"Bowling is difficult to master," Tony Dercola said. "But practice does pay off."
That dedication paid off for Dercola in the Young American Bowling Association Maryland state championship held at Turner's Dual Lanes in Hagerstown over four weekends in May. Dercola walked away with one of the most prestigious awards of the event: the Major Division Boys series trophy. He threw an outstanding scratch set of 659.
Dercola lives in Kings Contrivance with his parents, Cheryl and Gino Dercola, and bowls in the YABA league at Brunswick Columbia. A recent graduate of Hammond High School, Dercola will study mechanical engineering at University of Maryland Baltimore County next fall.
The 17-year-old carries a 168 average and threw his career high game of 246 in the tournament. His career high series is 669. Dercola worked part time as a jack-of-all-trades for about a year at Brunswick Columbia and still found time to "play a lot of tennis."
Apparently Dercola also found the time to do a lot of studying. When he attends UMBC this fall, he'll have a full academic scholarship. And, yes, he'll probably be a member of school's bowling team.
The NABI Fourth of July Firecracker Tournament at Crofton Bowling Centre had a first prize of $3,000, a second prize of $1,500 and a total prize fund of $20,234. That's a higher payout than some of the LPBT tournaments. Rosco Campbell of Clinton won the first prize and Mickey Mathias of Ellicott City captured the second prize.
"That last game with Campbell was nip and tuck," Mathias said. "At the end, I was short five or six pins. I'm not exactly sure how many because I was just a trifle nervous."
He had every right to be.
"Mickey had to bowl off five tiebreakers at some time in the tournament," said Joe Doctor, tournament director. "I can't ever remember anyone having to do that to reach the finals."
Mathias, an employee of an independent delivery service, started bowling about 20 years ago. He carries a 175 average in two leagues (Monday Triples at King's Point and Wednesday Mixed at Brunswick Normandy). In his career, he's shot a high game of 257 and a high set of 670.
Mathias has an interesting part-time employment: He's the guy who makes sure the hockey players at Baltimore Skipjacks games stay in the penalty box the required length of time. He still finds time to bowl in the NABI tournament a couple times a month. "Since I got my new X-Caliber bowling ball for my birthday, I've been bowling pretty good."
Good enough to take home $1,500 for his second-place finish -- there were 677 entries in the tournament.
Mel Malinowski bowls at Brunswick Normandy and King's Point. carries a 200-plus average, has a 757 for a high series. He started bowling 22 ago when he was 5. And he's still looking for that first 300 game. Malinowski has thrown a 700 series many times, and has a bunch of high scoring games. On June 16, he came as close as you can get: 299. That's one better than his previous high game of 298.
Hang in there, Mel, it'll come.
Tournament news: Brunswick Normandy and Brunswick Columbia are having a Summer Classic tournament. It's for summer league bowlers, cost $1 to enter, starts on July 20 and continues through Aug. 9 during league play. It has a first-place prize of $750 of open-play bowling.
* The third annual Country Club Classic is unfolding at Country Club Lanes in Baltimore County. The tournament will be held every weekend through Aug. 22, and has a guaranteed first prize of $4,000. Information: 686-2556.
* The NABI tournament will be held at Fair Lanes Annapolis Sunday, July 19. First prize is a guaranteed $1,000.
* The LPBT Regional Open will be held at Greenway Odenton Aug. 7-9. The Youth/Adult Pro-Am event will be on Friday, Aug. 7. On Sunday, Aug. 9, the Best of Bowling radio talk show will broadcast live from the concourse at Greenway Odenton as the lady professionals bowl in the finals.