the Mohonasen High School JV team for three years, and also coached the Ballston Spa High School girls team for three years.

“Eventually, I’m hoping to get back into bowling,” Martinez said. “I miss seeing everybody, and I also miss the competition. I just love competing. I had a lot of fun over the years in this sport and it’s good to see all of those familiar people now and then.”

Meanwhile, both Martinez, the second seed, and Chris Fawcett, the top seed, rolled perfect games during qualifying in the Fight or Flight event. The other qualifiers were Picard, third-seeded Mark James, RJ Martinez, Mike Liberatore, Anthony Vanderwarker and Laura Rotter. Handicap was 80% of 230.


RJ Martinez, Bob’s nephew, picked up a title in the non-winners’ tournament of the Town & Country Lanes’ Summer Sweeps Series and then advanced to the round of 16 in the New England Bowling Association’s event over the weekend. Nick Miseno and Matt Fazzone reached the round of 32 in that NEBA competition. RJ Martinez and his team of Ramsey Basurto, Steve Wagoner, Brad Lawyer and Paul Dumas finished 68th at the USBC Championship.

Suzie Morine of East Greenbush won her second national championship when she and partner  Robin Orlikowski  of Grand Rapids, Michigan, captured the USBC Diamond Division doubles title with a 1,448. Orlikowski and Morine were also part of the 2021 USBC Diamond Team championship squad.

Albany’s Brian LeClair, proprietor of the Revolutions Pro Shops at Boulevard Bowl and Del Lanes, is currently 14th on the PBA50 point list (7,875). In seven events, he’s averaging 221.57 and has earned $10,025. He’s advanced to match play three times and has cashed in all seven of his events. Don Herrington of Ballston Lake is 38th on the point list (3,485) with $2,225 in earnings, a 208.70 average and two cashes. Schenectady’s Rich Strath is 119th on the point list (735) with $1,100 in earnings, a 201.04 average and one cash in four events. Rounding out the PBA50 schedule are PBA South Shore Open Monday through Thursday in Hammond, Indiana, the PBA50 Spectrum Lanes Open Aug. 1-4 in Wyoming; the PBA50 David Small’s Championship Lanes Ope Aug. 6-9 in Anderson, Indiana; the PBA50 David Small’s Jax60 Open Aug. 12-15 in Jackson, Michigan; the PBA60 Dick Weber Classic Aug. 16-18 in Jackson, Michigan and the PBA60 Tristan’s T.A.P.S.  Memorial Aug. 19-22 in Columbus, Ohio.

Rotterdam’s Liz Kuhlkin is having quite a summer on the PWBA Tour. She’s 12th on the money list ($12,200), 13th on the point list (43,180) and 21st in average (208.42). She’s made two championship appearances, including one victory and cashed four times. The PWBA schedule winds down July 28-31 with the PBA/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles at Copperfield Bowl-Houston and the PWBA Classic Series in Dallas Aug. 2-9 at USA Bowl.

At the prestigious Junior Gold Championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan, several Capital Region youngsters were on the verge of making the 90-player cut for match play heading into Thursday’s fourth and final round of qualifying. That group included three girls in the U15 group – Cierra Gabriel of Waterford (9th), Caroline Engeron of Albany (30th) and Savannah Swiatocha of Schenectady (48th). In the boys’ U15 division, Schenectady’s Angelo Galofaro was 138th and Matt Rogers of Schenectady was 255th. By the way, Galofaro finished third in the team competition of the USA Bowling National Tournament.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

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