In this era of extremely high scores and powerful, high-tech equipment, it’s almost unheard of when a bowler actually credits practicing for improving his game.
Meet Steve Wagoner.
The 35-year-old Broadalbin resident has been among the Capital Region’s elite bowlers ever since he was a teenager.
He doesn’t throw a big hook, and when you watch him bowl, his game appears fairly simple, without too many moving parts.
But he’s just plain good.
Wagoner added another major championship to his resume last weekend when he captured his second New England Bowling Association title of the season at Westgate Lanes in Brockton, Mass. Wagoner took home a check for $1,100 after besting a strong field of 220.
“There were five games of qualifying, with two squads,” Wagoner said. “Forty-eight bowlers advanced to the finals. There were a lot of good bowlers there.”
Earlier this year, he won another NEBA event in Connecticut.
“They draw a lot of entries. It’s harder to win a NEBA than a PBA regional, in my opinion, because there are more entries,” said Wagoner, who once advanced to match play and battled the best bowlers in the world head-to-head when the PBA Tour stopped locally at Spare Time-Clifton Park. He still calls that performance the highlight of his career.
Wagoner said NEBA events generally put down a challenging oil pattern.
“Every house is different, but lately they have been putting down longer patterns, and the scores have been moderate,” he said. “I like it tougher. You have to make your spares. That’s the name of the game. Anybody can make a lot of strikes on a house condition. I don’t like shoot-outs, but I’ll still go to bowl, no matter what the conditions are.”
Wagoner bowls in tournaments practically every weekend. His only league is the DV Greco Insurance City League at Towne Bowling Academy on Monday nights.
“I’m a weekend warrior,” he said. “I go anywhere and everywhere to bowl.”
When he’s not bowling tournaments, he’s practicing his craft.
“I put in a lot of hard work on my game. I practice a lot, and I have hours of open bowling just working on stuff,” he said. “I bowl Monday nights in a league, but I practice two or three days a week after that. Toward the end of the year, I get a little burned out, but then I take some time off.”
Wagoner used to dabble in stock car racing during the summer, but now he devotes more of his time to his 6-year-old daughter, Avery.
His game has improved so much in recent years that he is now sponsored by the Track ball company and uses that equipment exclusively.
“I have no complaints with Track,” he said. “I’ve been with them for three years now. They treat me very well.”
Wagoner also gets treated extremely well by Towne Bowling Academy proprietors Marty Capullo Jr. and his wife, Debbie, who Wagoner says he owes a lot.
“They’ve been sponsoring me for quite a while,” Wagoner said.
“I’d also like to thank my ball-driller, Matt Fazzone, who does a great job for me drilling up all of my equipment.”
Wagoner has 53 perfect games and about 20 800 triples to his credit, but he’s more concerned with his tournament resume. He’s won 15 Northern Bowlers Association titles and 12 Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show” crowns. He’ll try to pick up another this weekend when he bowls in the NBA opener Sunday at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. He also will team up with Mike Tryniski in the Huck Finn Over-50/Under-50 finals at Sunset Recreation later that same night.
NBA OPENER SET
Partially sponsored by the Daily Gazette, the Northern Bowlers Association’s 2013-14 season kicks off Sunday at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy at 9:30 a.m.
It will be the first of five NBA tournaments this season, ending with the Bob Guild Memorial May 4 at Del Lanes. Bowlers are required to compete in at least one tournament and have their $15 membership fee paid to be eligible for the Guild event. As in past years, each Sunday winner will be determined by total pins after five games. Entry fee is $55.
The NBA will offer a special women’s division at this year’s Stockade Open Dec. 1 at Boulevard Bowl, and at Sunset Lanes for the Riverfront Insuring Agency Classic Dec. 22.
STRIKES & SPARES
Former touring pro Brian LeClair, who still bowls part-time on the PBA Tour and also runs a pro shop at Del Lanes, and David Rice of Shaftsbury, Vt., advanced to the the finals of last weekend’s Huck Finn scratch division. They will meet each other for the scratch title and then take on the handicap division winner in Sunday’s TV taping at 6 p.m. at Sunset Recreation.
The Huck Finn’s inaugural Family Mixed Doubles will also be held Sunday with just one squad at 10 a.m. at Sunset Recreation. Each team of two family members — father-daughter, husband-wife, cousins, mother-son, brother-sister, uncle-aunt, or niece-nephew — will bowl three games on the same pair. No junior bowlers are allowed. Both men’s and women’s handicap will be 100 percent of 220. One in five will cash. The top four teams from lanes 1-16, and the top four teams from lanes 17-32 will bowl head-to-head until there are four teams left for the TV finals. First place is $800 guaranteed. Entry fee is $75 per team. Contact Jeff Segel at 439-7628 for reservations or more information.
Christopher Radliff of Sportsman’s Bowl slammed a 278-811 in the senior boys Western Division of the Joey Schmidt Capital District Junior Pro-Scoring League last weekend at Towne Bowling Academy. In the CDJPSL girls’ division, Tiera Gulum of Sunset Lanes rolled a 300 game.
Ricky Rovelli of Albany defeated tournament leader Austin Van Buren of Altamont, 206-203, to win the Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour tournament at Hometown Lanes last Saturday. There were 47 entries. Rovelli earned a $300 scholarship, while Van Buren got a $175 scholarship. Other scholarship winners were Casey Schoonmaker of Albany ($125), Patrick Devoe of Delmar ($90), Zachary Doty of Nassau ($60), Corey Buckley of Albany ($50), Andrew Marotta of Ballston Spa ($40), Jacob Rivers Jr. of Albany ($35), Anthony Ranere of Ballston Spa ($30) and James Brown of Albany ($30). The next CDYST tournament will be Nov. 23 at Sportsman’s Bowl.
John Gaines of Orlando, Fla., Dale Traber of Cedarburg, Wis., and the late Woody Woodruff of Long Island, have been inducted into the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame. Gaines is a four-time USBC Open Championship winner and was a member of Team USA from 1998-2000. Traber has four USBC Open titles to go along with 10 state championships, while Woodruff created the AMF pro staff and was elected for his longtime service to the game.
Towne Bowling Academy will be holding a benefit Rock ’N Bowl, with proceeds going to Hit ’N Sports, from 3-6 p.m. on Nov. 14. Admission is $14 per person.