There's an experiment going on this fall in the Classic League at Westgate Bowl.
For the first half of the season, bowlers in the league are seeing a different lane condition, rather than the normal house shot that is offered in the other leagues at the establishment. It's something the league voted on earlier this fall.
So far, most averages in the league are down a little.
According to Westgate manager Dave Hultgren, more oil is put on the outside of the lanes, and not as much in the middle for the league, which is considered one of the top leagues in town. Last year, eight of the top 20 city averages came from the Classic League.
"Big scores are down a little," Hultgren said. "Some averages are down 10-15 pins. I think everyone knows the playing field is more even now.
"Basically, if you miss your spot, you're not getting a strike. Quite frankly, that's the way it should be. Some guys are little more accurate than others. Others have a lot of equipment to adapt to changes. Other guys move on the lanes. Some guys it has affected. It's a little early to tell."
Dave Ruppert, the league secretary and a 41-year member of the league, said something had to be done before the scores got out of hand. "What happened on the other condition was it gave a 180-average bowler a 200 average and a 200-average bowler a 220 average," Ruppert said. "No matter where they threw the ball out there, it came back. Now, if you're on, you'll score.
"I averaged 206 last year and I never practiced. That's crazy. Anyone who can throw a decent ball could score on the other conditions. Now, if you make a bad shot, you pay for it. It's a rude awakening if you're off. The good bowlers will adjust."
Hultgren says some of the more consistent bowlers in the league haven't been bothered by the new conditions. Josh Wenzel was averaging 229 going into Thursday, Mike Durnen was at 229, and Jeff Hubbard was carrying a 225 average.
Others, however, have struggled.
"This actually gave our team an advantage," said Geoff Schewe, who's been the high average champion the last two years and was averaging 223 in the Classic League. "My dad (Greg) had a 188 average. He gets handicap.
"(These conditions) will make me more consistent. Before you could be off five or six boards and still get a strike. Now you're looking at a washout."
Wenzel, who averages 241 on Tuesdays in the American League at Westgate, doesn't see much difference in the lanes conditions from one night to another.
"I use the same equipment," he said. "If you get it out too far, it snaps more on the outside on Tuesday. Here, you can't do that."
Many Winona bowlers take part in state and national tournaments, where they run into more difficult lane conditions than what they see in town. Hultgren feels the new conditions on Thursday should only help these bowlers.
"With the high-scoring house shot, you don't have to be the best bowlers to carry a big average," Hultgren said. "It's a legal shot. But when you go to nationals or state, you're going to run into tougher lane conditions. Guys are looking to work on their game a little more."
The list of perfect games for the season grew to six in the past week. Seth Bonow fired a 300 game last Friday in the Legion League at Winona Bowl, and Luke Hanson came through with a perfect game on Tuesday in the Root River League at Nordic Lanes in Rushford.
Mandi Steffes is making an early-season run at the women's high average. She fired scores of 658 and 651 last week, giving her 10 honor counts for the season - including six over 650. Steffes also rolled a 280 game Monday in the Pin Topplers League at Westgate.
A big game (277) added up to a big series (673) for Julie Moldenhauer Monday in the Alley Gaters League at Westgate. It was her first honor count of the season.
So far this year, when Dion Melbostad rolls an honor count, it's a big one. Earlier this year he tossed a 771 series in the Masters League at Westgate. He followed that up with a 773 last Friday.
Brian Fakler added a 767 series in the Mixed Nuts League at Winona Bowl, and Matt Lammers turned in his first 700 of the season with a 761 in the Masters League.
Adding their first honor count of the year were Aaron Spitzer (711), Josh Mueller (711), Hultgren (709), Mike Ostrander (700) and Nancy Theis (600).