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Bower is king of the lanes again, winning 7th state title; he competed against bowlers half his age

By Jason Maddux jasonmaddux@pressandjournal.com
Posted 7/26/17

It had been awhile since Darryl Bower won a Pennsylvania State Bowling Association state singles title — 25 years to be exact.

But the 847 series he rolled in mid-April at Hiester Lanes in …

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Bower is king of the lanes again, winning 7th state title; he competed against bowlers half his age


It had been awhile since Darryl Bower won a Pennsylvania State Bowling Association state singles title — 25 years to be exact.

But the 847 series he rolled in mid-April at Hiester Lanes in Reading — which included his 48th career 300 game along with scores of 279 and 268 — put him on top by more than 30 pins for his seventh career PSBA tournament title. The last time he won the state title, in 1992, he also bowled a 300 game, which is 12 straight strikes.

Almost 5,000 bowlers took part in the event, which ran at different locations from April through June. He was recognized July 8 at the Red Lion Hotel in Harrisburg for winning the title.

At age 61, he was competing against bowlers half his age, with a game that relies on accuracy and ball control and not the power that he said has taken over the sport in the highest levels of competition.

“It was refreshing to go back to an era where someone with more accuracy outlasts the field, and at my age as well,” he said of his win.

His 847 series was the third highest in the 78 years of the tournament, he said.

“With Darryl, I’m not surprised. He’s definitely capable no matter what the age,” Joseph E. Ross Jr. of Danville, the PSBA president, told the Press & Journal about Bower’s win. “When he’s going, he’s hard to stop. That’s for sure.”

Ross said he has worked with Bower quite a bit over the years, and he has been good for the community and the sport of bowling in general.

“Super, super class act, Super nice guy. A gentleman all the way. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would have something negative to say about Darryl,” Ross said.

This accomplishment was just the latest in a long and illustrious bowling career. He was inducted into the PSBA Hall of Fame in 2001. He won a Professional Bowlers Association Tour event in 1985, the True Value Open in Indianapolis. He beat PBA Hall of Fame member Mike Aulby in the finals and defeated Hall of Famers Johnny Petraglia and Pete Weber along the way as well. He owns 10 PBA regional titles and was the 2009-10 East Regional Senior Player of the Year.

All in the family

State bowling wise, Bower said, his recent singles win is probably his career highlight.

“Although it’s probably more enjoyable when you win with somebody or with a team. My brother Gary and I won the state doubles and set the record back in 1992. That was probably the most enjoyable.”

Keeping with the family theme, Bower said his winning series was even more special because son Johnathan was bowling right beside him.

“I was just trying to keep up with him. He was ahead of me after the first nine frames of the first game,” he said. “I only started focusing on the leaderboard during the last game, because he was bowling well. It was a friendly competition between the two of us. I was just trying to stay with him. That helped my concentration level.”

Johnathan is the oldest of Bower’s four sons and is now the manager of ABC Lanes East. He finished second in last year’s state competition and rolled a 709 series this year.

“He was too young or not even born when I won the other six titles,” Bower said.

Johnathan said it’s impressive when someone only misses a couple times for 36 frames, as his father did that day in April.

“I’ve seen him win things before. It’s wonderful to see him at this level still competing and being very good at it. He just has it. Not everybody has it,” Johnathan Bower said.

They have competed in PBA regional events against each other, and they have teamed up in doubles. Johnathan takes part in some PBA touring events.

Going into that April day, Bower said he felt his game was in good shape. He also had been able to rest his wrist, which he injured more than 30 years ago while he was on the PBA Tour.

“I have an overuse issue with my wrist. If I bowl a lot, it tends to lessen my grip strength. So I was kind of sharp but also rested. I was feeling pretty strong with my game at that point,” he said.

Also, he said, the lanes were consistent.

“The lanes weren’t changing too much on me. They tend to change every time the ball rolls down the lane. The oil gets picked up by the ball and the lane tends to change a little bit. This particular day, I didn’t have to make major movements.”

Johnathan said his father was “just going about his business” and playing well, and then rolled a 300 in the second game.

“Then you could see it in his eyes he was trying really hard to keep it going,” Johnathan said.

He said he sometimes takes for granted how good of a bowler his father is, and how great of a person as well. But the win and the accolades that followed were a great reminder.

“Most people don’t know how much work he puts in,” Johnathan said, adding that sometimes his dad will bowl before the lanes are even open.

Sometimes he will only bowl a couple of frames, Johnathan said, but that’s something his father instilled him — bowl at least a little each day.

“Even if you do a couple of shots, just to get a feel for the ball” he said.

Coaching success

Closer to home, he has been the Middletown Blue Raiders bowling coach since the 2005-2006 season. He graduated from Middletown Area High School in 1973 and now lives in Lower Swatara Township.

“It’s great. It’s nice that I can give back to the community,” he said. “It’s a good outlet for the kids. It’s a way for the kids to showcase their talents.”

The team operates as a club sport, but is allowed to take part in the District III and state bowling championships. He said it receives a great deal of support from the school district and athletic department.

He said his coaching highlights include winning the Harrisburg Area Interscholastic Bowling League in back to back years, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, and three out of the last four years, they have had players advance to the state finals.

Pennsylvania started participating in the national bowling finals.

“That would be my ultimate goal, is to try to get a player from Middletown to win the national title,” he said.

Early start

Bower has been bowling since age 5, which was young to start at the time, he said. But he had a reason to bowl. His parents started ABC Lanes in 1958, and he and his brother Gary still own all three locations.

“That gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the sport and the availability to practice, work at my game. My older brother Gary was a really good bowler and he asked me at an early age to join his team, which was quite an honor because he had the best bowlers in the area bowling with him,” he said.

He bowled on the PBA Tour in the early 1980s to 1986, with 1985 as a “banner year,” he said.

All-time great Earl Anthony is someone he looked up to, he said. He bowled several tournaments with him.

“He was probably a little beyond his prime, but he was still bowling great in the early ’80s when I started in national PBA events. He was a great gentleman and great bowler,” he said.

But a soft-tissue tear in his wrist in 1986 slowed him significantly.

“After that year, it kind of limited how much I could bowl. I didn’t bowl very many tour stops after that,” he said.

Surgery in 1986 didn’t heal the injury like he had hoped. In 2000, he had another surgery that helped significantly. But he didn’t bowl for more than five years after.

He still competes on the PBA50 tour, for those 50 and older, and some PBA regional events.

“I try to bowl three or four times a week and in between try to do exercising for 30 minutes almost every day to try to stay sharp and fit. But I can’t do a lot with my hand or I get weakness and loss of grip strength.”

The game changes

Speaking of strength, Bower said power and equipment have taken over the sport.

“They keep making the bowling balls more and more powerful and create a little bit more area on the lane by the power you impart onto the bowling ball,” he said.

“With the younger guys, the game has changed over the years. It’s not as much accuracy and ball control. That’s the era I grew up in. A lot of it is equipment oriented today. The equipment has gotten so powerful.”

The great players are always great in any era, he said, but it’s more difficult these days to tell the really good from the not-as-good simply from their mechanics. He relies on balance, timing and control of the ball speed, while “a lot of modern-day players run really fast with their feet to get as much power on the ball as possible. They don’t really have the control.”

Ross, the PSBA president, said Bower’s win against power players shows technology can help, but it’s not always the deciding factor.

“The cream will rise to the top, as is the case here,” Ross said of Bower’s win.

Bower said he would recommend to any bowler to improve their game by getting coaching toward a proper release on the ball.

Bowling is fun

After all these years, Bower said he loves the game, and the opportunity to roll a 300 each time out.

“The bowling community in general, everybody has about the same interest. It’s not a really a cut-throat type of sport, even at the level I compete at. Guys appreciate each other’s talents,” he said.

“The average bowler bowls in a league. You can’t beat it for an evening out of enjoyment and socialization with the other members of the league,” he said. “It’s nice to get out and enjoy doing something you really love doing with friends or comrades you have known over the years.”