Bowling: Greenmount Bowl Bantam team adds another duckpin national tite
(Submitted photo)

Mike Bowen's advice to his Greenmount Bowl Bantam division team in the ultimate frame of the National Duckpin Youth Association national championship on June 25 seemed simple.

"You have to get as many pins as you can get," he told the quartet.


Yet in duckpin bowling, with its heavy, stubby pins and inherently unpredictable nature, that wasn't an easy request. Though the Hampstead-based Greenmount team cruised for most of the morning at Turner's Southside Bowl in Hagerstown, AMF Southwest of Linthicum surged back into the lead in the eighth frame of the third and final game.

Now Bowen needed his bowlers — 13-year-old Zach Bowen, 12-year-old Zach Gaegler, 13-year-old Hayley Williams and 13-year-old Allison Bobele — to harness the morning's biggest moment. And they did with aplomb.

Greenmount Bowl captured its fifth NDYA national title since 2009 on the strength of an 11-pin victory over AMF Southwest.

Wickford Lanes of North Kingstown, R.I., finished 27 pins back in third place.

For Zach Bowen — Mike Bowen's son — and Gaegler, it was their second national championship, though they didn't know right away.

After the tournament ended in the morning, the bowlers retreated to their hotel for an afternoon of swimming in the pool and socializing with the other bowlers who had converged on Hagerstown from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Virginia. Mike Bowen had an inkling his team had captured the crown, but they didn't know for sure until AMF Southwest was announced as the runner-up at that night's banquet.

"It gets a little intense," Zach Bowen said. "But you just got to keep your cool."

The crew from Greenmount Bowl also pulled in a variety of individual honors. Bowen won the $500 Dolly Daniels Scholarship Award for bowling a 499 set with a handicap, the highest score for any boys competing in his division. His scratch set of 343 was also the morning's best for the Bantam division. Gaegler rolled a 138 in his second game, which earned him high game honors in the Bantam division (ages 12-14) for boys.

It was the type of performance that Mike Bowen had hoped to see out of his son — who was a substitute for the tournament after another team member had a prior commitment — and Gaegler, two of his most experienced players.

"We kind of put the pressure, if any, on the kids that are veterans — like Zach and Zach — that have been there many times," Mike Bowen said. "They don't really [notice] anymore when they go because they've been doing it for so long."

That let Williams and Bobele relax, Bowen said. Williams bowled 18 pins above her average for all three games, while Bobele, at the national championships for the first time, also bowled above her average.

"She was brand new to this," Bowen said. "This was her first year, so her eyes were wide open. … She did very well."

Bowen said the success of Greenmount Bowl at the national and state level — the center has 14 state championships since 2009 — is a bit of an anomaly. The center has only 12 duckpin lanes, while ones in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where the popularity of duckpin bowling is higher, can have as many as 36. More lanes mean more bowlers and more time to practice, and some of the best scores ever come from New England. At Greenmount Bowl, bowlers often leave the teams as they get older.

"The older kids usually drop out because they think it's not cool," Zach Bowen said.


Mike Bowen said the sport usually loses players to baseball, lacrosse, basketball and others with popular rec leagues and high school teams. He tried to use Zach as an example because his son also plays football, basketball and baseball, which makes him a four-sport athlete.

Still, Bowen is pleased with the success his current crop of bowlers has achieved and the experience that they'll have moving forward after last month's national championship. He thinks the run of success will continue, especially with how the younger bowlers acquitted themselves in Hagerstown.

His advice to them resonates in a sport that melds together individual and team concepts much like track and field, gymnastics or swimming. So he keeps it simple by giving the younger players a number of pins to knock down each frame.

"If you don't, don't worry about it," Bowen said. "Your other teammates will help you out."