When the American Bowling Congress decided to bring back team bowling last year, it got off to a rocky start. At the first tournament in Detroit, only 30 teams signed up. The next stop in Syracuse, N.Y., had only 16 teams.
But two weeks from today, at Country Club Lanes in Middle River, 76 teams will compete -- and a waiting list exists for other teams who want a shot at becoming the best bowling team in the country.
"Something's working," said John Fantini, a local senior PBA bowler, who has entered a team in the National Team Challenge, or Baker format tournament, June 12 and 13.
"There's been a lot of favorable reaction [to team bowling]," said Jerry Schneider, media director for the National Team Challenge. "What we're doing is we're crowning the mythical best bowling team in America."
The winner of each Baker tournament earns an expenses-pai )) trip to Reno, Nev., to compete in a national tournament June 24-26. That winner would be considered the best team in the country.
In a Baker-style tournament, the bowling teams roll two three-game blocks on Saturday. Total pin fall determines the top 10 teams, who then bowl 18 games on Sunday.
Frank Baker developed the format to enable team bowling to make it on television. In it, the first bowler bowls the first and sixth frames, the second bowler the second and seventh frames, and so on.
The anchor bowler bowls the fifth and 10th frames.
Out of the 76 teams entered to bowl at Country Club, 25 are from Maryland. Fantini's team, Team Weapon, consists of himself, Chuck Tillman, Jack Hoskins, Brian Thacker, Scott Poe and Joe Barnhart.
While they may not be the best bowlers in the country, they all average between 211 and 225, and are quite familiar with Country Club Lanes because they all bowl there in leagues.
"Since we don't have any big-name players, sure, we're an underdog," said Fantini. "But they all can be beaten. We know each other's games. We can help each other."
The championship matches will be recorded and later televised on Home Team Sports.
Coors Cutter results
Jim Taylor won five matches to claim first place in last week's Coors Cutter $25,000 Duckpin Classic, a national tournament at Fair Lanes Pikesville.
Taylor of Hagerstown defeated Tom Ferguson of Baltimore, 173-152, to claim the top prize of $3,000.
Ferguson earned $1,500 for second place, and Robbie Jerrell of Richmond, Va., earned $1,000 for third.
On the women's side, Julie Wantz of Thurmont won thrematches to win first place and $3,000. Wantz rolled a 171 in the championship game to defeat Risa Jewell of Frederick, who bowled a 127. Jewell got $1,500 for second place. Third place and $1,000 went to Sharon Dyson of Providence, R.I.
Two hundred and ninety-two duckpin bowlers from Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Florida competed in the tournament. To enter, the men and women bowlers had to be the best at their duckpin bowling centers. Everyone who entered won something. The lowest prize was $20.
John Braitsch Jr. of Sykesville, who won the championship last year, finished 93rd, and Christie Durbin of Hyattsville, the women's winner from last year, finished 67th.
Harrod wins Free State
Bowling at Fair Lanes Woodlawn last weekend, Donnell Harrod rolled a 549 scratch series, and received 141 pins handicap, to capture first place in the weekly Free State Tenpin tour, with a three-game score of 690.
Harrod, who bowls out of Fair Lanes Capital Plaza, won $750. Mark Cremora of Pasadena finished second with a 687 set (630 scratch, 57 pins handicap) to win $375. Don Messinese of Laurel finished third with a 679 (643 scratch, 36 pins handicap) to earn $225.
Today, the Free State tour continues at Country Club Lanes in Middle River. Cost to enter is $35 for non-tour members, $30 for tour members. You bowl three games and receive handicap based on your highest league average. Squad times are 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m. For information, call (410) 686-2556.
If you know an interesting bowler or have a good bowling story to tell, please call me at (410) 494-2944, or write to The Sun, 1300 Bellona Ave., Lutherville, 21093. You also may fax letters or scores to (410) 494-2916. Please enclose a name and phone number for verification.