Rollin’ with the big boys; Bennett cashes at PBA event
New Salisbury’s Shane Bennett grew up in bowling alleys in the Louisville area where his parents often bowled. Bennett picked up bowling when he was 6 and developed quickly not only skill but a love for the sport. When a nagging back injury sidelined him in the mid-1990s, Bennett stopped bowling completely.
Then in 2000, doctors cleared him to bowl. Two weeks ago, on Aug. 19, Bennett finished 12th in a Professional Bowlers Association Regional Tour event in Columbus, Ohio.
After averaging a 230 over an eight-game block during Saturday’s competition, Bennett had a restless night, knowing that match play awaited him. His previous highest average at a tour stop was a 199. In match play, he drew the No. 1 seed, Brian Himmler, a Cincinnati native. Himmler is a four-time PBA title winner and has earned more than $600,000 in prize money and has made 23 ESPN television appearances.
No small task for Bennett, but his growing confidence gave him a shot.
‘I knew going into the weekend my confidence was up,’ Bennett said. ‘Bowling is 60 to 70 percent mental. That was the sharpest mentally I’ve ever been.’
The tournament bowlers rolled on the Cheetah Pattern, a name given to certain lane conditions that challenge elite bowlers. First-match nerves got the best of Bennett against Himmler and he lost the opener by 20 pins. He bounced back to knock off the talented pro in game two.
Bennett eventually pushed Himmler to five games of the best-of-five series. Himmler won the decisive fifth game 279-212.
‘You couldn’t do anything there,’ Bennett said of losing. ‘The thing that amazed me about him was you could see the determination in the fifth game and his confidence rise.’
The PBA Regional Tour is designed to operate in the off-season of the Denny’s PBA Tour. It not only gives the world’s best bowlers an opportunity to sharpen their skills, but also gives bowlers like Bennett an opportunity to compete against the professionals on the weekends. The regional point leaders at the end of the season receives an exemption onto the elite Denny’s PBA Tour.
At Bennett’s first regional competition in 1993, he recalled walking into the Michigan bowling center only to find legendary Pete Weber had showed up to compete.
‘I just said forget about it,’ he said about his chances of doing well then. ‘It was spectacular watching him bowl.’
Bennett has also bowled alongside the likes of New Albany’s Mike Wolfe, Mika Koivuniemi, Dave D’Entremont and other familiar faces that have graced ESPN’s bowling programs. His favorite bowler is the tour’s leader in all-time wins, Walter Ray Williams Jr., because they share similar bowling styles.
After placing 12th in Columbus, Bennett realized his accomplishment against some of the world’s best when he reviewed the final list of finishers.
‘I looked over the list and realized I finished ahead of Doug Kent, the 2007 PBA Player of the Year,’ Bennett said with a smile.
In the ’90s, Bennett, who grew up in Lanesville, competed on the PBA Regional Tour for a few years before giving way because of his back. With a healed back and a strong mind, he has competed at the high level the past 18 months.
He doesn’t compete at every tour stop; instead, he picks and chooses the closer events which usually results in one or two each month. The family sometimes makes it a mini-vacation. His wife, Tammy, and their two children, Cody, 9, and Keila, 7, recently made the trip to Fort Wayne for support. Cody was on hand for the 12th place finish in Ohio.
Bennett’s goal now is consistency. Bowling on challenging conditions is something he has adapted to and plans to improve on.
‘At the tournament, I had to play the two or three boards from the gutter and let the ball come in (to the pocket),’ he said. ‘It’s not comfortable. They are difficult conditions, which means I have to get in a lot of practice.’
Practice includes working with a coach once a month, bowling in two leagues and rolling an additional 10 to 20 games on top of that. He has three career perfect 300 games to his credit and an 812 three-game series.
‘It’s still fun,’ Bennett said of league bowling. ‘I’ve always had the philosophy in business and in life to surround oneself with great people and bowlers. It’s rare for me in league play to have the highest score because there are a lot of good bowlers in this area.’
He credits his recent success to staying focused and thanks Shane Archer for reviving his focus. He lone sponsor is Printing and Time, which cover the cost of practice. With consistancy, Bennett believes more sponsors will jump on board. Possibly a few years down the road, Bennett could make a serious push at making the Denny’s PBA Tour.