by Fred Eisenhammer
WINNETKA – If you can’t afford to hire a coach at some point in the New Year, perhaps there are other ways to maximize your bowling talents.
One can always read a bowling book and survey all the suggestions – one of my favorite books is Steve Felege’s “The Essentials of Bowling. Approaching the Perfect Game.”
It’s no-nonsense, only 65 pages, cuts to the chase and California Bowling News editor / publisher Carol Mancini heartily endorses it.
Or one can talk to a bowling master. And what better person is there than elite bowler Johnnie Englehart, he of the 66 perfect games and 67 800 series?
Talking to him recently, I asked the right-handed marksman to condense a lifetime of knowledge in a short piece of advice that he could impart to bowlers.
“Practice,” was his first reply, and certainly bowlers aspiring to perform big things in 2017 generally don’t visit the lanes often enough.
Johnnie then added, “Don’t dwell on the negative.”
That may seem very simple but how often do bowlers fail that test as well? So often bowlers will leave a ringing 10 pin on a seemingly perfect hit and then express anger at the fates turning against them.
What happens next is often guaranteed.
An easy one-pin spare turns into an open frame when the second shot from the bowler – still angry from that unfortunate first shot – is not thrown with the usual precision. Emotions have a way of wreaking havoc with a bowler’s shot.
Englehart, a Winnetka resident, had one parting piece of advice – but this hint is reserved for the best of the best. It deals with bowlers’ final shot after they open a game with 11 strikes – with only one more strike needed to complete a memorable perfect game.
“Don’t look behind you, especially in a handicap league,” suggests Englehart with a chuckle.
Englehart is well experienced on how crowds smell out a perfect game in the making. Before an aspiring 300 bowler makes his final shot, a nerves-inducing crowd typically congregates to watch a slice of history.
“It’s harder to bowl 300 in a handicap environment than a scratch because all the handicappers stop at one time,” Englehart said. “In the scratch world, [a 300] is more commonplace.”
Asked about how many near-miss perfect games he’s had, Englehart reported: He’s had 13 299 games and eight 298 games (not to mention 18 290 games).
That means he’s had 97 chances to complete a perfect game with a final strike and he’s done so 66 times for a 68% success rate.
Considering the enormous pressure on the final shot, Johnnie Englehart apparently follows his own advice with good success when he’s 300 bound.