by Jim Kohner
Winona may be the city of big bowling averages, but when it comes to tournaments, most city bowlers, especially men, will pass.
The first five years of the Winona-La Crosse Bowling Challenge have all gone La Crosse's way for the men, and a few of them by large margins. Winona bowlers usually go into the event with averages similar to their La Crosse counterparts, but have a hard time adjusting to the lane conditions in La Crosse.
Where La Crosse holds a big advantage is in tournament experience. According to Gene Arentz, one of La Crosse's top bowlers, two singles tournaments and 4-6 doubles tournaments are held every year in La Crosse. Some Winona bowlers do take part in those tournaments, but most stay away.
If a city 30 miles from here holds that many tournaments, why doesn't Winona?
"Most of the time, you can't get Winona bowlers to bowl in them," Winona Bowl owner Brian Fakler said. "We tried running singles tournaments and a scratch doubles tournament, and we still had only 25 or so guys show up.
"A few years ago, we tried a scratch singles tournament. We spent several hundred dollars to promote it. We had 90 bowlers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. We made $20 for the whole weekend. The second year, we tried to make it profitable. It bombed."
Two years ago Chaz Callan of La Crosse ran a singles tournament at Westgate Bowl and only 24 bowlers participated. At least half of them were from La Crosse.
"I think a lot of Winona bowlers realize their averages are inflated at their own house," 10-time city average champion John Glowczewski said. "When they go to bowl tournaments and don't do well, they're stomping on their egos. Most people from Winona don't realize how many good bowlers are out there.
"Every time when we had a chance to run a tournament in Winona, we'd get 8-10 bowlers from Winona and 20-30 from La Crosse. Tournament bowling has gone down lately. No one wants to spend two days at a tournament."
Bowling in tournaments is not cheap. Most singles tournament cost anywhere from $50-$80. A bowler's chance of winning money is not real great.
"A little bit of it is a lack of interest," Westgate Bowl manager Dave Hultgren said. "We've had some match games, and whatever day you pick it's a bad day for a group of bowlers. We have others that feel they can't compete with those from Rochester and the Cities.
"It's not inexpensive. It's usually $60 if you want a good prize fund."
In the 1980s, Winona held a Tournament of Champions singles event for both men and women. The stepladder finals were aired on the local television station.
Fakler is trying to bring that tournament back, but is only in the beginning stages of looking into it. Hultgren would like to see a Baker team tournament at Westgate.
If either one materializes depends on the interest of Winona bowlers.
Steffes on a roll
Since Feb. 28, Mandi Steffes has rolled the top three women's series ever in Winona.
She tossed a 787 series on Feb. 28, a 774 score on Nov. 7, and Monday night in the Pin Topplers League at Westgate, Steffes flattened a 780 honor count with games of 266, 235 and 279.
"I can't explain it," Steffes said of her string on big scores. "Maybe it's luck, or maybe it's skill. You have to have the skill, but you need to have some luck too. You have to have a spare game, but to roll those big scores, you need the strikes."
Steffes, who's averaging 209 on Monday and 210 on Wednesday, started the first game with nine straight strikes before leaving a 4-9 split in the 10th frame. She tossed five straight strikes to begin the last game, left a 10-pin in the sixth, before striking out.
One of Winona's top up-and-coming bowlers had her career-high series overshadowed by Steffes Monday in the Pin Topplers League. Lindsay Boynton, 21, put together games of 231, 245 and 221 for a 697 honor count.
Monday turned out to be a huge night at Westgate. Also in the Pin Topplers League, Lynda Krall tossed a season-high 664 season, while Julie Moldenhauer tallied a season-high 685 and Maggie Glenn added a 624 in the Alley Gaters League.
Keri Prigge continued her fine season with a 683 series Wednesday in the Sunsetters League at Westgate, while Steffes turned in a 667 in the Mixers League.
At Winona Bowl, Diane Marley joined Steffes with a pair of honor counts with scores of 649 and 619.
Steve Maliszewski rolled the 12th 300 game of the year in the American League at Westgate Bowl. Chris Gardner threw the week's high series in the same league with a 771.
Geoff Schewe nailed his highest series of the season with a 768 in the Mixed Nuts League at Winona Bowl. Turning in their first honor counts of the season were Larry Walters (735) and Bruce Malewicki (717), while Jeff Smelser rolled a pair of honor counts (749, 703).
It was quite a night Tuesday for the H & M Plumbing team in the American League. They finished with a 1,340 game (No. 4 all-time) and a 3,779 series (No. 2 all-time).