Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has an arts degree (music) from Ohio State University.

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You may be surprised to see regular coverage of high school bowling on Press Pros this winter, but you’d be more surprised to go see for yourself…just how good “the next level of athlete” really is.

I never bowled in high school…not seriously anyway.

Fact is, the only time I remember darkening the door at the old Centennial Lanes on Water Street, in Piqua, was on Sunday afternoons when there was absolutely NOTHING else to do.

Not that we didn’t play sports, because we did.  And at Piqua High School, circa 1968-’70, we played football, basketball, and baseball. Some ran track and cross country, some wrestled, and a few played golf in the fall. But competitive bowling? No one ever gave it a thought.

But fast forward about two generations…and consider now the fact that competitive high school bowling leagues are among the fastest growing cultures of all Ohio High School Athletic Association sports, according to recently retired OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross.

“Proportionately, it’s the fastest growing sport we have in terms of new participation.  It’s another level of athlete,” said Ross last year. “It appeals to a different group of athletes, it’s accessible and affordable, and it has star appeal when you consider the popularity of some of those who bowl on the pro tour (the PBA). It has everything you need to be the next big high school sport.”

And following Ross’s endorsement, and that of new OHSAA commissioner Jerry Snodgrass, it has everything needed to be the next big thing on Press Pros, as this site will feature regular coverage of area high school competition beginning next week.

“It’s a great opportunity for area bowlers to get the kind of coverage that football and basketball usually gets,” says Doug Davidson of the Bowlerstore, in Versailles, a nationwide distributor of bowling equipment.

“There are some really good high school bowlers out there competing at area schools and once the word gets out that there’s media attention focused on their sport it’s going to be a big boost for the sport.”

When we bowled back in the 70s…you showed up wearing jeans and a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse high tops. But this past Saturday, when Jordan Cordonnier, from Versailles, stepped up to bowl at the Western Ohio High School Bowling Conference singles tournament, in Minster, he looked every bit the part of PBA touring pro Norm Duke, and bowled like him, too.

Cordonnier would roll the day’s high score (257), and string seven straight strikes to do it. But St. Henry junior Jordan Thomas would ultimately out-duel fellow Redskin teammate Matt Mescher, 199 to 155, to take the WOHSBC singles title. Thomas would also finish with a qualifying series of 646 for his three games.

On the girls side, Fort Loramie’s Elena Bulcher would roll the day’s top score of 234, good enough to capture the girls’ singles title over Morgan Barlage, of Versailles, 234 to 161.

Another thing about bowling back in the 70s…none of us cared if we were bad. Gutter balls were laughable, and 7-10 splits drew jokes about Grandma’s teeth.

But look at the focus on the faces of some of Saturday’s participants – sober as a judge as both boys and girls take the sport as seriously as will Marion Local and Coldwater when they meet this Friday in football.

“It’s how I started,” said Versailles’ Michael Davidson recently, who bowled as a Versailles Tiger, and recently qualified for his PBA card to bowl as a professional. “I chose bowling because I liked the sport and you can’t beat the atmosphere of the matches and the tournaments. Everyone’s there, it’s fun, and it’s loud.”

“And I’m sure everyone’s excited about getting the new season underway this Saturday,” said Coldwater High School head coach, Rick Hartings, and echoed by Jerry Snodgrass.

“I’ll be anxious to see and read about it on Press Pros,”  said Snodgrass at last weekend’s state volleyball tournament.  “Because I know the kids who do it have a passion just like those who play the other sports.”

A passion for pins, Commissioner…and they look the part, too!

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