CAPITAL REGION – Kenny Hall’s immense impact on the local bowling scene extended much further than his incredible success on the lanes. The former PBA Tour member gave thousands of lessons and drilled close to 10,000 balls in a pro shop career that spanned close to 45 years. And his 13-year run as the color commentator on the extremely popular Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show” made him a household name and a local kegling icon.
Hall, a Shaker High School grad who bowled fulltime on the PBA Tour from 1978 to 1983 and again in 1984-85 before continuing to make part-time appearances for the next eight years, died Thursday morning after a long illness. He was 65.
He will be remembered not only for his natural athletic talents — he also played baseball, golf and hockey in high school — but also for his tremendous wit. He always had a joke or a story to tell.
On the lanes, Hall proved he was one of the best bowlers in local history. He finished fourth in the 1982 PBA Cleveland Open, registered a half-dozen top-10 finishes, recorded more than 70 perfect games and collected 30 800 triples while on tour. He was named to the Schenectady USBC, Albany USBC and Shaker High School Hall of Fames.
His most memorable achievement was winning the ABC Championship (now the USBC Championship) in Tulsa, Oklahoma with the Bruegger’s Bagels team that included Hugo McGroty, Mark Hilton, Ron Priester and Dave Wolfe. Their record for high team score (3,537) lasted more than 20 years.
Lyme Disease slowed him down in recent years, forcing him to step away from his pro shop business in 2018. He ran his Kenny Hall’s Ultimate Pro Shop at several area centers over the years, including Playdium, Towne Bowling Academy, his own shop in Schenectady and at Kingpin’s Alley Latham.
“I’ve got to touch so many lives in our sport, so I feel very lucky,” he said in a recent Daily Gazette bowling column.
Carol Judge, the executive director of the Northeast Bowling Proprietors Association of New York during the long Capital Region Bowling Show run and currently the manager at KPA Latham, helped Hall get the color commentator job, but she knew him when they were just kids.
“He was the best baseball player and the best golfer in high school,” Judge recalled. “When he went out and joined the PBA Tour, in my estimation he could have been one of the best out there. But all the stars didn’t align. He didn’t have a good sponsor at the time, and like many of us, he didn’t know the right people or have the right contacts. I think he had the ability in all three sports to become a professional at least on some level.”
McGroty, Judge’s brother, bowled head-to-head and side-by-side with Hall for almost three decades.
“We bowled together as kids, and then we were both members of the Bowlers Club Classic in the 1970s. Plus, we traveled together to local, state, regional and even national events for 25 years,” McGroty said. “Our bowling together was capped by winning the national championship together. We were very good friends, but we went different ways. He went on the PBA Tour, and I stayed local. I had some opportunities to do the same thing but I chose to stay close to home. Kenny went out on tour and became very successful. He always had that competitiveness. He wanted to be extremely successful, and he was.”
McGroty told a story of just how well Hall was known and respected in the bowling world.
“It was incredible how many people he knew,” McGroty said. “One time we were bowling in a Team Challenge tournament in Syracuse, and [PBA Tour legend] Earl Anthony ran over to find out how we were doing. That says it all.”
John Craig, who took over from Rich Becker as the play-by-play man on the Capital Region Bowling Show, wasn’t a bowling expert when he first got the job, but he learned quickly thanks to Hall.
“I came in as a broadcaster and host,” Craig recalled. “He took me under his wing and accepted me because I did my homework. I wasn’t going to compete with him in bowling knowledge, but it was my job to set him up and let him be the analyst. He was really the host. I was just the facilitator.
“I think I learned more from him about bowling than anyone,” Craig said. “We became good friends and even played golf together. I didn’t know just how much of an impact he had on local bowling until I started working with him. He knew everybody on the show, because he coached them or drilled a ball for them. He had connections in every house he walked into, so he didn’t have to do much homework.”
Hall was also an excellent golfer and was a perennial contender in the Schenectady Classic at Schenectady Municipal, as well as Tri-County Golf Association events when he was in his prime.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].