The Ottumwa Courier


January 24, 2013

THE ROOKIE: A humbling bowling lesson

OTTUMWA — It all started so well.

I bowled a spare on my practice rolls and I bowled a strike not too long after that. I could feel my confidence begin to swell.

“That’s how we do it at The Ottumwa Courier,” I told Ottumwa senior bowler Anthony Roberts after my strike.

The remark was mostly in jest, but I was feeling a little cocksure at the time. The idea that I might have a chance to beat Michaela Malloy and Roberts in a round of bowling was swimming through my overly optimistic brain.

The competitive juices had begun to flow and I was filled with that exhilarating rush of adrenaline that only comes from competition. Bowling didn’t seem too hard; as long as you roll the big ball down the middle of the lane things seemed to turn out OK.

But, alas, that confident feeling was short-lived. After a couple of terrible rolls, my confidence had evaporated before you can say Pete Webber. My fantasy was being strangled by an unwelcome reality. At that moment the lyrics to one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs suddenly rang oh so true:

“When life looks like easy street there is danger at the door.”

As my game — and with it my confidence — were plummeted, Roberts and Malloy were just getting warmed up. I noticed that their rolls had a certain elegance to them that mine lacked. They featured more than a hint of spin that I couldn’t even begin to replicate.  Pretty soon, their strikes became more abundant and the gap between their score and mine began to widen quickly. I started to understand that there was more to bowling than meets the eye; and a greenhorn like me wasn’t going to discover all the sport’s secrets in a day. Or a month. Or a year.

With each strike, the Ottumwa bowlers also drove home why the Bulldog bowling programs are such a powerhouse each year. The command these two had over their shots could only be achieved with a lot of practice and dedication.

Now, maybe it was a figment of my overactive imagination, but when Malloy and Roberts bowled a strike, it sounded distinctly different than when I accomplished the same feat. For when their bowling balls glided down the lane and crashed into the pins, the sound it made was somehow more natural, more melodious, more pleasing to the ear than when I did it. When Heintz-guided bowling balls produced strikes, it was as if there was a mistake in the cosmos ... A broken piece of machinery had briefly gummed up an otherwise perfect system. Theirs represented the appropriate order of things while mine were an aberration; a lucky mistake that happens now and then but shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Although I soon found myself way too far behind to catch either of my opponents, I did manage to bowl one more strike before the game mercilessly ended. Malloy finished with a 213, Roberts scored a 173 and I finished with a meager 94. I had hoped to at least crack 100, but what can you do?

Properly humbled and a little befuddled, I sought answers from Malloy and Roberts about how long it really takes to become what could legitimately called a good bowler.

“The thing about bowling is it does take a lot of practice,” Roberts said. “There is a lot to this game ... more than what people think. People take this game for granted, [they] think it’s more for fun. But when you look at it from a competitive view, it takes a lot of practice and lots of dedication.

“I have been bowling for 13 years and I’m still working on my game and there’s a lot more to improve.”

Malloy said she’s also bowled for 13 years.

“You usually start off with a plastic ball, which is just the general straight one and you just move up from there,” she said. “As you get stronger you move up with balls and start to curve it and stuff like that.”

Roberts also recommended beginners start out using a plastic ball and working on direction.

Then I asked both bowlers how long it took them to get comfortable with putting so much “English” on their rolls.

“To get the curve in there it would take probably at least a couple of years,” Roberts said. “You have to build the muscle memory. ... You have to get the feel of how to rotate the ball. It took me until I was about 12 to put a little spin on it.”

“I don’t think you ever perfect it [the curve],” Malloy said. “It took me about a year to get completely used to it and to get it where I wanted it to be.

“There’s a big difference between the curve and the straight. It gets more action in the pocket and knocks the pins down better than the straight one.”

Malloy and Roberts were both good winners, as they opted not to needle me about my lopsided defeat. But they had taught me a valuable lesson — bowling is no cakewalk that can be mastered by some hobbyist playing in a higgledy-piggledy fashion every other weekend. It requires the same amount of practice, mental toughness, poise and skill as its more popular brethren.

This is a lesson I won’t soon forget.

Got a sports challenge for Courier sports writer Andy Heintz? He can be reached at

Text Only
  • No Headline Provided Mustang Relays Bloomfield 04-15-14 Class AA team scores -- 1. Davis County 160, 2. Fairfield 159, 3. Pekin 34, 4. Keokuk 82. Boys Results Shot put -- 1. E. Adam (P) 50-8, 2. T. Northup (P) 41-6, 3. M. Fritz (FF) 38-7, 4. I. Hougland (DC) 37-4, 5. B.

    April 17, 2014

  • Davis County boys edge Fairfield at Mustang Relays BLOOMFIELD — Although the Davis County boys track and field team successfully protected its home turf Tuesday at the Mustang Relays in Class AA action, it was far from easy. The Mustang boys squeaked by Fairfield by just a point, as they edged the Tr

    April 16, 2014

  • MSAE boys net win over Iowa City West JV IOWA CITY — The Fairfield Maharishi boys tennis team defeated the Iowa City West junior varsity on Tuesday, winning 7-2 at the ICW courts. Solaris Nite played an outstanding match against Cole Schneider, winning the No. 2 singles match 7-5, 6-3. Othe

    April 16, 2014

  • Albia girls beat out Centerville at Redette Golf Invite CENTERVILLE — The Albia Lady Dees captured the Redette Invite held Tuesday in Centerville by a margin of 45 shots over the host squad at the Manhattan Golf Club. Seven schools from the area competed on a day that was sunny but had very cool breezes w

    April 16, 2014

  • Fairfield beats out Centerville at Albia Invitational ALBIA — Several talented area boys golfers teed off in the Albia Invitational on Tuesday. In the end, it was a pair of area teams with hopes of being in the 3A State Tournament that battled for the title as Fairfield beat out Centerville and former s

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Sports Ottumwa girls soccer photo Late goal lifts Chariton past Ottumwa OTTUMWA — The goal in soccer is to put the ball in the back of the net. Chariton’s Kourtney Nichols took it one step further on Tuesday night at Eric Wertheim Field. The Charger senior put the ball beyond the back of the net, so much so that it led t

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Sports IHCC softball photo Schieber stymies Iowa Western COUNCIL BLUFFS — Just a few weeks ago, Iowa Western humbled the Indian Hills softball team on its home field. The Reivers outscored the Warriors 15-1 over 12 innings in the first two regional games of the year for IHCC. Kendle Schieber made sure that

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Sports Don Newell Invite photo Home track meet festooned with great performances OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa boys and girls track and field teams put on a Don Newell Classic brimming with adrenaline-soaked moments Tuesday on Senior Night. The girls, who tested their mettle against a profusion of top quality teams, came in fourth with 9

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Sports Queyvn Winters photo -M IHCC's Winters signs with Washington OTTUMWA – It’s a long way from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh to the University of Washington in Seattle. For Queyvn Winters, it’s a journey he’s happy to have taken, especially the detour that brought him for one spectacular season to Indian Hill

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • On Tap Thursday Girls Golf Ottumwa at Marshalltown Invitational, 10 a.m. Davis County and Keokuk at Fairfield, 3 p.m. Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont at Oskaloosa, 4 p.m. Sigourney at Montezuma, 4 p.m. Pella Christian at North Mahaska, 4:15 p.m. Lynnville-Sully at Tri-

    April 16, 2014

NCAA Tournament Scoreboard
Sports photo reprints