Johnny Petraglia's Tips For Left Handed Bowlers
continues our series of Editorial articles with this special tribute to Johnny Petraglia. This legendary PBA Hall of Fame Champion and his special career are well documented but I wish to share my own additional insight about my dear personal friend and also respond to requests we have received by posting Johnny Petraglia's tips for left handed bowlers
. Recently, I spoke with Johnny and he indicated he would be happy to share useful bowling tips so we can, in turn, share with all of you Johnny Petraglia's tips for left handed bowlers.
First let's take a quick look at John's Hall of Fame career in the PBA:
John has been a member of the PBA for more than 45 years and has maintained a very active bowling status over that span of time. As a member PBA and USBC Halls of Famer, John owns 14 PBA Tour National titles and seven Senior Tour titles including 2009 Senior Sun Bowl in The Villages. John is one of only five PBA Tour “Triple Crown” winners and is the only PBA player to have won PBA titles in six decades, a feat which is certainly an achievement anyone would clearly envy. John was named the 1998 PBA Senior Rookie of the Year and he has won nine PBA Regional and three Senior Regional titles. In 1971, John was the PBA's leading money winner by winning the final three events on the PBA Winter Tour culminating with his exciting victory in the Firestone Tournament of Champions.
John has always been a proponent of good physical conditioning. As a skilled practitioner of the martial arts, John has place a priority on regular exercise regimens and sensible dieting over the years to control his weight and remain ready for competition at all times. John's disciplined approach to training undoubtedly has contributed to sustained excellence on the lanes through the years.
Although John's standard is higher than most, he is still a common sense athlete who believes in the best approach to winning is staying in shape and practicing bowling as often as possible. John's success was no accident - hard work, desire, and determination have been his moniker over the span of his great career.
Before we get into tips John has shared for left handed bowlers, please allow me to elaborate a bit more about John the man and share some little known insight into John's career as a top player and a fan favorite for many decades. John is a Vietnam War veteran as am I and that likely was a mutual attraction which has kept us good friends over the years. John and I first met in Fresno, California in the late 1960's at my first PBA National Tournament. Once we learned we both had spent time in-country in Vietnam and shared some personal experiences with one another, we became fast friends and would frequently travel together to various Tour stops. As you would imagine, we learned a great deal about one another and about our families and personal interests by spending so much time together off the lanes. Of course, I suppose our Italian American heritage had something to do with our friendship bonding.
John served as PBA President on at least two separate occasions and was always deeply involved, and sometimes outspoken, about improving the PBA for all players and to help the organization sustain for years to come. John would also serve on the PBA Executive Board and Tournament Committee and would lead the groups with his passion and energy to keep the PBA relevant and to build a place for future generations of bowlers to complete. Modern Tour players today owe a great deal to the likes of Johnny Petraglia and to others who served to sustain the Tour.
John has been a special ambassador for bowling as evidenced by his relentless work for charities. John has been named Man of the Year for the National Leukemia Foundation, has served Special Olympics programs, and has honored and raised countless thousands of dollars for the Vietnam Wheelchair Veterans through his successful run of PBA Pro Am tournaments in his name, the "Johnny Petraglia Open" contested in N. Brunswick, New Jersey for many consecutive years as a staple on the PBA Tour schedule.
John not only has been nominated to the PBA Hall of Fame, he has been honored by multiple other Hall of Fame organizations such as most recently the New Jersey State Hall of Fame, the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame, and the USBC Hall of Fame. His biggest honor is likely the one, in my opinion, which will not show up in any media guide or bowling publication and that is his commitment to his family. John is proud of serving his country honorably in Vietnam, is proud of his bowling accomplishments, but his family has always come first. John's love for his wife and children are something to behold. I am forever proud to be John's friend....that is enough "title" to last me for a lifetime.
One instance in 1974 which comes to mind worth sharing is that John predicted he would win the Brunswick World Open Championship in Chicago the week before we bowled the event. That's right, John told me directly that he will win the tournament because he had a crystal clear dream about winning the event. As history shows, John won that important tournament. John was so passionate, he literally would will himself to win because he believed so much in his talents and in his destiny that he could convert a dream into a classic reality.
Another story about John has to do with his unselfishness and willingness to extend a hand to help another person. At the end of the 1971 Tour season, I was down to my last money battling hard to remain on Tour. Although I was in dire need of a sponsor to help finance my future Tour involvement, John and I never discussed obtaining a sponsor nor shared ideas for me on how to go about getting one given the limited success at that juncture of my career. To my surprise and without my knowing, John asked his sponsor, who also sponsored a stable of professional bowlers, to pick me up on the staff. I had no idea of this arrangement with the sponsor (financial backer) until I was directly approached by this Manhattan businessman who sponsored John and many other star players at that time.
While in the bowling center in Rochester, New York preparing to bowl a squad at one of the last events of that year, John's sponsor approached me and offered me a deal in point blank terms and gave me a welcomed smile as though to say, "glad to have you aboard, Rich." I was shocked at his no nonsense approach and the confidence he exuded while also being extremely excited at the same time. All the gentleman mentioned was that John and other staff players thought I would be a good addition to the staff and would help with the morale of the staff players so he elected to invite me into the fold.
Because John was the Staff Ace and leader among the players, I knew immediately that John made this arrangement possible. If John had not reached out with a helping hand to a hard working, young player in a time of need, I would never have had the honor to compete on the National Tour. John and his sponsor made me feel welcome and a part of the team. I am forever grateful to John for taking time from his very productive schedule and career to look out for the little guy and lend a hand while asking absolutely nothing in return. There are winners and there are champions; as John used to say, "winning lasts only for a day but being a champion lasts a lifetime...." In my book, Johnny Petraglia is a great champion, on and off the lanes.
Let's now address Johnny Petraglia's tips for left handed bowlers
. First, John wanted to share a couple of tips with bowlers who are not tournament players but rather league bowlers.
If you are looking to boost your game and scores, John related that "tips for left handed bowlers can essentially be the same as for right handed bowlers if you are bowling on standard or typical house lane conditions." The USBC categorizes most house oiling conditions as Red patterns and that usually means there is a good deal of oil in the center portion of the first twenty to thirty feet of distance from the foul line and less volumes of oil toward the edges of the lanes. This house condition generally yields a good pace of scoring and left and right handed bowlers alike can make similar adjustments, parallel adjustments, on the lanes to find the pocket and to convert spares by using the oil in the center of the lane to control bowling ball skid length. So, as John pointed out, "lane play adjustments can be the same for left and right handed bowlers in most situations."
John also pointed out that "physical game instructional tips can also serve both left and right handed players similarly." One tip John related is that he is asked by amateur bowlers he encounters in Pro-Am tournaments or at local bowling centers where he meets the public and that is how they can get more hook on the bowling ball. John's tip was a simple one. He said "so long as the palm of your bowling hand faces the right wall of the center (for left handed players and the left wall for right handed players) at the completion of your follow through WITH your thumb remaining pointing upward toward twelve o' clock, you will gain additional hook on your bowling ball."
Another of John's tips heard by countless amateurs over the years is to "keep your chin facing your target on the lane to steady your head and reduce unneeded movement when you walk to the foul line and deliver the bowling ball." John always told me that when nervous in competition, "simple is best - try not to clutter your mind with too many physical game thoughts but rather focus on things which will help you hit your target."
For tournament players, John shared more insight with me and wanted this group of bowlers to be aware that "because there are generally so few left handed bowlers entered in tournaments, that moving from one pair of lanes to the next after successive games requires paying careful attention to the right handed players when they are shooting their first ball on the new pair of lanes." John went on to state that this is "important for shooting right side of the lane spares." If the right hander delivers his first ball and it comes up light or short of the pocket, there is more oil in the center of the lane and likely shooting right side spares could result in a decreased skid distance than on the previous pair, so be careful and be aware and ready to make a corresponding adjustment. The opposite would be true if the right hander gets a sharper amount of hook on the first delivery after changing pairs of lanes.
John went on to suggest to tournament left handed bowlers that "when bowling on synthetic lanes, expect 2 boards of oil carrydown during the game as the lane will become tighter on the back end of the lane than at the beginning of the game. In this case, you may have to adjust from two to five boards and you must be ready to do so when you see this reaction developing."
Of course, John passes on to left handed players who bowl on PBA lane patterns, like the Viper pattern as example, to "pay close attention to the middle of the lanes. Skid length control is far more vital than lateral lane adjustments. Many of the successful left handed tour players will use regular urethane bowling balls and try to get the ball to "stand up" at the break point" and not try to hook the ball much on the back end from the break point to the pocket." John went on to mention that PBA conditions force left handed players to play a "skid length control game, either by means of high ball speed, additional loft control, or reducing the amount of active hand action during the release so the ball will arrive at the break point and not hook much toward the pocket." On PBA patterns, it is less likely that parallel adjustments can work in comparison to house conditions for left handed bowlers.
Johnny Petraglia asked me to express his appreciation to you community visitors for taking valuable time in reading this article and he hopes and wishes each of you enjoy much success on the lanes. Everyone at bowlingball.com
wishes you the same.