Karen Sapp of Glenwood has been bowling for about 17 years and keeps improving her game. Last year the average was 172. This season, it's moving toward 180.
She bowls in both Brunswick Recreation Centers in Howard County. On Tuesday morning it's the Mixed Trio at Normandy, and Thursday morning it's The Gem league at Columbia.
On Nov. 23, at Normandy Lanes, in the Tuesday Mixed Trio league, she rolled her career-high individual game, a 263.
"I was so nervous that my knees were shaking," she said with a laugh. "The next game was 100 pins below that first one."
The second game was precisely 100 pins off the pace, 163. However, she rallied in the third game and shot a respectable 181 for a 607 set.
"After the first game, I knew that I had a chance to bowl my best-ever three-game set," she said. "But I was just too nervous to concentrate on the second game."
That leaves her 630 series the career-high set.
What caused the surge in scoring?
"I always threw a straight ball," Sapp said. "But I took the prize money from the two leagues I bowled in last season and bought a new ball. Walt Cervenka at the Ritchie Pro Shop recommended the Pro Rhino and then drilled it so that now I have a tiny hook shot.
"At first, my average went down and I was ready to quit, but I practiced with it during the summer, and now it's working great."
Firing up career marks
Jake France of Ellicott City is a member of the YABA youth league on Saturday mornings at Brunswick Normandy.
On Week 7 of this season, he fired his career-high game and series: a single game of 267 and a set of 654. That put him 243 pins over average and made him Bowler of the Week.
"I got off to a slow start this year," he said. "I was only averaging 137 when I threw that series."
That was the start of better scoring. Now, that average is up to 160-plus.
Using a 15-pound Columbia 300 bowling ball that he acquired last year, France, a sophomore at Mount Hebron, has concentrated on improving his game.
"The day I had the 267 game and the 654 set the lanes were a little drier than usual," he said, "And I was hitting up on the ball pretty good."
Picking up where he left off
Sean LeDonne is another young bowler who's "hitting up on the ball pretty good."
"This year I started throwing a pretty good hook," LeDonne said. "Sometimes all the way out to the one-board and back."
Last year, when he was a sixth-grader at Burleigh Manor Middle School, he threw a series that was 58 pins over average in the Saturday morning YABA league at Normandy. That was good enough to be Bowler of the Week for Week 26, just a few months after he started bowling tenpins.
This year, the Ellicott City resident is picking up right where he left off.
Averaging 125 with a 10-pound Twister bowling ball, he rolled games of 196, 164 and 146 for a fine 506 series. That was 44 pins over his average and good for the Bowler of the Week for Week 8 in the Division I category of the YABA Saturday morning league.
"Now if I can just get a new ball, a little heavier ball, maybe 12 or 13 pounds, I'd probably be able to do even better," LeDonne said.