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Baranek: Bowlers use summer leagues to hone skills, stay sharp

Tom Finnen Jr. | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

Tom Finnen Jr. | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 23, 2014 6:21AM



One way to stay cool during the summer is to toss some games at the local air-conditioned bowling center.

Kevin Kullman, of Lockport, does that twice a week for a minimum of two to three hours, and bowls in a league on another night at Strike ’N Spare II in Lockport.

He isn’t necessarily trying to beat the heat.

“I treat my game like racers do with their cars in the winter,” the top-average bowler in the Southland said. “I break every little piece down and go through it, get the kinks out.

“My grandfather (area short-track stock car legend Stash Kullman) was a perfectionist with his craft and I’m learning to do the same with mine.”

Kullman, who averaged 242 at Centennial Lanes in Tinley Park in 2013-14, isn’t alone in his quest to stay on top of his game. A check with some of the area pin kings and queens showed most of them don’t put their equipment away after the 35th week of the fall/winter season.

“You can’t average 240-plus taking three months off,” said Oak Lawn native Chris Schuch, who hit 240 on the nose this past season on Wednesday nights at Orland Bowl. “I bowl one summer league just to stay sharp.

“The level of talent is in the summer is minimum, so a lot of the bowlers in the league probably don’t enjoy my team. But I have an all-around great time hanging out with my bowling friends. It’s a long 35 weeks, but as crazy as it sounds I can’t wait for the upcoming season to start.”

Fall/winter leagues start at the end of August and run through the first week of May. During the summer most centers have shortened hours, but for the casual bowler the evenings offer something that isn’t often available during the winter months: open bowling in prime time.

“Pretty much during the winter the only (night) I have a possible couple of lanes is Thursday,” Palos Lanes manager Dave Knafl said. “So, yeah, we get a lot of people who come in (to open bowl).

“In June we were really busy. It seems to taper off in July, but I’ve noticed the last couple of weeks my winter league bowlers are starting to come around. They ask, ‘Hey, when are we starting?’ And when I say, “Probably about six weeks,’ they’re like, ‘Really?’ Now they’re starting to come around to practice.”

Peggy Forster-Schubbe, of Plainfield, who in 2013-14 topped Southland women with a 219 average in a Tuesday night league at Orland Bowl and was the USBC Chicagoland Woman Bowler of the Year in 2012-13, already has been keeping her skills sharp in a Have-A Ball League on Monday nights at Tinley Bowl.

“I bowl for practice and to hang out with my team. I try to take the results seriously, but sometimes it is so hot in there you start to lose focus,” she said, laughing.

Tom Finnen Jr., of Orland Hills, who averaged 239 on Wednesday nights at Lynwood Bowl, said that while summer bowling is good for his game, it’s not so good for his average. Lane conditions can be frustrating.

“Big time,” said Finnen, who is averaging 228 Wednesdays at Tinley Park Lanes. “The approaches are way more tacky and the lanes break down more quickly. I adjust accordingly to the lanes. I change balls and surfaces, and the pads on my shoes to help slide.

“I use (summer bowling) for a variety of things, to stay in shape and focused mostly, but at the end of the day I use it just to have some fun.”

Melissa Gawlik Stadt, of Burbank, a 218 average bowler in 2013-14, bowls in a Wednesday night summer league at Centennial.

“I do it because going from bowling five nights a week to zero nights a week would kill me,” she said. “The summer league is just to bowl and keep the arm going. It’s not as competitive or serious. It’s more to have fun in the summer and bowl with friends.”

And impress them, obviously.

“I did bowl a 300 a few weeks back so that was awesome,” said Stadt, who tossed three perfect games during the league season.



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