Now that I have your attention, I will talk more about the Petersen Classic Bowling Tournament.
I have 15 years experience in this tournament, I have yet to win 1st place and probably never will. My winnings have paid for my trip and entry fees once. Given this, you can tell that my "tips" may not be worth a grain of salt, especially for you who are already competing in the event and have it figured out. The "tips and such" I provide here will maybe help you who haven't bowled in this tournament. You should try it once. You will get hooked or shell shocked. Come back a second time and you will be hooked.
Location: AMF Hoffman Lanes, Hoffman Estates, Illinois. West suburban Chicago.
When: Generally, late April to early September. Regular bowling lanes are used but "modified".
Equipment: two bowling balls (you can't change them for others), one small utility bag and a towel. The balls are weighed in (over 16 lbs and it is out) before you bowl and are taken from you. You will find your authorized bowling balls on your starting lanes. There are no warmups on the tournament lanes.
How: Squads of 32 bowl, two to a lane, 8 games on 16 lanes. Men and women. You bowl 3 games, short break, three more games, short break, and the final two games. One chance per year, only. A squad of less than 32 can bowl too. Or, you can just tell the people you want to bowl and when. They will assign you to a squad.
Lane & Pin Conditions: During the tournament the lanes and pins intentionally fail requirements. They aren't even close. There are no arrows to throw at. The pins are of varied weights, quality and age. The lanes are oily, extra oily, extra dry or any combination. Pins are offset here and there.
Tips: I agreed not to give any secrets away, not that I have any. But here are a few thoughts that might help you bowl or more likely help you better understand the conditions at this tournament:
1. Leave your ego at home. This can be a humbling experience for many.
2. Hit the head pin. Really! Hit the head pin dead on. Not as many splits as you might think.
3. What works at your home lanes may not work here. Beware. Stay cool.
4. Knock down a minimum of 9 pins per frame. You are laughing! Get fancy and you'll never get 9.
5. If your ball hooks from one side all the way over to the other side and to the gutter, believe it the first time!
6. If your hooking ball goes straight as an arrow or even backs up, believe it! There's oil out there.
7. If you hit the pin in a one pin leave, you might get a spare. With any other leave, all bets are off unless you hit it head on.
8. Talk to yourself, talk to yourself. The pace is fast, not much time to small talk with others and still stay focused.
9. If you are a lefty, you will see mostly dry conditions. Watch your right handed mates cross over and you will know. Right handers can learn similarily from left handers.
10. If you can bowl with your eyes closed, do it. It eliminates many distractions.
11. Think about bowling in your league as you will bowl the Petersen. Which is most important to you? The conditions are likely quite different.
12. About left side spare shots on dry left side: Cross-alley shots are dangerous, the gutter is waiting.Consider left side gutter start for 7-pin, throw right two or three pins , bring it back. Actually, you don't have to bring it back. It comes back, maybe.
13. The less the lanes control your ball, maybe the better. If you can, throw it in the air as far as you can.
14. Get a quick read on your next pair of lanes from those bowlers: Oily or Dry is enough to know.
15. Handle pin offsets (some are really wide) by hitting the head pin on the opposite side.
16. I don't use one, yet, but many swear by using much lighter balls.....13 lbs.......and plastic. Some use them just for spares to prevent any break.
17. Even if you are having troubles and want to give up, remember that every pin you can get may help your squad, all 32 members, win a free entry for next year!
18. If you really want to find out how to bowl the Petersen Classic, find out what squad won big the last year, find out when they bowl again, and then go watch and learn. Of course, you are likely to find that you are not the only one with that plan. There is very limited standing room back of the bowlers.
Not too many secrets. But these tips are a clue that this is a real test even for the best.. If you figure out how to play these lanes and score,1500 or more (187), the payoff could be considerable, $1000 plus. Score 1500 and participate in the side events and you can more than pay for your trip.
Note: you can watch other squads bowl before you bowl. There is a small walk area back of the bowlers, room for a limited number of observers. Arrive early or take a day off, go to Chicago and watch others struggle with what you are thinking about doing. Check the schedule at the Petersen Classic WEB site or call to be sure a squad is scheduled to bowl. Watch and learn as the lanes play havoc with their bowling balls. Some bowlers will do well. Usually, you can throw practice on the "normal" lanes not included in the Petersen. Do this if for no reason other than to warm up. Every ball counts inside the Petersen, no shaddow balls.
Remember, you can bowl this tournament only once per year. Your picture is taken even if you don't buy it. Remember also, that there is no way you can know how well you can or cannot do in this tournament without yourself bowling it. No way. You might have exactly what it takes in ball and mental skill. But you will never know until you bowl the tournament.
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Fred Matson, Oakdale, MN
27, 31 May 2007; 25 Apr 2008 (three days before my 2008 attempt)