The “Bowling Professor” is moving his classroom.
Actually, Bob Daubney, the Capital Region kegling icon known for his quick ball drilling while you wait, is moving his bowling, billiards and gaming tables supply store just a short distance away. He plans on opening the new store Saturday at 385 Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham, immediately adjacent to Spare Time-Latham Bowl. His current store is located on Route 9 near Newton Plaza, south of the Latham Circle.
“This presents a new challenge for me,” said the 77-year-old Troy native and LaSalle Institute graduate. “I’ve been in the business for 55 years now, and this move is not for the money. This is a great opportunity to expand the business and have a lot more space.”
Daubney rented his current location all these years, but his intention is to eventually buy the new property and lease out at least two other parts of the huge 11,000-square foot, multi-level building. He said the complete deal should be concluded in January.
“I’ve got all kinds of room in my new place, and I’m really excited about it,” said Daubney. “It’s a new store, and a new look.”
Daubney has been involved in all facets of the 10-pin game for more than five decades. He was once the bowling columnist at The Troy Record, worked for bowling supply company AMF and opened his first bowling equipment store in 1957 on Pearl Street in Albany. He later moved his store to Fuller Road before shifting to his current location. He also owned The Bowlers Club for a while and had his own radio show about bowling. Daubney was a color commentator for both the “Capital Region Bowling Show” and the old “TV Tournament Time” from 1970 through 1980, and has given lectures and clinics on the game.
Although he admits that he struggles with his own game these days because of a lack of ball speed, Daubney earned his share of accolades on the lanes. He won the U.S. Armed Forces bowling title in 1956, bowled on the three-man team that set the national record for high single and was inducted into the Albany Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 1994. He once shot the highest triple in the nation with an 844.
The former PBA member estimates that he has drilled more than a half-million bowling balls, and was written up in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” for drilling more holes in bowling balls than anyone else.
But despite his optimism about his new store, Daubney has reservations about the state of the game.
“Bowling is in bad shape now, and it’s not coming back,” he said. “There are too many other things going on for people to do, including computers, the Internet and various forms of gambling. It’s tough for anyone to make money in the business any more, and only the die-hards bowl more than once a week.
“The high scores didn’t help the game at all. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good bowlers out there who would still average 200 or more in any era, but they shouldn’t be averaging 230 or 240. The bowling balls are just two powerful these days, and if you can throw the ball with speed, you can put up some very high scores. It has helped ruined the game. We’ve had 21 bowlers roll 900 triples. That’s unbelievable.”
Daubney noted that in 1985, there were 10.5 million sanctioned bowlers, compared to just under two million today. “We’ve lost 80 percent of our registered bowlers,” he said.
He still loves the game, but said it’s his billiards and pool business that keeps him in the black.
“The pool table business is great, right now. We’re up 10 percent in revenue,” he said.
Daubney has gone through his share of tough times. He lost a lot of money when he had to sell The Bowlers Club in 1986, and he suffered a stroke a few years ago. His wife, Lois, died of lung cancer after only two years of marriage.
But he has some great memories, and all the terrific pictures of the thousands people he’s met in the bowling business will be transplanted to the new building to give it that same bowling museum look that his current place has.
“I’m still in good shape, and I still have a lot of energy. Why else would I tackle a project like this at my age?” he asked.
“I lost a lot of money and went bankrupt at one time, but I’ve built myself back up, and I’m not in any debt. I work in this business seven days a week, basically by myself, because I love it.
“There are three reasons I’ve had a successful life. I’m hardworking. I’ve been lucky, but I recognize when I’m lucky, and I’m intelligent. I’m basically self-taught.”
Daubney, whose 8-year-old dog keeps him company all day at the store, still bowls in a league and donates money for junior scholarships to the Huck Finn Capital Region Bowling Show.
“I’ve given more than $20,000 to the kids for scholarships over the last six years,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”
By the way, Daubney gave me a tour of his new store, and it’s huge compared to his old one. He could put in some bowling lanes if he wanted to.
Check out Daubney at his new store. He’ll drill you a ball in just a few minutes, and he’ll tell you a couple of quick stories, as well.
They don’t make guys like him in this sport any more. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, whether it’s politically correct or not.
HUCK FINN EVENTS
The holiday season means plenty of big-time bowling events for extra money.
A special added-money Huck Finn scratch tournament will be held this weekend, with qualifying Saturday at 3 p.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes and then two more qualifiers Sunday at Towne Bowling Academy at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. The finals will follow at 1:30 p.m. Same-day taping for the television finals will also be at Towne.
Top prize will be $2,000.
Huck Finn will hold its annual Mixed Doubles tournament Dec. 9 at Boulevard Bowl, with one squad beginning at 10 a.m. Top prize will be $1,400, with $700 for second place and $350 for both third and fourth place. The top four spots are guaranteed.
Entry fee is $100 per team, plus Huck Finn membership, if not already paid.
The format will be three games on a house shot. The field will be cut to the low eight teams for one head-to-head match to determine the four teams for the TV finals.
Women will receive 100 percent handicap to a 220 average, with 50 pins handicap maximum, based on the highest book average from the 2011-12 season, unless this year’s average is 10 pins higher. The men will bowl scratch.
Call Jeff Segel for reservations at 439-7628.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u Scratch women take the spotlight this weekend when the New Era Women’s Tour holds its first event of the season Saturday at Town ‘n Country Lanes. Entry fee is $50, and top prize is $500, based on 40 entries. Tournament director and founder Jim Burton hopes to pay one in five.
u Speaking of Burton, the next event on his New Era Senior Tour will be the Digger’s Doubles tournament Dec. 15 at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. The second annual event for over 50-under/50-over doubles teams begins at 11 a.m. Ron “Digger” Gardner won his first NEST event earlier this month.
u Sherm Bowman rolled a 949 four-game series Saturday at Sportsman’s Bowl and became the 15th bowler in Vitalo Classic history to produce 200 career 900s. He is currently second in the league’s average chase.
u The Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour heads to Del Lanes Saturday.
u Justin Carl of Sunset Lanes fired a 300 game on the way to a 748 triple in the Senior Boys’ Western Division of the Joey Schmidt Capital District Junior Pro Scoring League last weekend at Del Lanes.
u Last Sunday’s NBA Stockade Open raised $500 for the Joan Nicole Prince Home in Scotia, which is “dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable and caring residence for terminally ill patients in need of a home during their final days.”
u Town ’N Country’s Scotch Doubles tournament will be held Dec. 8 at 9 p.m. Entry fee is $25.
u Also at TNC, a Get a Ball league begins Jan. 4 at 3:30 p.m. The program goes for 12 weeks. Price is $7 for two games.
u The first Uncle Nick Doubles tournament is set for Dec. 16 at Sportsman’s Bowl. First place will be $2,000 guaranteed, based on 60 entries. Entry fee is $60 per team. One in five from each squad qualifies. The format will be four games across eight lanes. Qualifiers advance to the semifinals, where teams will bowl two games. The field will then be cut to the top eight for head-to-head match play. Squad times are 9 a.m. and noon. Maximum field is 42 teams. The semifinals begin at 3 p.m. Call Tom Donato at 496-7812 for more information or reservations.
u The Northern Bowlers Association’s Holiday Classic, with divisions for both men and women, is scheduled for Dec. 23 at 9:30 a.m. at Olympic Lanes in Menands. Entry fee is $50. One in five will cash. Top prize in the open division will be $840, based on 60 entries. First place in the women’s division will be $550, based on 30 entries. There will be separate prize funds, but the men and women will bowl together.
u The PBA has added new incentives to its inaugural Regional Players Invitation program, including a special ESPN telecast for the six RPI champions and a berth in the 2014 PBA Tournament of Champions. The new RPI program includes more affordable regional major championships that are closer to home. Each RPI will offer a $25,000 prize fund based on 48 entries.