In the Pocket: Donato Singles one of region’s elite events
Although every era has its marquee names, It’s hard to argue the fact that the late Joe Donato was one of the two or three greatest bowlers ever to splatter pins in the Capital Region.
He competed against and beat the best players in the world during his heyday, and he also excelled as a proprietor and a tireless promoter of the game.
The first member of the Schenectady Bowling Association Hall of Fame, Donato finished fourth in both the 1959 Empire State Open and the 1962 Chicago PBA Open. He was charter member of the PBA and appeared on the old TV Tournament Time Show 50 times, rolling the first perfect game on that popular show in 1960.
Donato not only was the proprietor of Sportsman’s Bowl for 40 years, but he also managed Turnpike Lanes (now Town ‘n Country Lanes), Mont Pleasant Lanes, Scotia Lanes and Holiday Bowl in Santa Ann, Calif. While at Sportsman’s, he hosted the Elmer Ciccone
Memorial Pro-Am, inviting 14 top touring PBA members each year, and also created the Great, Greater and Greatest Tournament that benefitted local charities. Donato formed the Capital District All Star and Schenectady Majors leagues.
Remembering the Donato name is one of the reasons why his son, Redwood Lanes manager Tom Donato, started the Joe Donato Scratch Singles tournament, and it’s also why that event has become one of the premier tournaments on the local schedule.
The 10th annual Joe Donato Scratch Singles tournament began with its first qualifier Wednesday night at Redwood Lanes. The first bowlers to qualify were left-hander Dan Ahl, who runs the pro shop at Redwood and also coaches the Colonie High School boys’ team, and Kevin Fairbairn of Sunset Recreation.
Qualifiers continue tonight at 9:30 at Saratoga Strike Zone in Saratoga Springs, Saturday at Silver Lanes in Hartford, Conn., and Sunday at 10 a.m. at Twin City Lanes in Barre, Vt.
Donato qualifiers will continue through March 18, when the finals will be held at Redwood Lanes.
Entry fee is $60, with $4,000 guaranteed for first place and $2,000 guaranteed for second.
“My father put Schenectady on the bowling map,” said Tom Donato. “That’s one of the reasons why I decided to put this tournament together to honor him. Everything has been going great so far. We seem to add a little something different each year, but the bowlers seem to like it.”
The tournament format will be four games completed across eight lanes. One in five bowlers will cash from each qualifying squad and advance to the semifinals. The top 22 bowlers then move on to the head-to-head elimination finals. The top two qualifiers will receive two byes, and the next four qualifiers will receive one bye.
On March 17, there will be special qualifiers at both 1 and 3 p.m. On the 1 p.m. squad, one in four will advance to the semifinals from both the senior division and the open division, giving bowlers even more of a chance to advance.
The field for the Donato event is always loaded. In fact, not only will most of the top bowlers in the area be competing, but many top amateurs and regional pros from the northeast are also expected to bowl.
The last three champions of the tournament, Mike Rose (2011), Mike Lichstein (2010) and Ray Cyr (2009) are all regional pros who have spent time on the PBA Tour. Other former champs are Darrell Coonrad (2008), Lee Aiezza (2007), Jerry Brunette Jr. (2006), Gene Speenburgh (2005), Mike Drexel (2004) and Steve Wagoner (2003).
“Everybody seems to like the fact that we have the tournament at Redwood now,” said Donato. “Mike Lichstein loves the place because it reminds him of the old-time bowling centers.”
Running such a large event is not easy, and Donato is getting plenty of help. His son, Tommy, now works at Redwood and does most of the legwork, while Warren Guernsey is also lending a helping hand by promoting the event on MyBowler.com.
For more information or to make a reservation for one of the qualifiers, call Donato at Redwood (869-3581) or at 496-7812.
STATES ARE CALLING
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association Bowling Championships will be held this weekend in Waverly, and Section II teams usually do quite well.
Colonie won the boys’ and girls’ titles last year, and the girls’ section team also captured a state crown in the last two years.
Lansingburgh will represent the Section II boys after Hoosick Falls was disqualified for having two ineligible eighth-grade bowlers who didn’t have their paperwork in order.
Competing for the Bruce Black-coached Knights will be senior Nick Black (208 average), senior Kyle Bristol (196), senior Josh Desnoyers (199), senior Eric Griffen (206), junior Cody Holland (205), junior Chris Lance (202), junior Kevin Lance (177) and senior Jim Perniciaro (210).
The boys’ section team, coached by Len Reyngoudt of Catskill, includes sophomore Connor Chatterton (206) of Shenendehowa, junior Anthony Vilardi (200) of Shenedehowa, junior Ethan Kelsey (216) of Hudson Falls, senior Casey Schoonmaker (213) of Colonie, senior Joe Wolfrum (213) of Hoosick Falls and sophomore Austin VanBuren (213) of Guilderland. Wolfrum was on the state team twice previously, while Schoonmaker was on Colonie’s championship team last year.
Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, the Section II girls’ champion, will be coached by Adam Sutton and includes sophomore Jena Nunziato (164), juniors Micaela Bullis (1991), Kelci Magriasso (202), Amanda Persico (172), Melanie Schmitt (186) and Peyton VanAlstyne (151), as well as seniors Kourtney Irwin (196) and Maisie Snyder (183).
The girls’ section team is coached by John Dennis of Mohonasen and includes former state champ Natasha Bidwell (212), a senior from Schalmont, Lansingburgh senior Bethany Duchowny (198), Colonie freshman Tiera Gulum (190), Colonie sophomore and former state champ Hannah Mochrie (196), Mohonasen senior Jessica Mazzo (197) and Columbia sophomore Sarah Morris (180).
Jim Burton of the New Era Senior Tour says he is going to start a new series of scratch tournaments for area women.
The first tournament will coincide with a NEST event at Sportsman’s Bowl on April 15 at 10:30 a.m. Burton plans on using a format similar to the senior events, with bowlers competing in their own age divisions until the finals. The woman champion would then meet the senior champion in a battle of the sexes.
Watch for more news when plans are finalized.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u Jackie Malone (969) and Pat Boguzski (885) teamed up to win the 42nd annual Women’s Doubles Invitational last weekend at Boulevard Bowl. They split $600. Other cashers were Valerie Smith (917) with Denise DeCarlo (916), $350; Rita Heffern (831) with Stephanie Chiera (941), $250; Jackie Oliveira (736) with Marissa Martinek (992), $150; Lisa Rathbun-Read (862) with Debbie Fawcett (824), $100; June Champagne (866) with Phai Fitch
(815), $90; Debbie Conley (761) with Jenean Bailey (913), $40; and Jan Durfee (762) with Jessica DeVellis (912), $40.
u Joe O’Toole, Nick Miseno, Matt Sherman and Tony Palumbo qualified for the next Huck Finn/Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York Capital Region Bowling Show. It will be taped Sunday at 4 p.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes. Meanwhile, the next Huck Finn scratch qualifiers will be Saturday at 3 p.m. at Tippy Bowl in Ballston Spa and Sunday at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes, followed by the finals. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7628 for reservations.
u Both Schenectady County Community College and Hudson Valley Community College will be competing in the NJCAA Championships in Buffalo this weekend. They also will participate in the USBC Sectionals in Allentown, Pa. March 9-11. SCCC, ranked 43rd in the country, will be the only community college that will have both the men and the women competing there against the four-year schools.
u Joe Mazuryk won the 13th annual Brockmyre Classic at Rose Bowl Lanes in Newark. He took home $4,000. Other local cashers included Steve Wagoner and Nick Galusha with $1,000 each.
u Mike O’Toole won the Sportsman’s Bowl Eliminator and took home $130. John Jones Jr. ($60) and Scott Zalud ($26) also cashed, while Gordon Putnam and Frank Nanci finished fourth and fifth and earned free entry into next week’s qualifier. The finals are held every Monday night. Bowlers can qualify for $10 through their leagues at Sportsman’s Bowl, or they can qualify for $15 any time lanes are available. Handicap is 80 percent of 240. Bowlers advance to the finals by shooting at least a 665 with handicap.
u The 20th annual Charlie Bechard Memorial Tournament, one of the premier men’s senior tournaments in the Capital Region, will be held at Green Island Lanes on March 17 (1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. squads), March 21 (3 p.m. squad) and March 22 (9:30 a.m. squad). Entry fee is $22, and handicap is 100 percent of 220. Competition will be divided into Class C (age 50-59), Class B (60-69) and Class A (70 and over) age divisions.
u Green Island Lanes will host the next New Era Senior Tour event March 10.
u Al Califano, age 94, rolled a 183 game and a season-high 476 triple in the Menagerie league.
u Craig Berschwinger is on a hot streak in the Vitalo Classic after returning from his marriage and honeymoon. He became the 25th bowler in league history to roll a
1,100 series and with nine weeks left has already rolled a season-record 14 1,000 series. He is currently averaging 255 and has 84 consecutive 200 games. Meanwhile, in other Vitalo news, Nick Stricos became the 38th bowler in league history to record 100 900 series, and Dan Palmiotto posted his seventh perfect game.
u Towne Bowling Academy will host the seventh annual Beukendaal Fire Department No-Tap Tournament March 23 at 9:30 p.m. and March 24 at 2 p.m. Cost is $85 per five-person team.
u The Northeastern Bowling Proprietors of New York will conduct the first Adult/Junior Tournament next month. Qualifying will be March 3 at 2 p.m. and March 4 at 5:30 p.m. The $25 entry fee per team includes pizza and soda after each squad. Handicap is 90 percent to 225. One in eight advance to the finals at Redwood Lanes March 24 at 1 p.m.
u The annual Blizzard Bowl will begin March 10 with a 9:45 p.m. squad at Boulevard Bowl. Anyone who bowls on that squad will be eligible for a free entry into the singles/doubles event at Burnt Hills Lanes. Other dates for the team event at Boulevard Bowl are March 18, March 25, April 1 and April 15 at 11:45 a.m. and April 21 at 9:45 p.m. The singles/doubles event at Burnt Hills Lanes will be held March 24, March 31, April 14 and April 21 at 12:30 p.m. As usual, there will be a continental breakfast for the Sunday morning squads and a buffet for the Saturday night squads. Call Boulevard Bowl for more information.
u The Dugout Booster Club’s No-Tap Tournament will be held March 9 at 7 p.m. and March 10 at 9 p.m. at Rolling Greens Lanes. All handicaps will be based on 75 percent of a 1,100 five-person team average. Maximum team average will be 1,100. Prize money will be returned in a 1-10 ratio. Entry fee is $60 per team. Contact Rolling Greens at 381-4848 for more information.