Brian Lafko started bowling duckpins when he was 4. By the time he turned 9, he was on the tenpins lanes, and he has never left.
Born and raised in Dundalk, Lafko moved to Felton, Pa., a few weeks ago.
bTC "But I still bowl at Country Club Lanes," he said with a laugh. "Just the one night a week, the Thursday Country Club Minors."
Usually the first thing someone asks is "How can you carry a decent average bowling just one night a week?" Normally, the answer is, "You can't."
But Lafko ignores that. Last season, he finished with a 218 average, and this season, he's averaging over 220.
On Jan. 6, using a Ebonite Turbo X drilled by Randy Ruckman of the Bowlers Alley Pro Shop, the left-hander started with a 280 game.
"That could have been a 300 game," he said. "But I left a solid eight along the way."
The second game he slumped and had to settle for a 267. In the last game, he started striking in the first frame and hammered out 11 in a row.
"The last ball was kind of embarrassing," Lafko said. "I just seemed to lose my concentration, and as soon as the ball left my hand, I knew it was bad."
Very bad -- he left the three, five, six, nine and 10 standing. That's the bad news, settling for a 295 game instead of 300.
The good news is that when the three games are added up you have a truly superb series: 842.
"The lane condition seemed just right for me that night," he said. "I felt like the pocket was wide open for me."
That figures. He threw 31 strikes that night.
A lifetime goal achieved
There are a bunch of duckpin bowlers who have just given up on ever throwing a 500 set, because it just doesn't happen that often.
Ernie Muths knows all about that. The Overlea native, now living in Bel Air, has been throwing a duckpin ball for 57 years.
"I started when I was a teen-ager in the late '30s," he said, "And I've always wanted to get that 500 set."
Muths bowls in one league, the Thursday 625 Men's at Stoneleigh Lanes on York Road. "I don't have much choice," he said. "There aren't any duckpin lanes in Harford County."
He finally achieved his goal last month.
"The first game I had a double and a triple," he said. "I marked in nine of the 10 frames."
That was good for a 211 game, the best of his career.
The second game was a solid 144.
"I was happy with the 200 game," he said. "But what I really wanted was that 500 set. and I knew I had to have a 145 to do it."
He never faltered but he did do it the hard way.
Entering the last frame, he had to have a mark for the 500 set. And he left the extremely difficult 6-9-10 for the spare break.
And made it.
"I knew that just two pins would be 500 on the nose," he said with a laugh. "And I made sure that I hit the head pin."
He did. And he ripped the one, five and nine pins for a 146 game and a 501 series.