When Jackie Malone graduated from college, she was one of the top women bowlers in the Capital Region.
The former Jackie Robarge is still considered among the best on the distaff side, but the 33-year-old Scotia resident has other pressing priorities off the lanes these days.
The wife and mother of two thinks family first, but that doesn’t mean she’s given up the game. On the contrary, Malone said this week that she is planning on bowling in several tournaments during the second half of the season — especially after finding success in last weekend’s Huck Finn Mixed Doubles tournament at Boulevard Bowl.
Malone teamed up with John Walther III — another former area stalwart who has backed off the tournament trail in recent years to devote more time to family — to qualify for the TV finals.
“I just had a baby in January. I was pregnant last year, and I’ve just gotten back into competitive bowling,” said Malone, who used to have a fiery personality to match her high-powered game. A more subdued Malone said she understands some of the reasons why so many women with her ability decide to stay home instead of bowling in local tournaments.
“I’m not sure, but some of the tournaments aren’t advertised as well as they could be,” she said. “I know there are some tournaments that have women’s divisions, and there are some women who will also bowl in men’s tournaments. But in my situation, I think there are actually too many choices these days compared to the old days. I could bowl in a men’s or a women’s event, but I would have to pick and choose, because I can’t afford to bowl in everything. I’ve also got my kids, who need babysitters.”
Malone pointed out that many women, especially with young families, have other things on their minds off the lanes.
“So many of the women have family obligations,” said Malone. “Between work and the kids, I know I do. I couldn’t bowl in everything, no matter what. Maybe if they hit the pavement and gave flyers to the women to remind them, it might be a little different, I don’t know, but I do know that many of us women pick and choose when it comes to the tournaments we bowl in.”
Malone said she enjoys the doubles formats, especially when she can team up with somebody like Walther.
“Johnny and I have a good record in doubles. If we don’t make the show, we cash or at least make the match play,” she said. “It gives both of us some motivation. We have a good feeling that we might cash, so we give it a try.”
Although it’s been more than a decade, Malone was tournament-tested throughout her collegiate career. She bowled for both Saint Peter’s and Wichita State. “At Saint Peter’s, we were in the top 15 in the country, and at Wichita State, we were ranked in the top four when I was there,” she said.
“It was a lot of fun. Almost all of the finals were in the Baker format.”
Malone’s best average in area leagues was 228 a few years ago. She is currently averaging 220 in the DV Greco Insurance Women’s Doubles league Wednesday nights at Towne Bowling Academy.
Owner of five perfect games, including one this year, with a high triple of 797, Malone said her most memorable bowling exploit was finishing 50th in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.
“That was a lot of fun, because I was pregnant during the U.S. Open and still made the cut,” she said. “I didn’t expect that at all, but something clicked in my game during that tournament.”
Malone said she doesn’t put as much pressure on herself these day as she did when she was bowling in college, or during the first five or six years after she graduated.
“I still feel competitive, but I’m more at ease now,” she said. “I’m not pressuring myself as much. I’m starting to feel that my game is getting back in gear, though.”
Malone, who gives credit to former PBA touring pro Brian LeClair and Wichita State coach Mark Lewis for tweaking her game, said she plans on bowling in the Huck Finn this weekend, as well as the Bud Bowl and the New York State Queens.
“I’ll keep bowling once or twice a month in tournaments and see what happens,” she said.
The other three teams that made the TV finals in the Mixed Doubles tournament are mostly familiar faces. Ron Gardner and his daughter, Kate, are very experienced under the TV lights. John Nieckarz and his daughter, Jayme, are also veterans in numerous Schenectady Bowling Association leagues and local tournaments. Veteran Paul Dumas teams up with June Champagne of Sunset Recreation.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u This weekend’s Huck Finn scratch event will be the $2,000 Super Scratch championship. Qualifying squds are tonight at 9:15 at Towne Bowling Academy, Saturday at 3 p.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. at Towne Bowling Academy. The finals will follow. This event will have a same-day TV taping. Reservations are recommended by calling Jeff Segel (439-7628) or Towne Bowling Academy (355-3939).
u Meanwhile, Towne’s popular $4,000 team handicap event is also underway. Call Towne for details.
u Second-seeded Ed Gumm defeated fifth-seeded Marty Nash, 286-248, to win last weekend’s New Era Women’s and Senior tournament at Green Island Lanes. Gumm picked up a check for $350, while Nash took home $220. Chuck Radick and Ron Gardner each cashed for $250 while finishing third and fourth, respectively. Other cashers were Andy Smith, Russ Hunter, Bill Neumann and Al Roth with $80 each.
u There were some milestones hit in the Joey Schmidt Capital District Junior Pro-Scoring league this week. Katie Lynch of Hilltop Bowl rolled a 300 game at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy, while Zackary Terry of Sportsman’s Bowl also had a perfect game during a 772 triple at Sportsman’s Bowl in the senior boys Western division.
u The 20th annual Capital District 600 Club Women’s Tournament will be held Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. at Boulevard Bowl. Entry deadline is Jan. 9. Entry forms have been delivered to area bowling centers. If anyone needs an entry form or a membership form to join the Electric City 600 Club, contact Marianne Hogle at 393-8907.
u Town ‘n Country will host a Scotch Doubles tournament Saturday night at 9. Entry fee is $25 per couple. Handicap is 90 percent of 450.
u Chris Salamone, 12, who carries a 139 average, rolled a personal-best 247 game and 597 triple in the prep division of the Boulevard Bowl junior program.
u The next Northern Bowlers Association tournament will be the Riverfront Insuring Agency Open at Sunset Recreation Dec. 22. The format will be the usual five-game sweeper, starting at 9:30 a.m. There will be both an open and a women’s division included. Entry fee is $55, plus a $15 NBA membership.
u Sponsored by the Carbone Auto Group and Towne Bowling Academy, the annual Uncle Nick Over/Under 50 Doubles tournament will be held in January, with the finals at Towne Bowling Academy. Entry fee is $130 per team. Teams will bowl four games, skipping pairs after each game. One in five teams advance to the semifinals. Bowling will be done on a sport pattern. Top prize will be $2,000 guaranteed. Qualifying squad times will be Jan. 22 (7 p.m. at Olympic Lanes), Jan. 24 (9:30 p.m. at Towne Bowling Academy) and Jan. 26 (9 a.m. and noon at Towne Bowling Academy). The finals will begin immediately following the final squad at 3 p.m. on Jan. 26.
Bob Weiner is a Gazette sportswriter. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 395-3147 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BobWeiner58.