Jim Geiger gave up competitive bowling a few years ago because all the high scores were taking away the challenge of the game.
So it was fitting that he earned one of the area’s biggest kegling paydays on an extremely demanding Viper pattern Sunday at Towne Bowling Academy.
The 45-year-old Amsterdam native defeated John Pulver of Colonie in the championship game of the “Huck Finn Capital Region Bowling Show” stop and took home $2,000, the Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York’s biggest prize with the exception of their season-ending Jack Scaccia Sr. Memorial Championship.
Towne Bowling Academy drew a Huck Finn tournament-record 164 total entries, including 103 during the final two qualifying squads Sunday, but the lane conditions became so difficult during the TV finals that the competitors were left scratching their heads.
“I enjoyed that,” said Geiger. “Marty [Towne proprietor Marty Capullo Jr.] said the lanes wouldn’t be easy. That’s why I took some years off from the game, because I got burned out on all the easy conditions. I enjoy tough tournament shots. That’s one of the reasons I became a PBA member in the early 2000s. I wanted to bowl on challenging conditions. It makes bowling so much better when you actually achieve something.”
Geiger wasn’t the only bowler in the elite field to enjoy the challenging conditions.
“They had a meeting before the finals, and Marty asked us if we wanted to bowl on the same house condition that the juniors were going to bowl on for television, but everybody agreed that we should keep the same pattern that we bowled on all day for the TV finals,” he said.
Geiger made the right moves in the finals, switching balls three times, but he agreed that the lanes changed dramatically once the TV lights went on.
“I think the lights had something to do with it,” he said. “The lights changed the conditions, and the oil carried down. It got ugly on the show, but I’m fine with that. I’d rather see low scores when guys are trying to figure out the lanes than see everybody shoot a 260. I hope the fans at home understand that we weren’t bowling on a typical house shot. I hope they appreciate how difficult the conditions were.”
Geiger said that the Huck Finn victory at Towne was one of his career highlights.
“This win is right up there with anything I’ve ever done,” he said. “I won the New Year’s Day Tourn-ament back in 1994 at Imperial Lanes before Karl Wolf moved over to Hi-Roc. That top prize was also $2,000 at the time, and this win ranks right up there with that. The New Year’s Day tourn-ament was really special back then, because the field would fill up three or four weeks in advance. Plus, we were bowling against PBA guys like Patrick Allen, Rudy Kasimaskis and Dave Ferraro. You feel good when you beat that kind of field.”
Geiger said Sunday’s tournament wouldn’t have drawn so many top bowlers if Capullo hadn’t worked so hard to get the word out.
“Marty did a heckuva job promoting this tournament. It was a very strong field,” he said. “We had PBA regional guys like Ray Cyr competing, along with all the very good bowlers around here.”
Although Geiger grew up a bowling fanatic, he basically gave up the sport a few years ago when the scores in typical tournaments skyrocketed.
But there were two other reasons why Geiger put his bowling balls in the closet.
“For one thing, I got really into golf,” he said. “I’m a golf nut now, and I worked on my game so that I’ve become a scratch golfer. It’s tough to mix the two sports together, because for me, I don’t really start bowling until November. I’m too busy golfing.”
The other reason Geiger stopped bowling tournaments was that he got bit by the injury bug.
Interestingly, Geiger began to get serious about bowling again last year when former Siena College basketball coach Mike Deane, now an assistant at James Madison, began to travel down from Amsterdam to watch him bowl in the City League. Deane doesn’t bowl, but he became fascinated with all the brackets that the scratch bowlers compete in, and he began to back his good friend Geiger, whom he played golf with quite often.
“Coach Deane lit a fire under me,” Geiger said. “He started following me and a few other guys from Amsterdam. He’d come down to watch us bowl. Even though he didn’t know much about bowling, he liked the competitive nature of it. He really got me fired up to bowl.”
Geiger said another reason why it was hard for him to give up bowling completely was that so many of his friends from Amsterdam are outstanding bowlers.
“We have a great group of guys from Amsterdam,” he said. “We’ve got guys like Nick Miseno and Ed McGaffin, who bowled with me on the Amsterdam High School team that won four Big 10 championships. We always practiced together. In fact, Nick Miseno, his brother Mike, Eddie McGaffin and sometimes Ed Gumm would go out and practice quite a bit. We still do. Once in a while, Marty puts out a very tough pattern for us so we can get used to it.
“Amsterdam has always had very strong bowling, especially for such a small, condensed area. Guys like Karl Wolf, John Lop-uch and Eddie Gumm were always among the best in the area. And believe it or not, there were four bowling alleys in Amsterdam in one five-mile stretch. Growing up, my grandfather owned Main Street Alleys, so it runs in my family.”
Geiger’s credentials are impressive, despite the lull in his game. He owns 22 perfect games, nine 800 triples and nine Northern Bowlers Association championships, including the Tournament of Champions.
“I beat 40 of the best bowlers in the area when I won the NBA T of C,” he said.
“The other thing I’m most proud of in my bowling career was that I once made five consecutive finals in PBA Regionals, and that’s very difficult to do, especially when it gets to be toward the late spring and summer and the PBA Tour members are bowling right alongside you. We were bowling against guys like Patrick Allen, Ryan Shafer and Brian LeClair. The PBA East Region is one of the strongest. My best finish in a regional was fifth.”
Geiger admits that outside of his Amsterdam buddies, and a few of the better scratch bowlers, not many people remember that he used to be one of the best compet-itors in the area.
“I think people forgot about me,” he said. “This was my first Huck Finn win. I did make the TV show once before at Middleburgh Lanes, and Brian LeClair beat me. But I made the old ‘TV Tournament Time’ show quite a few times, and in 1986, I became the youngest champion at age 18.”
Watch out for Geiger when the lane conditions are tough in future tournaments. He can’t wait to grind out another win.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u One of the most popular events of the season will be held on Sunday when the Huck Finn Mixed Doubles tournament visits Boulevard Bowl. Top prize will be $1,400, with $700 for second 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 paid already. The format will be three games on a house shot. The field will be cut to the top eight teams for a head-to-head match that determines the four teams that will advance to the TV finals on the same day. The men will bowl scratch, while the women will receive 100 percent of 220. The field will be limited to the first 60 teams. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7268 for reservations.
u Qualifying for the “Huck Finn Capital Region Bowling Show” handicap division begins Monday. Entry fee is $10, and bowlers with averages of 220 and under can qualify through their bowling league.
u On Sunday at 1 p.m., Sportsman’s Bowl will host a B-Strong Benefit for Brendan Horan, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in October. All proceeds will go toward his medical bills and other expenses. Entry fee for the five-person team event is $125 per team. A full buffet will be included, and there will be drink specials all day. Shirts and wrist bands will be on sale, and there will be a live DJ and band in the bar lounge. Call Robert Cagnina at 366-7686 for more information.
u Tonight is the first squad of the Towne Bowling Academy third annual Team Tournament. Call Towne at 355-3939 for reservations.
u Chris Allen rolled a 300 game on the way to her first-ever 800
series, an 807, during the DV Greco Insurance City League Monday night at Towne Bowling Academy.
u There were several milestones reached recently in the Vitalo Classic at Sportsman’s Bowl. Vince Silverio became the 39th bowler in league history to record 100 900 four-game series, while Joe O’Toole posted his first career 300 game. Jamie Diamond registered his 27th 300 game, 29th 800 and 81st 1,000 series in Vitalo competition.
u The Menagerie league, which bowls Friday nights at Boulevard Bowl, still has five openings. Dues are $15 a week. Call Paul O’Brien at 421-5427 for more information.
u Robin Fredenburgh won the first New Era Women’s Tour event of the season over the weekend.
u Zachary Doty of Nassau def-eated tournament leader Michael Hartmann of Earlton, 244-237, to win the Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour event Saturday at Del Lanes. The tournament drew a record 49 entries. Doty earned a $325 scholarship, and Hartman won a scholarship worth $200. The tournament was dominated by out-of-towners, but Taylor LeClair of West Coxsackie was eighth, and Casey Schoonmaker of Albany was 11th. The next tournament will be Dec. 15 at Sportsman’s Bowl.
u Chris Fawcett picked up his 42nd career 300 game Monday night at Sportsman’s Bowl.
u Town ’N Country Lanes will hold a Scotch Doubles tournament Saturday at 9 p.m. Entry fee is $25.
u The next New Era Senior Tour tournament will be the Digger’s Doubles tournament Dec. 15 at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. The second annual event for 50-under/50-over doubles teams begins at 11 a.m.
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.