Friday, January 30, 2009

Aussies are just not built for the cold

The European tour takes you across some of the most beautiful countries through Europe. The only problem (for an Australian) is the Winters in Scandinavia are not quite like they are back home.
Orange, NSW, Australia, where I’m from does get cold but what I consider cold, my Scandinavian mates would consider shirt, shorts and thongs weather. (oh, in Australia thongs are flip flops, I have been in some interesting conversations before not realising the miscommunication, quite embarrassing)
Minus 15 degrees Celsius , sorry for those who read this and do not use the metric system, but to give you a clearer understanding how cold that is, if you spit into the air, the spit would freeze before it hit the ground….ok that might be an exaggeration but you get the point.
I was wearing everything I had, and I was still shivering. It always made me laugh when I saw a local Swede wearing just jeans and a small coat while riding a bike into town, smiling like it was perfect weather.
Anyway I arrived into Sweden, Stockholm to play in a Swedish Super 6. The first event of the year for me and I was excited to bowl in Sweden again. I had only bowled at this bowling centre once before, I made the TV show and lost in the semi finals to the eventual winner, so I had fond memories.
The Swedish Super 6’s have just started to use some PBA patterns for their events. This week was the Scorpion.
I must say I was a little confident to be bowling on this pattern, the last time I played this pattern I made the cut against the best on the PBA Tour, so I was ready.
The first squad I bowled I shot something like 80 over (for 6 games). That score looked to be safe, but like it usually happens, the cut score went up and I had to keep on bowling to beat it. My 2nd attempt was quite funny. I never missed in the 10 minute practice session and the guys on my pair gave me ‘the look’ that you would give when your implying someone was cheating ☺
Lights on – I think I had 53 in the 4th. Oh dear. Started with 163-178- 104. (Oh yeah, let me explain that score.)
When I started the 3rd game I changed balls to a ball I had left with some friends in Sweden 3 years ago. I couldn’t believe they still had it. Well after 3 years in a Swedish attic the ball was mentally disturbed and forgot how to react when it hit the lane, certainly was not like the way it was when I left it. I took 3 off the right, made a massive move and only just hit a couple more. 4 frames later and I was yet to hit more than 6 pins on my first shot and yet to make a spare and I decided this squad was done. With that in mind, I made a bet with a fellow bowler that I could shoot 99 with no gutter balls. With 2 frames to go I had to score 15. In the 9th frame I left a 4-9 , perfect, if I take 1 that will leave 6 pins left (which is easy to get, 3 off the right and then 3 off the left) I hit the 9 pin dead smack on and to my shock, the pin bounced out and made the 4-9. I never bounce pins out and the only time I never wanted to spare the 4-9 I did. After a wayward first ball in the 10th I shot 104.
The most amazing thing about that score was it was lit up on message boards all around the world, from Sweden, to Australia even on the PBA message boards. I thought that was kind of funny.
I made the cut on my 3rd and final squad and was ready to try and go a few places better than the last time I was in Stockholm.

I really didn’t bowl that bad in the first few games. I was 20 under and felt like I should have been about 30 over. The bowling centre layout is extremely weird. Actually I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet. The scoring monitors are the lowest scoring monitors in the world. I’m only 176cm tall and the monitors on some pairs hit my shoulders. Considering the Swedes are known for their height, I thought that it was quite ironic that the scoring monitors were so low. Many times if you were not thinking you would bang your head on them or hear someone else do it. It was always funnier when some one else does it.
On top of all that the bowl is spilt into two. 14 lanes on each side. The lanes do play much different side to side but I still to this day I can’t tell you which side I like better.
So where was I? Right…… 30 under. Well it never got much better. I had 4 balls with me and I tried them all playing over the entire lane. Every time I managed to find something nice, I would throw 2 awful shots and shoot 190.
23rd in my first event for 2009. Not the start I wanted to begin the year off but the best thing about bowling is there is always another event just around the corner, in this case it was Finland, 3 days later.
If Sweden in the winter is cold, then Finland is even colder. I never actually saw the exact temperature but the snow was heavy and the ground was very slippery because of the ice.
Ballmaster is the European Tour’s first stop. It’s also probably the hardest event of the year to win. The thing about the Finns is many of the great Finish bowlers don’t travel. They only bowl the one stop…. To be honest I’m so happy about that.
Finland as a whole have the best bowlers in the world per capita. Tore Togorgsen was the last non Finish bowler to win the event and that was over 12 years ago, just goes to show you the depth that Finland has.
Tali Bowling Centre is one of the most amazing bowling centre in the world. Once an old ice hockey rink, the bowling centre is huge. With change rooms and showers in the locker rooms, massive grand stand like seating area to watch the bowling and 3 huge projector screens across the house displaying the game by game scores makes Tali one of the grandest bowling centres in Europe. I really love bowling there.
I bowled my first squad and bowled great. Over 1400 (for 6 games) and in this event placement for qualification is a huge advantage.
Basically I played quite hard and straight for the first few games. Once the lane calmed down a bit I jumped in deep and curved the lane.
The top 8 from qualification got seeded directly into the round of 16 match play. If you don’t make the top 8, you have to play 5 games, cut to 50%, 5 games cut to 8 players. It’s really hard so the bye to match play is huge.

My qualifying score held up for 3rd and after the morning 10 games were played Dom Barrett of England was my first match.
Dom is my Walter-Ray Williams to Pete Weber. No matter where I play this guy I seem to lose. I think we have played maybe 5 times and it’s 4-1. The one time I did win was at the High Roller when he was just a pup and still wet behind the ears, so does that really count?
I have always had troubles adjusting to how the lane breaks down when I bowl match play. I thought this time I would try and be a little smarter and make the move before it was too late. The format for this match play was best of 5.
266 my first game, a nice little start. I played very similar as I did in qualifying and felt like I was breaking the lane down nicely. Dom also is a high rev bowler and was a little slower on his ball speed meaning he was a little left of me. I was a bit worried about that but thought it would not affect me too badly. How wrong was I?
Between us both we chewed up the oil on the lane and spat out saw dust. Every move left the ball hooked more and with the massive OUT OF BOUNDS out to the right it was basically who could get far enough left with the best carry. The biggest problem for us was that the oil laid down was very thin, so with every roll, the ball just took all the oil off the lane.
Dom won the 2nd game and I had a chance to win the 3rd. I needed all 3 in the 10th and I left a solid 9. It wasn’t the best shot, I was hoping for a strike but after I saw the 9 pin it was as clear as day that I deserved it.
The 4th game was as bumpy as a Boeing 747 through a storm. In a nut shell we both struck a few times, spared a few times and opened a few times. By this time the lane was sparking it was so dry and we were both lobbing the left gutter.
After I spared the 9th frame and Dom doubled the 8th and 9th for a 30 pin lead, I felt it was over. He stepped up in the 10th and he left a split, leaving the door open for me to steal the win in game 4 and keep my hopes alive .
I left a 4 pin the last time on that lane so I moved a few boards left and bowled a little faster hoping to leave something sparable and win the match.
I thought I dead nutted it, but the ball reacted viciously (which I guess is proof I didn’t let it go that perfect) and I left a 4-6. Not the kind you normally leave, where the ball goes extremely high, but it was the kind where you think it should of left just the 4 pin.
I was beyond upset. Shook Dom’s hand, waved to the crowd, packed my gear up, changed my flight, went straight to the airport.
On the plane I had a good chance to think about what happened and how to fix it. A few things came to mind, but I think I’ll need to practice them a bunch first.

My next events are in the grand USA. I am bowling for 4 weeks (all of February), I can’t wait to get back in the deep end of the pool. With the current form of the PBA players though, in particular Bill O’Neill, Patrick Allen and Wes Mallot, these 4 events are going to be extremely tough to win…. But you’ve got to be in it to win it right!
Till next time…. Be good.


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