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Bowl Opinion - July 2015 - Special Events Make Summer Great for Youth Bowlers 7/31/2015

by Jim Goodwin - Stars & Strikes Newsmagazine

Youth bowlers flock to Turbo Tech Collegiate Expo, Junior Gold and Teen Masters

Forget Summer Camp - Summer is for bowling!

For kids who love bowling, summer has plenty of bowling to love. Aside from sum- mer leagues and local events, there is ample action on the national scene to keep youth bowlers and their parents active.
Two incredible events roll in Chicagoland this year - The Turbo Tech Collegiate Expo and USBC Junior Gold. July 8-10, the 5th Annual Turbo Tech Collegiate Expo will run with a sold out field of 168 young players; and we say "players" because all are accomplished young bowlers who are looking for a chance to bowl on a collegiate team after high school.

By all accounts, Turbo President Lori Mraz and her staff do an incredible job of bringing together student bowlers, their parents, professional bowlers and coaches, ball company experts, and college coaches. Many students will leave this event with academic and bowling scholarship hopes; and many will get letters in the coming weeks with the exciting news that they have been accepted at the school of their choice.

The United States Bowling Congress Junior Gold Tournament follows the Collegiate Expo in the Chicago area July 11-17. More than 3000 youth bowlers are signed up this year. Junior Gold was described to me by a well known coach recently as "organized chaos" because it involves so many kids and their parents and several different bowling centers are needed to accommodate the big number of entries.

And again, by all accounts, USBC does a marvelous job of giving kids a quality experience with great scholarship awards in the balance. Junior Gold has become so popular that it has turned into a year round project for the good people in Arlington, and there seems to be no limit to what they can accomplish if it keeps growing every year.

Speaking of quality, we had a chance after attending Bowl Expo in Las Vegas to visit the 19th Annual Teen Masters Tournament, held this year June 27-July 4 at the beautiful new South Point Bowling Plaza. We have closely followed the progress and evolution of this unique event from its conception, and we continue to be amazed at the innovative ideas and special touches put into it by promoter Gary Beck and his staff, which is led by PBA Deputy Commissioner Kirk Von Krueger and his wife Mary, who is now the Player Services Director for the PBA.

Kirk and Mary first got involved in the Teen Masters a decade ago, and fell in love with the very talented kids who bowl in this tournament in spite of its challenges. Kirk shared that even if he was not representing the PBA, that he and Mary would work at this event just for the opportunity to give something back to bowling and these great kids.

Challenges? Start with the fact that lane oil patterns for the Teen Masters are flat with low volumes of oil in long and short patterns; all coordinated by the Kegel Company... then add to the mix that players of all age groups roll the entire 42 game TM National Finals with only two bowling balls, one made of polyurethane and the other plastic.

If this looks like a throwback to the way bowling was before the days of enormous scores becoming the standard... it is. Beck is well known as a bowling purist who strongly believes that scores must be earned with talent rather than equipment. Thus, he works with event sponsor Ebonite to provide the two new balls, which must be used exclusively throughout the event, to every contestant.

In addition to the bowling balls, TM players get two very sharp custom jerseys with their name and "class of" on the back... we especially like this because it instantly identifies the age of every player. This year, they were also treated to a performance of the world famous Blue Man Group, and a closing Pizza and Dance Party sponsored by Dexter Shoe Company.

As previously mentioned, Kirk Von Krueger is the Tournament Director of the TM, and he brings with him not only his vast experience and expertise, but also many hardware and software tools from the PBA. Fans in the venue get game-by-game standings throughout the tournament, and fans, family and friends at home can follow the results on a special TM/PBA website or tune in to PBA's Xtra Frame for live coverage.

The Teen Masters slogan is "Mastering Sport - Mastering Life," and it is appropriate because the event is designed to challenge every player by getting them out of their comfort zone. It is a mental and physical challenge that tests their attitudes, tenacity, and perseverance. A few of the players we saw off the lanes were wearing TM T shirts with the words "Its All About Me" on the front, and the words "I am Responsible for My Success or Failure" on the back.

We sat in on one of Beck's 30 minute welcome/orientation squad meetings during our visit, and he talked a lot about his philosophy, sincerely trying to teach kids that life is not always easy... so why should bowling be easy. By sharing this passion on a personal level, Beck has created a loyal group of families that buy into the concept and can't wait to be a part of it. Like Apple and Starbucks, Beck has created a unique brand and culture surrounding the Teen Masters. He is often heard describing his customers as "family" or "a tribe."

We were also pleased to hear that Beck has committed to running this special event "for as long as he is able." He is now 62, but says, God willing, that he has another 10 or 15 years of making the Teen Masters better each year.

Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine.