December 15, 2006 19:00
By Matt Freiberg
Travel day for the members of the PBA. Instead of driving straight into Babylon, New York, my girlfriend Nikki drove me home. I went to my home bowling center in the evening and got the best Swedish meatballs in the world, courtesy of Josh G. I lingered around the alley saying hello to all my hometown friends. I left the center a few hours later, and spent some much needed time with my girlfriend and her family.
Woke up horribly early to beat tri-state area traffic. If you haven’t experienced it first hand, you’ve probably heard about it. Yeah, it really is THAT bad. Three hours after I woke up, I arrived at AMF Babylon Lanes. After catching up with the PBA staff, I went out to the trucks, got my stuff, and got my practice on. The pattern we were bowling on this week is known as the Shark, and I practiced for two hours. When I felt confident that I had two or three balls that matched up fairly closely, I put my shoes up and left. Usually on Tuesday I do set up for the bleachers in the center for the spectators to sit and watch throughout the week. This week, however, I got a nice break because this center set up its own bleachers. Rudy “Revs” Kasimakis, and PBA staff members Jeff Mark, Rosie Leutzinger, David Bassity, Jacques Dardin (the guy who does the lighting for the TV show) and his assistant Bobby and I went to Kwong Ming for dinner. It was the best oriental food I’ve ever had. After two hours of unbelievable food and good conversation, we ended the night on a good note.
Although my hometown is within two hours of the bowling center, I decided to stay in a hotel. Ironically, as far as hotels go, this one might have actually been farther from the bowl than my house. I had another early morning wake up to beat the traffic for the Tour Qualifying Round’s 9 a.m. roll call. I changed into my bowling clothes and worked out my equipment until practice. I stretch before I bowl, get warmed up quicker and use less shots during practice. This gives me more quality shots during the actual competition. Every ball thrown counts.
I bowled a 300 the first game. It was my first PBA 300 and it felt great. It’s always nice to start off the block with a big game. I moved to the next pair, had a good look, but didn’t excecute as well as the first game. I shot a 222. Over the next five games, my look faded but luckily it never completely disappeared. I shot a 211 the last game which secured me a spot for Thursday’s competition. It was sweet bowling my first 300 in PBA competition and I was lucky I did so because I only went about another 30 pins + for the next six games.
It was nice to have support from my parents who made the drive up from Somerset, New Jersey. There were a few professionals, specifically Patrick Allen, and Sean Rash, who were rooting for me the last game which really kept my spirits up. I would also like to note that I probably would have never bowled as well as I did if I hadn’t worked with Brunswick Rep. Rick Benoit the week earlier. We worked on a few kinks in my physical game and after about 10 minutes I immediately noticed a difference. So, Thanks Rick! After a great day overall, I went to Kwong Ming for dinner, again, to top my night off.
I had to be at the bowling center at 10 a.m. to weigh in my bowling balls. When you make it out of the TQR you are required to weigh in whichever balls you have written down on your scorecard that you used during the qualifying round. For the first time in a long time I was in roll call again with all the TQR finalists and PBA exempt members.
Because there are fewer bowlers in the Round of 64 than there are in the TQR, I noticed that the lanes played tighter Thursday than on Wednesday. I was paired with Chris Barnes, Chris Collins, and Brian Kretzer. I bowled okay for the first seven games. I shot about 20 under but I was only 60 pins out of the number so I had high hopes going into the next seven games. My girlfriend and her sister came up to watch me bowl so I hung out with them during the break. We had some really good Italian food that was being served in the locker room. I bowled better through the transition (games 3-5) on the second set than I did on the first set. I finished the day at 77 under. Regardless of how I bowled, I had a fun, successful week of bowling.
Having a stop so close to home enabled my parents and girlfriend to make the drive up to see me bowl. Since I’m on the road so often, they don’t get to see me bowl as much as I’d like them to. Over the summer I worked at Kegel Training Center in Florida, so it was nice to spend some time with them.
Finally on Thursday night I was able to go home to spend some much needed time with my girlfriend, Nikki.
My time on Friday is filled with working on the bleacher system. I set up the bleachers for the TV set on Sundays. I used to set up the lights but recently changed jobs. I started at about 5 p.m. by getting the trucks/trailer ready to be unloaded. At 10 p.m. when the local laborers showed up we worked until about 2:30 a.m.
After being able to sleep in late, I worked until about 6 p.m. Saturday evening as part of my obligation for making it out of the qualifying round, I had to bowl in the Pro-Am. This was no big deal to me because I love interacting with the fans. They keep the sport going and we need to let them know that! Bowling the pro-am was a lot of fun. The fans were great. They weren’t afraid to ask questions and I was happy to answer. We got to take some pictures and I was able to sign some autographs. This wasn’t my first time bowling a pro-am but it’s always a great experience.
I had to be at the lanes around 10 a.m. just in time for the free breakfast offered by the bowling center. Cooked to order, couldn’t ask for anything better! When the show was over I started working. We broke down the bleacher system and finished around 7:30 p.m. Nik picked me up and I was finally able to go home! It’s a good feeling to be able to put my suitcases to rest, even if it’s only for two weeks.
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