Having a great week on Tour doesn’t always involve knowing “how” and “why.”
In fact, some of the worst weeks on Tour are the ones during which everything except for the scores and the final results felt right, while the better ones have left me with a “how did I get here??” question bouncing around aimlessly inside my head.
Maybe you’re thinking that so far I am making absolutely no sense. Or that I’ve finally resorted to cheap teasers to persuade readers to click on “Full Post” and read my Angle. But before you frantically mouse toward your browser’s Back button, let me explain.
The biggest key to succeeding on bowling’s biggest stage is having a solid mental game. Wait, that’s too vague. How about mental perspective? Now we’re on the right track. Think of the mental game like a window, just an ordinary window in an apartment. It opens, it closes, it latches, it’s shatterproof. Basically, it’s functional, just like any good window should be -- but it faces a brick wall. All professional bowlers have a functional mental game, but in times of struggle it’s safe to say it faces that wall. Trust me, I’ve been staring at it for enough weeks this season that I even had time to count the number of bricks.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I experienced a confidence boost in Columbus after reverting to a 4-step approach and eliminating a lot of the over-analyzing/confusion that dominated my thoughts. So far, that change has worked. I may be down quite far in the point race, but my perspective has changed. The brick wall is gone, the window is still functional, and I can now see the park, the skyline, the beach, and all of the scenery that seems endless.
When I had time to count all the bricks, I couldn’t change my focus because everywhere I looked, all I saw was another stinkin’ brick! And here’s my point…without the wall, I had plenty more to watch, but nothing specifically on which to focus. My mind could wander and experience everything without getting stuck in a rut. Just like my bowling, my lack of focus actually became my focus, and from there my options were limitless. I didn’t know “how” or didn’t know “why,” but I knew enough to take advantage and simply bowl well and score high.
Ok, enough Zen for one day…here’s how my week broke down:
Round of 64: In the first best 4-out-of-7 match, I drew Sean Rash. I’m sure I was a strong underdog in most eyes, but if you were able to bet on me in Vegas, you would have made a decent chunk of change. I will concede that the left side through the TQR and the early rounds appeared to be dominant, but, unlike most standard weeks, the GoRVing Matchplay Championship lacked one feature: qualifying. Usually when the left side plays well, the lefties dominate qualifying because we see much less transition in the patterns across the house (only bowling one game on each pair). When a protracted battle is to be fought on only one pair, however, even lefties must manage where we push and move the oil on the lane. Other than a Maxxx Zone, I ended up throwing some older equipment because the balls gave me the perfect shape down the lane that allowed me to stay further left longer and get through the pins consistently.
Sean struck endlessly with his Wild Ride on Chameleon, but was seemingly unable to create the right look on Cheetah. I didn’t have a good look on Chameleon early in the match, but moved oil closer to the track area downlane that allowed me to have quite a bit of hold in the later games. These two details were what gave me the overall edge, as I had no problems with Cheetah and didn’t over-analyze when I got a fortunate break. I had a gameplan going into the match, and exited winning 4-1 on the strength of back-to-back 268 games.
Round of 32: Ritchie Allen was my next opponent, and alas, another right-hander. I like the best-of-7 formats because I feel like one of my strengths is managing my personal laneplay when not moving across the house. In other words, I believe I do a pretty good job of breaking down a fresh pair of lanes. Historically, righthanded “tweeners” and big power players like lanes more broken down so they can move left and open up to the huge area that has been created (and allows them to strike A LOT). Ritchie came back to beat Doug Kent in 7 games Thursday night, which led me to believe he didn’t like the fresh as much as bowling on the “burn.” Aside from employing the same ball selection strategy I did against Sean (remember, no brick wall…stick to what works and take advantage of it!), I put a little thought into my head that I wanted to end the match early. If I were to beat Ritchie, I had better odds while the lanes were still fresh as opposed to a battle of strikes in later games. The payoff? A 4-0 victory.
Round of 16: Poor Dino Castillo had the misfortune of being my next opponent. I don’t say that to sound arrogant, but I’ve bowled alongside Dino since our days on Team USA together, and his look may have been the worst I’ve seen since, well…ever. With my confidence growing and gameplan still unchanged and intact, I started off with an early win. The second game I snuck out 188-187. At least the crowd saw the humor in our debacle, as they chuckled about both of our inabilities to just simply close out the game. I needed to fill 18 pins in the tenth, and did just that by striking and then leaving the Greek Church and getting 3. Not decisive, but I will certainly take whatever fortune lands in my lap. Anytime you see a game like that on Tour, however, I would say there is a better than 90% chance that the next game will be high scoring. Hmm…remember what I said about transition? We both made our respective adjustments, and Dino beat me 237-226. Luckily I was able to continue the upwards scoring trend with 232 and 258, while feeling some sympathy for the inordinate amount of 2-8-10 combinations that Dino faced over the same two games. Result: 4-1, Andrew.
Round of 8: Here’s where everything got a little tricky. First, I drew the hottest player on Tour, Chris Barnes. Second, I was on the high end of the building (where Parker Bohn III lost, and so did the seemingly unstoppable 255+ averaging Mike Scroggins). And third, I had the best average and matchplay record entering this round. No pressure, right? Actually, I really didn’t feel any, but instead felt the thrill of having a chance to make the semifinals and erase all remnants of the previously less-than-stellar weeks on Tour. In order to compete, I had to beat Chris in the present. Of course, my strategies weren’t going to change against another right-hander…but I would have to stay in the zone and not give away chances to take control of the match. I lost 4-0, but was in every game all the way to the 9th and 10th frames. Twice I had a chance to strike out and force Chris to mark or double to beat me, and twice he did; twice he gave me a chance to strike out and take the game, and twice I failed. That was the difference. Sure, looking back I could have made a ball change on the right lane or taken a few more moments to think in key situations, but I attacked the match on my terms and am fine with the result. I got past counting bricks and just soaked up the moment and filed away all the good memories for future reference. I know I will be back in that situation again, and next time will be different.
Just a few sidenotes on Norwich…
The staff and fans were great, and all of the Tour players were well treated (food in the paddock everyday and Vitamin Water…what more could you want?). After the tournament was over, I attended the GoRVing sponsor dinner at Jordan’s Steakhouse (I am on the GoRVing team, and it’s always a plus when you can perform well in their event), and had a juicy steak while watching my NCAA bracket go down in flames. It was an enjoyable evening to cap off my best week of the year, and I’m looking forward to Long Island and the Tour finale, the U.S. Open. Thank you for all the positive comments I’ve received about my “breakout” this week, thanks for reading, and watch for next week’s Angle!