Former PBA touring pro Kenny Hall spends most of his bowling life behind the mic or selling equipment at his Spare Time-Latham pro shop these days.
Similarly, it’s been a long time since Tom Donato ran out his strikes on the big stage. Bowling fans are more accustomed to seeing him behind a desk at an area bowling center like Sportsman’s or the now-defunct Redwood Lanes.
But these two area stalwarts will be back in the spotlight this weekend when the Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York’s Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show” tapes its TV finals for the Over-50/Under-50 tournament.
Hall, the color commentator for the Huck Finn shows with play-by-play partner John Craig, is planning on wearing a microphone while he competes with under-50 partner Nick Galusha. Donato, the son of the legendary Joe Donato and an excellent bowler himself, will be teamed up with regional pro Nick Miseno.
It should be quite a show Sunday at Spare Time-Clifton Park.
Hall, 55, the only personality on air for all nine years of the Huck Finn show, is undoubtedly among the greatest bowlers in Capital
Region history. Author of 70 perfect games and 38 career 800 triples, he was a full-time member of the PBA Tour back in the 1980s and made the TV finals in the 1982 Cleveland Open, finishing fourth.
The Shaker High School graduate is a member of both the Albany Bowling Association and Schenectady Bowling Association halls of fame, but his game went south about five years ago when he contracted Lyme disease. It’s been a long road back to good health.
“When I got Lyme disease, my health went to the bottom of the barrel,” said Hall. “I wasn’t only not competitive anymore, but I could hardly walk. Every time I’ve gotten a little better, healthwise, it was a positive for me. My mindset has been a little different than many
55-year-olds. For many of them, they are trying to maintain their physical health. My mindset is that I’m finally getting better.”
But Hall hasn’t lost his competitive edge. He was part of one of the greatest bowling performances ever accomplished by an area team when he, Ron Priester, Dave Wolfe, Mark Hilton and Hugo McGroty set the five-man team scoring record of 3,537 pins in the 1993 ABC Open Tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
Although his average is down to about 210 these days, he still knows how to get the job done under pressure.
“I’m going out there to have some fun, but without a doubt, I’m also going out on the lanes to try to win. It didn’t take long for my instincts to come back. It was pretty intense out there when we were trying to get a spot on the show,” he said.
“I think the Over-50-Under-50 format is a real winner. The guys really seem to like it. I plan on wearing a wireless mic so the fans can hear what I’m thinking and what moves I’m going to make. I think it will be a great idea.”
The 63-year-old Donato is the former co-owner of Sportsman’s, and he also was the general manager at Redwood before it closed its doors last spring.
He has a handful of 300 games and 800 triples to his credit and once bowled an 848 triple. The SBA Hall of Famer has won his share of local tournaments and these days bowls with his two sons, Tom Jr. and Joel, on the same team in the Sportsman’s Majors.
“I don’t think I’ve bowled on TV since the 1980s. I’ve got some old tapes, but I can’t remember how long it’s been,” said Donato, a former NBA Bob Guild champion.
“I’ve probably been on TV about 30 times between the old ‘TV Tournament Time’ and ‘Capital Region Bowling Shows.’ ”
Donato said he still uses just one bowling ball and probably won’t be that nervous when he steps onto the lanes.
“I’ve still got that competitive spirit,” he said. “I’d prefer the conditions to be a little tougher, because that makes me think and concentrate more. But I”m sure it will be a lot of fun.”
Also competing in this week’s high-powered TV finals Sunday night are Mike Drexel with Craig Schoonmaker and Ron Gardner with Craig Taylor.
This could be one of the most exciting shows ever in Huck Finn bowling.
WAGONER WINS TITLE
Broadalbin’s Steve Wagoner added another title to his impressive resume over the weekend when he won the Adirondack Open at Adirondack Lanes.
Wagoner, one of the area’s top bowlers, especially under tougher-scoring conditions, earned $1,200.
“It was an old, beat-up kind of house, but it was a nice place. They oiled with an old Silver Bullet machine, and it was an old wood surface. The lanes hooked a lot,” said Wagoner, who beat Chris Sorenson, 230-190, in the finals. He also rolled a perfect game in match play, and now has well over 50 300s to his credit.
“I’m off to a pretty good start so far this season. Things are going well,” said Wagoner, who has won several NBA titles and numerous Huck Finn events in the last decade. A former Joe Donato Scratch Singles champion, Wagoner also led the qualifying the last time the PBA Tour visited the Capital Region at Spare Time Clifton Park.
Wagoner will be competing in the Bud Lite Open this weekend in Buffalo.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u The Huck Finn combined scratch/handicap show qualifying will be held Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Hi-Way Recreation in Wynantskill and Sunday at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Town N Country Lanes. Bowlers in the scratch qualifier on Saturday will have a $35 entry fee and will receive a minimum $25 gift card from Huck Finn’s Warehouse. Entry fee for Sunday’s qualifier is $40. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7628 for reservations.
u Albany’s Chris Fedden won the PBA East Region Dominick V. DiCocco Memorial Senior Open at Glassboro Bowl & Recreation in Glassboro, N.J., over the weekend. Fedden earned $1,500. Other area bowlers to cash included Rensselaer’s Bill Neumann (13th, $425) and Colonie’s Andy Smith ($22nd, $250).
u Brian Mariano defeated Steve Gabriel, 237-214, in the finals of the Troy Bowling Association’s 800 Tournament at Barbecue Recreation in Hoosick Falls last weekend. Mariano won $800, while Gabriel cashed for $400.
u Town ’N Country junior bowler Erika Bollock is on a tear recently. She rolled her first 300 game and a 772 series last week, and then bounced back with another 300 game en route to her first 800 triple (816) this week.