Liz Kuhlkin set the bar high, and Natasha Bidwell is intent on stepping over it as the two Schalmont High School graduates are proving to be among the most successful youth bowlers in Capital Region history.
Bidwell, a freshman at Long Island University, was recently notified by the United States Bowling Congress that her 832 triple at Towne Bowling Academy last season during the Joey Schmidt Capital District Junior Pro Scoring League was the highest youth female certified series in the nation.
That’s quite a feat, especially since Kuhlkin, a sophomore at Nebraska, received a similar honor in the 2009-10 season, when she rolled an 835 series and also recorded the highest average in the nation for a female youth bowler.
What a 1-2 combination.
Bidwell has jumped out to a fantastic start to her collegiate career by being named to the all-tournament team at the Kutztown Baker Invitational last month. She led the Blackbirds to a fifth-place finish out of 12 teams and averaged 215.8 over five games, good for fourth place individually. Teammate Brittany Hart, from Columbia High School, was eighth.
In the Northeast Conference Meet, Bidwell again led the Blackbirds with a 212.88 average over nine games to help her team finish with a 5-4 record in the tournament, their best ever.
Not to be outdone, Kuhlkin is continuing to shine at Nebraska as she led the Huskers to a third-place finish at the Crusader Classic in Valparaiso, Ind.
Kuhlkin finished with the overall high average in the tournament with a 230.6, and she also had a high game of 266.
Kuhlkin, who led Schalmont to the Section II Class B title, was a quick learner at the collegiate level. Last year, she averaged 193 and helped Nebraska finish third at the NCAA Championships.
She averaged 215.6 at the Big Red Invitational in Lincoln. For the season, she averaged 197.4 over 43 games.
“One of the very few true freshmen to ever succeed so highly, Liz was a valuable starter at every tournament during the 2011-12 season for us, earning all-star status in four events,” said Nebraska head coach Bill Straub, a former standout on the PBA Tour.
It’s no surprise that Kuhlkin and Bidwell are continuing to excel in their collegiate careers after banner scholastic performances. The Capital Region has always been a hotbed for bowling, both on the junior and the adult level.
WOMEN IN SPOTLIGHT
Speaking of standout female bowlers, the Huck Finn Women’s Scratch Tournament qualifiers will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Sunset Recreation and Sunday at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Towne Bowling Academy. The finals will follow immediately, with the TV finals taped at Sunset Sunday night.
It’s a rare chance for the area’s top women bowlers to bowl on television, and to earn the top prize of $1,000.
“Hopefully, they turn out,” said tournament director Jeff Segel.
According to Towne Bowling Academy proprietor Marty Capullo Jr., most of the best area women bowlers will compete, including 12 or so from his own DV Greco Insurance Women’s Doubles league. His wife, former Queens titlist Debbie Capullo, is set to bowl, along with other standouts like Jessica Aiezza, Carol Crandall, Tina Blake, Danielle Manuli, Robin Fredenburgh, Marissa Martinek, Jess Brockmyer, Kara Struffolino, Kylie and Ursula Pasquerella, Laura Rotter, Chris Allen, Krystle Auricchio and Jayme Nieckarz, just to name a few.
Nolan’s Pro Shop, Gardner Excavating, Regency Jewelers and Ace Mitchell Bowlers Mart are helping to sponsor the event.
In the qualifiers, bowlers will roll three games across six lanes, and one in five from each squad advance to the finals. All finalists bowl two more games, and the top score from each pair, and the next scores to total eight bowlers, advance. They will be seeded one through eight and go head to head to cut to the final four for the television finals.
Since this tournament has become the unofficial women’s scratch championship, I’m hoping that there will be a huge turnout and another exciting TV taping for the finals.
Opportunities for female scratch bowlers continue during the next month with Jim Burton’s New Era Women’s Tour, sponsored by Kim Julien’s Riverfront Insurance Agency.
The first NEWT event is set for Dec. 1 at Town ’N Country Lanes (where this year’s New York State Queens tournament will be held), followed by another Jan. 27 at Sunset Recreation, a third March 17 at Boulevard Bowl and the final April 28 at Sportsman’s Bowl. The final two events will be run simultaneously with the NEST tournament, and there will be a “Battle of the Sexes” match between the respective winners.
First place will be worth $500, and the runner-up will earn $250, based on 40 entries. Entry fee is $50.
Bowlers will qualify with four games across eight games. One in five cash and advance to the finals, which are head-to-head elimination matches.
Brackets and side-pots will be available. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Burton at 209-4748.
Burton also runs the New Era Senior Tour and has been helping out the Huck Finn crew, most recently at handicap/scratch show by running the handicap division qualifier.
“It’s been busy, but it’s fun, and it’s something for me to do. I’ve got to keep busy,” said Burton.
“I’m all for people getting a chance to bowl, and I hope the women take advantage of this opportunity. Kim Julien has really stepped up as a supporter of women’s bowling. She really wants to get involved. I’m really hoping we can get 40 bowlers. Last year, at the combined NEST and NEWT event at Sportsman’s Bowl, we had 40 entries reserved, and 36 or 37 showed up. I’d be satisfied with 30 or 35 for each tournament, but I would hope that the women enjoy themselves so much that we get 40 or more. If the tournaments are successful, maybe we can draw bowlers from the Binghamton area or from Syracuse.
“I know life gets in the way of our schedules sometimes,” Burton said. “But I think there are enough good women bowlers in the Capital area to support it. It’s just a matter of turning out.”
STRIKES AND SPARES
u Schenectady’s Dave Henderson; Mechanicville’s Brian Mariano; Connor LeClair of Athens, the son of former PBA touring pro Brian LeClair; and Drew Smarro of Cohoes made the TV finals of the Huck Finn Non-Winners Tournament last weekend, and will bowl Sunday at 4:30 at Sunset Recreation. Those TV finals will be followed by the women’s scratch TV finals.
u Mark Taylor, co-director of the Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour, rolled an 854 triple last week in the Towne Majors.
u Speaking of the CDYST, Vernon Billington II of Hartford, Conn., beat tournament leader Corey Buckley of Albany, 279-258, to win last weekend’s event at Hometown Lanes. A tournament-record 41 competed. Billington earned a $300 scholarship, while Buckley won a $185 scholarship. Other scholarship winners were Casey Schoonmaker of Albany ($130), Justin Carl of Albany ($85), Gazmine Mason of Cranston, R.I. ($55), Zachary Doty of Nassau ($45), Christopher Hanson of Ballston Lake ($40), Ricky Rovelli of Albany ($35), Jacob Rivers Jr. of Albany ($30) and Qwardaris Rembert of Providence, R.I. ($30). The next CDYST event will be Dec. 1 at Del Lanes. Call 393-8296 for more information.
u Towne Bowling Academy hosts the NEST Senior Shootout Saturday at 2 p.m. A third of all entries advance to the age-division rolloffs and are guaranteed a check. One in four from each of the 50-59, 60-66 and 67-and-over divisions advance to the finals, plus additional wild- card finalists, based on the highest remaining scores from the field of non-qualifiers. Finals are head-to-head single-elimination matches. Entry fee is $60, and qualifiers are guaranteed $80. NEST membership is $25 at $5 per tournament. Contact Jim Burton for reservations.
u Towne TV Audio and Appliances will sponsor both the inaugural Uncle Nick Doubles tournament Dec. 16 at Sportsman’s Bowl and the Donato Scratch Singles event, set for March.
u The second annual NEST Digger’s Doubles tournament is set for Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. The format will be an over-50/under-50 doubles tournament.
u The Schenectady Bowling Association will hold a board of directors meeting Sunday at 2 p.m. at Boulevard Bowl.
u Town ’N Country Lanes will host a Turkey Shoot Thanksgiving morning at 10 a.m. Bowlers roll four games across eight lanes, and they throw out the lowest game. Handicap is $80 percent of 240. Entry fee is $25. Call Town ’N Country at 456-1113 for more information or for reservations.
u Sunset Recreation will hold its seventh annual Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning at 9:30. Entry fee is $25, with $300 guaranteed to the winner. For more information, call 438-6404.
u Boulevard Bowl will host the Northern Bowlers Association Stockade Open Nov. 25.
u The General’s Two-Star Challenge will be held tonight (9:30) at Towne Bowling Academy and then Saturday and Sunday with two squads each at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. Top prize will be $2,500. Entry fee is $75. Call Mark James at 470-8201 for more information.
u Towne Bowling Academy’s third annual Handicap Team Tournament begins Dec. 7 and runs through Jan. 27. Top prize will be $4,000, and second place is worth $2,000. There will be a $800 bonus for first place mixed team.