Improved balls leave buyer with little spare change

Bowling

January 24, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

Years ago, it was all so simple. If you wanted your own bowling ball, you just went to the store and purchased a black hard rubber ball and had three holes put in the thing, and you were ready to go.

Not so anymore.

Today, the bowling ball market is packed with balls of all names, weights, colors and materials. There are polyester balls, urethane balls and, the latest, the reactive resin balls. Which one should you buy?

The latest issue of Bowlers Journal reviewed 76 bowling balls, with names such as the Patriot Blue, the Buzzsaw, the Beast, the Gold Grenade, the Bulldozer and the Boogie.

"Last year alone," said Curt Pezzano, of Country Club Lanes, "the PBA licensed over 100 new balls."

The market is crammed, because there's money to be made.

For instance, the high-end bowling balls all cost more than $100. Balls such as the Blue Hammer run about $120, but the newest balls, like the Ninja, a reactive resin ball, sell for $150.

How do you decide which to buy?

Larry Nalls, who runs a local pro shop and who has bowled 13 300games, said a bowler should pick a ball that suits his experience level.

The beginning bowler, looking for that first ball, will want to start with a polyester ball. These hard-plastic balls are relatively cheap, some for $35.

Once you've been bowling for a while, you might want to move on to a urethane ball. The urethane balls became the rage in the 1980s, because of its great hooking power.

Urethane balls are softer than plastic balls, they have a dull surface, and they will hook more and hit the pins harder, creating more pin action and more strikes, said Nalls. But these balls cost $100 and up.

The latest rage in bowling balls is the so-called cheater balls. These balls took the market by storm at the beginning of last year, when Marc McDowell won a tournament using the X-caliber, the first of the reactive resin bowling balls.

"They just hit super hard," said Nalls. Resin reactive balls have a shiny surface that allow them to slide through the oil, but then grip the dry part of the lane. Nalls described their hook as violent.

Although their surface is shiny, it is also somewhat sticky. It's that quality that makes them grab the lanes hard, said Nalls.

With urethane balls, the more you shine the balls, the less they hook. Likewise, the more you sand urethane, the more it will hook.

"It's just the opposite with resin balls," said Nalls. "If you don't polish the resin balls, they get dull and they won't hook. The more you polish them, the more they will hook."

Cheater balls are not for everyone, Nalls said. They hit harder, but you still have to find the pocket.

"I shot a 300 game last summer with an X-caliber, then I shot a 150 with it. It can be an all-or-nothing ball," Nalls said.

Nalls suggests bowlers wait until they can consistently hold a 170-plus average before investing in the reactive resin ball.

"It's not for everybody," he said.

One final thought: A new bowling ball might be nice, it may give a psychological lift to your game, but it won't automatically make you a better bowler.

"The ball doesn't make the bowler," said Nalls. "The bowler makes the ball."

Ringing up a high score

Edward Decker, a 97-average bowler, rolled a 186 game in the Devil Birds league at Fair Lanes Southwest. The high score entitles him to a ring.

Top Country Club scores

James Barnhart, in the Baltimore Scratch Classic League at Country Club lanes, shot an 810 set (278, 233, 299), and Larry Nalls shot a 300 game and a 794 set (256, 300, 238). Randy Ruckman shot a 300 and a 791 set (223, 300, 268), and Dave Logan shot a 787 set (258, 266, 263). Ken Dixon, rolling in the St. Mathew's league, shot a 773 set (257, 216, 300).

Other high games were turned in by Robby Lemerise (288), Joe fTC Barnhart (300), Johnny Bradley (299), Keith Kregecz (289), Gold Caddic (300), Nelson Ray (286), Oscar Stinnett (297) and Bart St. Clair (296).

* If you know an interesting bowler, or have a good bowling story to tell, call Glenn Small at (410) 296-0080, or write to him care of The Sun, 401 Washington Ave., Towson, 21204. You also can fax letters or scores to (410) 823-1439. Please enclose a name and phone number for verification.

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