by Fred Eisenhammer
WINNETKA – A couple of years ago, Carl Comrie was bee-bopping around the lanes during league play. He spotted a friend who was gearing up to bowl but had encountered some momentary issues – either with his equipment or perhaps an injury.
Carl asked his friend if he should bowl for him. Carl got the go-ahead, scampered to the line and without hesitating, shot a bullet down the lane that toppled all 10 pins. Carl then briskly walked away – triumphantly. That’s Carl Comrie, one of the biggest characters in a sport filled with characters.
That’s not to say Carl isn’t also a terrific bowler – because he is. He throws strikes with the greatest of ease and averages about 210. He just has a flamboyant personality that sometimes dwarfs his skill as a bowling marksman.
Carl recently won the strike roll-off at Winnetka Bowl’s doubles no-tap tournament this month. He crushed four strikes in four tries in the event to outlast some rugged competition and claim the $210 prize. And he did it after being one of the event’s co-organizers and bowling a head-turning 812 series (245, 288, 279) in the tournament.
All the while, Carl was wearing his signature flowery Hawaiian shirt. “He likes to wear flashy shirts because that’s the person he is,” league colleague Greg Kolski said. “He likes it nice and bright.”
Carl says that’s true – no one can mistake who he is when he wears his resplendent attire. Everything about the transplanted Jamaican suggests he’s a fun-loving guy who enjoys doing things in his inimitable style.
Carl’s love affair with bowling goes back about 20 years. That’s when he got excited the day he was asked to bowl. Then Carl got a huge surprise. “My ex-wife is a Californian,” recalled Carl, “and she used to bowl. She knew I loved cricket and loved sport and activity and said, ‘You should go bowling.’ I was excited because I thought it was cricket.” Cricket, which is popular in such countries as India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, is a bat-and-ball game involving two teams on a cricket field. Cricket uses terms such as “bowling” and “bowler” to describe action and players – hence the confusion. Cricket, though, is a far cry from 10-pin bowling that Carl was introduced to a couple of decades ago.
Carl has found that the American-style game suits him quite well. He’s distinguished himself with five 299 games, two 300s and an 809 series that he rolled last year at Harley’s Simi Bowl. The 800 series was a longtime goal of Carl’s. “That’s my bowling highlight,” says Carl, an Oxnard resident. “Some people bowl forever and never get an 800. And I bowled one.”
Carl, 62, bowls with a distinctive style in which he heaves the ball down the lane, showing remarkable accuracy. “It’s different and unusual,” said bowler Adrienne Roseberry about Carl’s bowling style, “but it works for him.”
Carl, a right-hander, acknowledges that he bowls the way he does because of injuries that he sustained in cricket. “I don’t bend my knee,” Carl said, “and I just aim for my mark and hit it most of the time.” He bowls in six leagues – at four bowling centers.
On Saturdays, he runs tournaments. On the other days, he bowls in leagues. Years back, he bowled in only three leagues. “I think I improved my strength,” he says with a twinkle in his voice. Asked whether he now prefers bowling over cricket, Carl says he likes bowling best. “I’m too old to play cricket,” he says. “But I’m not too old to bowl.”