JACK JUREK'S first Professional Bowlers Association title has been overwhelmingly acclaimed in the local bowling community as a response to Jurek's demeanor, personality and competitive spirit.
It even brought a tear to the eye of Buffalo's Tom Baker, who is in his 19th season on the PBA Tour.
Jurek, 31, returned home to Lackawanna for a couple of days to relax and regroup after his $25,000 victory last Saturday in Windsor Locks, Conn., before rejoining the tour for the SplitFire Open this week in Erie, Pa.
"Thursday afternoon after qualifying, I thought it could be a good week," Jurek said. "Day to day the shot didn't change much and I played the lanes the same way. I can't say I expected to win but I was excited (about the possibility).
"I think it made a lot of the fans happy with the hype and everything. Most people like to see a first-time champion."
Jurek was presented with some interesting equipment options before the televised finals and he could have faced some tough decisions.
"Each company has an incentive program," Jurek said. "Information about their equipment is posted every week (in the players' locker room). They pay you to use their product on TV. When a new ball comes out there's always a push to use it."
Brunswick has a new Quantum on the market, but Jurek had been using a ball made by Columbia.
What's a pro bowler to do? Jurek took the tournament lead in the first round of match play, held it, and was the top seed for the stepladder finals.
"You have a loyalty to go with what got you there," Jurek said. "But in the warm-ups (for Saturday's finals) it wasn't working. I wasn't getting the reaction I wanted. The new Quantum had just come out and it was cleared for competition. I tried six different balls in practice and this one was the best shot and that's what it came down to."
Baker, whose last PBA title came in 1986, the year Jurek started on the tour, was home last weekend and watched Jurek's victory on TV.
"I know what it's like -- the years of frustration -- and what he has been going through. I never had a close friend win anything like that before," Baker said.
Thursday, the night Jurek took the lead, was also a big night for Sue Nawojski, Jurek's girlfriend, who rolled a 300 game in the Ace Collision League at Mil-Sher. She was planning to be with Jack on Saturday.
"I've always been ready to make the next show he was on because I missed Peoria (Jurek's most recent TV final in 1989). There is no question I was going to be there," Nawojski said.
"I went to work Friday night (she's the manager at Tonawanda Bowling Center) and drove up with Jack's mom and dad after I got out of work at 4:30 (a.m.) They picked me up at 6 and we got to Connecticut at 1:30 in the afternoon. We got to the lanes at 2:30 during practice."
She said Jurek "was excited" about being in the finals.
"From my standpoint, Jack -- I've been with him for eight years -- has really evolved the last couple weeks. (Jurek has been on the tour part-time since 1991 and didn't rejoin this year's tour until about a month ago.)
"His dream was still there. His confidence was high and his attitude really reflects it. He has the responsibility of his (pro) shop. That's a big part of it because now he doesn't have to rely on his performance, or whether he makes money, or if he might lose a sponsor.
"There's no doubt in my mind. He's taken the pressure off himself. I know because when I talked to him before Friday night, we were discussing equipment and I asked him what he was going to do. He said he was going to the mall and get a new pair of pants. And I said, 'Jack, I thought we were talking about equipment.' "
Nawojski said Jurek's dream has always been to go to the Tournament of Champions. He qualified by winning last week.
"We've talked about this a lot over the years," Nawojski said. "I'd ask him why he didn't give up the PBA because there are so many big amateur tournaments where you can make a lot of money. He said 'Sue, you just don't understand. This is my dream.' And he wasn't giving it up for anything."
Around the lanes
Ideal Lanes is running a three person No-Tap Handicap Tournament for any men's or women's combination April 1-30. The tournament runs daily at any open bowling time. Entry is $45 with one in 10 to cash and first place of $900 based on 100 entries. There are optional events, re-entry is permitted but you can cash only once with the same team. Call 982-3331 for details.
Jamestown Bowling Center is holding the 32nd annual Cancer Bowl-a-thon for five-person teams April 21-23 and 28-30 and the Willie Hayes Memorial Pro-Am on April 22. The entry fee for the bowl-a-thon is $60 per team, including a donation to the American Cancer Society, with April 29 the last day to enter. The goal is to raise $20,000. Over $280,000 has been raided previously. . . . The Hayes Memorial is one squad only at 6:30 p.m. Entry fee is $25. Divisions include juniors, adults and seniors (60 and over). Call JBC at 483-1818.
The Amateur Bowling Association has two handicap tournaments in the area in April. Southside Bowl will host the ABA this weekend with three squads today starting at 1 p.m. and four squads Sunday starting at 10 a.m. The finals are Sunday at 4:30. The ABA visits Abbott Lanes for a $1,000 first place guaranteed event April 22-23. There are four squads Saturday starting at 12:30 p.m. and four squads Sunday starting at 10 a.m. ABA membership is $15; the Southside entry is $31 and Abbott entry is $35.
The Buffalo Bowling Association's 69th Championship runs April 29-May 7 at Broadway Sports Center with an April 7 closing date for entries. It is $16 per event for singles, doubles and team with $5 optional all-events. . . . April 12 is the deadline to enter the Buffalo Women's Association tournament at Ellicott Allied Lanes, April 22-23 and May 8-17. Entry is $20 event with $2 optional all-events.