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PBA Patterns vs. League Conditions: What’s the Difference?

The terms Cheetah, Viper, Chameleon, Scorpion and Shark may seem more at home at an exotic pet store than a bowling alley. But to professional bowlers, those words can make a world of difference in how they approach their game.

Del & Carolyn Dorin-Ballard
The terms refer to lane conditions used by the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA). They describe, in increasing order of difficulty, the length and pattern of oils used to condition the wooden lanes.

Last week, two stars of the PBA stopped by Brunswick Blue Hen Lanes in Newark to teach local bowlers about these different conditions and offer pointers on how to improve their skills.

"We're trying to educate and give back to league bowlers," said Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, a top female bowler from Texas, who was recently elected to the U.S. Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.

Those involved with the sport, she said, have been trying to change stereotypes about it, emphasizing its family nature and the athleticism it demands.

On that mission, she and her husband, Del Ballard, have visited bowling centers around the country to share their knowledge and passion about bowling with amateur players.

Del, who entered the PBA Tour as a teenager and won numerous titles since then, said he has no problem with what he calls the "Al Bundy leagues" of bowling - people who play for recreation and camaraderie.

But, he wants to show average bowlers the difference between their game and what the pros face. Only in bowling, he pointed out, can an amateur athlete achieve the same score as a professional (300 is a perfect game).

"People bowl 300 all the time in leagues, but you never hear that in other sports," he said. "You never see golfers saying they're as good as Tiger Woods."

The difference in bowling comes down to lane conditions. A league player bowling in the high 200s on the "house pattern" may lose between 35 and 50 pins when shooting on PBA patterns, he said.

"The reason why we're here is to make this as enjoyable as possible, so players can learn the game of bowling the way it's supposed to be played," he said.

At the workshop, Del and Carolyn demonstrated how they approach different lane conditions and adjust their timing and equipment to get better results. Then, they gave local players a chance to try their hand at it, offering tips along the way.

At one point, Carolyn held up a kitchen scrub pad - a favorite tool of hers. "We're going to put some teeth on your bowling ball," she said.

By CHRISTINE NEFF of the Newark Post