ABC implements rules to handcuff 'switch hitters'

April 25, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

The American Bowling Congress is cracking down on bowlers who "switch hit" -- bowl left- and right-handed -- to gain an unfair advantage in handicap and classified tournaments.

A right-handed bowler could switch to his left hand to pick up that pesky tenpin, but now it is forbidden. Once a bowler enters a tournament and begins bowling, he must stay with the hand he started with -- or risk losing his entry fee.

To bowlers who never have tried bowling with their opposite hand, the rule might seem a bit strange. Who would want to switch hands?

Jeff Henry, manager of the rules department for the ABC, said switching hands is becoming more popular -- and some are pretty good at it.

"It's becoming more and more common," he said. "More and more people are becoming capable with both hands."

Switching hands in league competition has been banned for years -- once you begin the season, you must stick with whatever hand you started with. Of course, if you get hurt and want to bowl with the other hand, you can appeal to league officials for permission.

The pro bowlers are not allowed to switch hands in their tournaments, either. About the only places you still can switch hands legally is during a scratch tournament, said Henry.

The rules do not prevent a bowler from bowling with his opposite hand during an entire league season. And if a bowler is in two leagues -- one right-handed and one left-handed -- there's no distinction in the yearbook. No one would know which average was with what hand.

That's because, Henry explained, when entering tournaments, your highest book average is used, no matter what hand you used.

The ultimate sandbagger, therefore, could bowl with his opposite hand during a winter league, then for the next year, have a book average well under his ability. Before you try that, remember that most tournaments will make you use your tournament average, if it is consistently higher than your book average.

And speaking of sandbagging, Henry said there are bowlers who are suspended from the ABC for violating Rule 17, the sandbagging rule -- although it's rare, mostly because it's hard -- to prove, he said.

"Sometimes it's really blatant," Henry said. "We had a 206 average bowler recently who bowled an 83 in his league, and then a 25 game. We've seen 200 series on occasion."

Of the 2.7 million league bowlers last year, there were some 4,000 complaints against bowlers for violating the rules -- anything from failing to pay their league fees to sandbagging. Of those, some 2,000 were suspended.

A suspension normally lasts six months, during which time a bowler is forbidden to bowl in sanctioned leagues or tournaments, said Henry. "You can't bowl in any sanctioned competition. If you do, your suspension is extended," he said.

Tie in the Freestate

Lee Brosius of Fort Meade and John Laukautis of Columbia tied in last week's Freestate Tenpin Classic at Terrace Lanes in Frederick.

Brosius (a 197 average bowler) shot games of 209, 279 and 185 for a 673 set. With handicap of 30 pins, that got him a 703. Laukautis (a 157 average bowler) rolled games of 162, 181 and 234 for a 577 scratch set. With his 126-pin handicap, he also got a 703.

Stacy Karten, who runs the Freestate tour, said the two will bowl a three-game roll-off to decide who wins $750 for first place prize and $375 for second.

Finishing third was Stephen Steinert of Baltimore, who bowled a 699 (156, 197, 226 plus 120 pins handicap.) Steinert won $225. Dawn Grimes of Taneytown shot a 674 and won $35 for fourth place. There were 62 entries.

This weekend, the Freestate will be at Bowl America Reisterstown. For information, call (410) 356-4561.


If you know of any interesting bowlers, or have an interesting bowling story to tell, please contact Glenn Small at (410) 494-2944, or fax scores to (410) 494-2916. Please enclose a name and phone number for verification.

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