The Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York’s “Huck Finn Capital Region Bowling Show” has a few new twists this season.
The weekly television show, shown Sundays at 11 a.m. on WXXA Fox23, begins its qualifiers Saturday at Alpha Lanes at 3 p.m. and Sunday at Uncle Sam Lanes, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.
One of the major changes will be the way the Huck Finn officials run their amateur/handicap division tournaments. Bowlers will continue to qualify through in-house league play for $10, but when it comes to the television show, they will be bowling against the scratch bowlers in the finals.
“We’re trying a few new things,” said NBPNY executive director Carol Judge, who is also the manager of Spare Time Latham.
“With the amateur/handicap division, we are adding a new dimension. Four times during the season, the handicap bowlers will qualify in their own bowling centers for spots in the same weekend qualifying squads that the scratch bowlers compete in. They will bowl simultaneously with the scratch bowlers, and then the top two scratch bowlers and the top two handicap bowlers advance to the TV finals.”
Once on television, the two handicap bowlers square off against other, and the two scratch bowlers meet each other in the other semifinal, with the winners rolling for the championship.
“I think this will help the handicap bowler feel more confident in his game. It will show some of the differences between the amateur bowlers with handicaps and the scratch bowlers,” Judge said.
The reason for the change is simple economics. Tournament entries were down the last two seasons.
“In order to continue the way we were going and guaranteeing $1,000 to the winner, we had to make some changes. We had to open the door to a few more people,” Judge said.
“The handicap/amateur qualifiers are under way right now at bowling centers throughout the area, and from what we’ve heard, they are going well. We are hoping to get at least 150 bowlers for the first combined show with the scratch bowlers.”
Judge also said that the proprietors are searching for new sponsors to help with the costs.
“We are reaching out to new sponsors and getting the community more involved,” she said. “That will help everyone in the long run.”
A third change this year will be the addition of many more same-day television taping for the finals.
“We are very conscious of having at least eight or nine same-day finals tapings,” Judge said. “They won’t always be in the same center we had the qualifying in, but we are making it a point to have those finals close, geographically.
“This is a big step for us. Even if a bowler has to travel five to 10 miles, it won’t be the end of the world. By having more same-day tapings for the finals, bowlers won’t have to come back after qualifying to bowl in the finals a week or two later. It should make things a lot better.”
Judge said highlights of the this year’s show continue to be three junior shows, the annual adult/child show, the women’s-only show at Towne Bowling Academy and a special Huck Finn scratch show with a top purse of $2,000 at Towne Bowling Academy.
John Craig will continue to do the play-by-play, and former PBA touring pro Kenny Hall will again handle the color commentary for the television finals.
For reservations, call Jeff Segel at 439-7628.
NIECKARZ ON FIRE
Colonie native John Nieckarz always had one of the smoothest deliveries in the Schenectady Bowling Association, but now he’s starting to put that top form to good use in tournament play.
Last weekend at Sunset Recreation, Nieckarz won his second New Era Senior Tour event. He also has five second-place finishes.
Although he’s been one of the area’s finest league bowlers for several decades, Nieckarz seldom bowls in tournaments. But that is changing.
“I’m going to concentrate on trying more Huck Finn tournaments this year, especially now that they have more events for seniors. I will certainly make an effort to bowl in as many as possible,” Nieckarz said.
“I really like bowling in the NEST tournaments. It’s been a learning process, but I’m getting used to the environment of head-to-head competition, and I’m becoming more confident. I think that will carry over to the Huck Finn tournaments.
“It’s hard to bowl in tournaments when you’re not used to the environment.”
Nieckarz, who uses Storm and Roto Grip equipment, should have entered the tournament fray a long time ago. Few local bowlers work harder on their games.
“I just love bowling. I’m kind of a perfectionist, he said. “I know where I need to get, and I seek out the right help to get there. I practice all the time. If I’m going to do something, I put 100 percent effort into it in order to improve.”
The 52-year-old Nieckarz currently bowls in three leagues at three different centers. He averages 245 at Del Lanes, 240 at Boulevard Bowl and 249 at Town ’N Country Lanes.
“I enjoy the fact that I’m moving to different houses and doing this well,” he said. “That’s the reason I do it. I don’t want to be considered just a house bowler. Averaging over 240 at three different houses on three different shots is pretty good.”
At one time, Nieckarz, whose previous career-best average was 240 on four occasions, used to bowl in five different leagues, but he’s cut back a little.
He still spends a lot of his free time in the bowling center practicing, however, and recently, he even went to a bowling clinic to improve his game.
“I went down to the Kegel bowling camp in Florida back in March for a half-day camp, and then I went to another camp in July for a three-day camp, he said. “They actually got my arm swing a lot tighter. I’m more in line to where I need to be. It was really interesting to see yourself on camera. It helped me a lot.”
When Nieckarz feels he needs a little extra help, he visits former PBA touring pro Brian LeClair at Del or Jack Scaccia Jr. at Town ’N Country for a few pointers.
“I take a lot of pride in my bowling game, and I always want to improve,” said Nieckarz, who has 59 perfect games, 26 800 triples and career-bests of an 836 triple (four times) and a 1,087 four-game
“I’ve won many, many average titles over the years, but I should probably be in some better leagues, in terms of the competition,” he said.
“But by bowling in the leagues I do, I can still bowl with my brother and my father. My father is 76, and I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to bowl together, so I want to bowl with my family as long as I can.”
STRIKES AND SPARES
u The Schenectady Bowling Association has scheduled a special board meeting for Sunday at 2 p.m. at Boulevard Bowl. Items on the agenda for what will be part of the SBA’s annual meeting will be the election of a vice president and three new board members. In addition, there will be an audit presentation by Fred Marx. Preparation for this year’s City Tournament, an update on merging plans with the local women’s organization (SSWBA) and office and bowling center support also will be included. All league delegates are invited to attend.
u Sunset Recreation will host a Junior Edge Clinic, featuring PBA Tour members Joe Ciccone and Doug Kent, Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The cost of the clinic will be $125 and is for bowlers ages 11 to 21. Lunch is included. Topics include physical game, accuracy, practice drills, lane play, adjustments and spare making. Call Sunset at 438-6404 for more information.
u Aiden Deitz, 8, has moved up from the bantam ranks to the prep ranks in the Sportsman’s Bowl junior program and rolled a personal-best 210-569 recently.
u The third annual Al Heins Tournament will be held Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 3 at 9 .m. at Rolling Greens Lanes. It’s a 9-pin, no-tap event, with five bowlers on a team. Cost is $60 per team, and prize payout will be one in 10. Handicap will be 75 percent of a 1,100 team average. Call Rolling Greens at 381-4848 for more information.
u The Town ’N Country Lanes Scotch Doubles tournaments begins Saturday night at 8. Entry fee will be $25 with a four-game format. Handicap will be 90 percent of a team average of 450.
u The Rolling Greens Glenville Bowlers Club needs a four-man team for its Wednesday night men’s handicap league. If interested, call Gary at 791-6535.
u The New York State Women’s Bowling 700 Club Tournament will be held Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Boulevard Bowl. The tournament format will be doubles, and there is a $55 entry fee. One team partic-ipant must be a 700 Club member. The prize fund will be distributed by the teams based on the division in which they qualify: Division A (400 average or higher), Division B (370-398), Division C (368 and under) and Senior Division (60 years of age and older). Entries and new members will be accepted up to the time of bowling. For more information, or an entry blank, contact Diane McGroty at 356-2282.
u The Menagerie league, which bowls at 6:15 p.m. on Fridays, now has seven openings. Call Boulevard Bowl for more information.
u The Sportsman’s Bowl Eliminator begins its first week of finals Monday at 9 p.m. Cost will be $15 per entry when qualifying during league play, and $20 when qualifying outside of league play or during specified qualifying squads. There will be qualifying squads every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and every Tuesday at 9:15 p.m. All finalists return the following Monday at 9:15. Call Sportsman’s Bowl at 355-4330 for more information.