BY JIM KOHNER, COLUMNIST
His first coach in junior leagues, Roxy Kohner, tried to get him to switch. His two high school bowling coaches, Jeff Fakler and Tod Walters, along with former Winona Bowl owner Brian Fakler, attempted to change his approach.
But Blake Budnick was having none of it. He liked the way he bowled and he wasn’t about to change.
“I was too stubborn to change,” Budnick said.
When he first picked up a bowling ball at age three, he fired it down the lanes using two hands. The ball was a little heavy for a three-year-old so he needed two hands to get it to the pins.
Today, 19 years later, Budnick is one of a growing number of young bowlers using the two-handed style. And when you’re successful with it, why change?
Budnick has consistently averaged between 210 and 215 his first three years of adult-league bowling while bowling twice a week.
Unlike many two-handed bowers, Budnick does not put his thumb in the ball, which he cups with his left hand and steadies with his right on his back swing. He gets more revolutions on the ball, and when it hits the pocket it’s usually all 10 pins in the pit.
“You get more revs and more pin action,” said the 22-year-old Budnick, who’s studying cyber and information technology at Minnesota State College Southeast. “That comes with the territory. The younger kids today like to see more revs. A lot of young kids struggle with spares. I can see some of them going to two hands to pick up spares.
“I think [two-handed bowling] is a thing of the future. You see more kids doing it. The one-handed style will never go away. It’s all about what you’re most comfortable with.”
The number of two-handed bowlers is growing worldwide – mostly at the high school and college level, says Nick Heilman, who runs Nicholas J’s Pro Shop in La Crosse.
“From a pro shop view, the amount of people coming in for balls and getting balls drilled for two-handed bowling is definitely going up,” Heilman said. “The biggest increase is in college and high school kids. You don’t see older bowlers switching to two-handed. It’s not a fad. There’s a lot of good that comes out of it. It gives them a lot more speed and revs without a lot of effort.”
Bob Prenot, the current high school coach in Winona, has also seen a big spike in two-handed bowlers not only at the state level, but also at the national level where he takes his son Justin every summer to Junior Gold tournaments.
“There is a definite rise in two-handers, especially among younger bowlers,” Prenot said. “Some switch to eliminate any thumb issues, which is the cause of many release problems.”
The rapid rise in two-handers has mostly been attributed to “The Belmo Effect.”
In 2008, a young Australian, Jason Belmonte, joined the PBA Tour and made headlines in many bowling publications with his two-handed style.
In his 12 years on tour, Belmonte has won 22 titles, including 11 major championships. No bowler in the history of the PBA Tour has won more majors. And he’s only 36 years old.
When you watch the PBA Tour these days, you see more and more two-handed bowlers following in Belmonte’s footsteps.
“I’ve gotten a lot of information about bowling two-handed by watching his videos,” Budnick said.
In Sunday’s Rich Babler Memorial Junior Tournament at Westgate Bowl, one of the division winners was Chase Petschow, who in his first year of bowling is going with the two-handed delivery.
Lindsay Serwa and Jerry Koutsky certainly know how to start the season with a bang.
Serwa, who averaged a career-high 213 last year, tossed the top women’s series of the season with a 793 in the Pin Topplers League at Westgate. Serwa currently has three of the top six series (793, 698, 668) of the year as well as three of the top six games (277, 276, 267).
Koutsky has been on a roll in the Legion League with back-to-back Friday scores of 783 and 759.
Big scores were the norm on Thursday in the Kickass Classic League with eight national honor counts, led by Tod Walters’ 794 series, the second-highest score of the season. Chad Schultz added a 764, while Jenny Stueve led the women with a 652.
Joey Gudmundson found his groove in recent weeks in the American League with a 759 and 718 series.
Also turning in scores in this year’s top 10 were Heath Ronnenberg (759), Hunter Bambenek (751), Ed Becker (747) and Josh Wenzel (747).
I was thrilled to witness the fourth 300 game of the season when my son Anthony threw his second career perfect game in the City League at Westgate. He finished with a 734 series.
Joining Serwa with top-10 scores recently for the women were Donata Kitchens (662) and Meghan Manor (657).
There were a trio of first-evers in the last couple weeks. Trevor Frauenkron nailed his first 700 series with a 740 in the City League. Tuesday night in the American League, J.J. Pettit had his first 600 (653) and Dana Buysmann enjoyed her first 500 (508).
And congratulations go out to Justin Prenot, who on one Saturday morning in the Next Generation Junior League tossed a 300 game, and a week later came back with a 793 series.