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BALL BITE SINKS ITS TEETH INTO CLEANING MARKET

The golf gods didn't necessarily smile on Lancaster Country Club's team in the Oldsmobile Scramble a couple of years ago, but a byproduct of that trip to Disney World is having big implications for some bowling entrepreneurs.

A few months after Lancaster's entry finished in the middle of the pack in the 1996 Scramble, three members of the team started a partnership that evolved into the Ball Bite company.

Ball Bite, sold in a spray bottle, is a reactive resin ball cleaner, polish and rejuvenator of the ball's outer shell that keeps the surface tacky.

Dave Sears, Mark Goellner and Scott Metzgar() are the principals in the company.

How did they come up with the name?

"It sounds good. And you want the ball to be tacky so it grabs the lanes and that's what it does," Sears said.

Sears is also president of South Transit and Medina lanes and has been in the bowling business for about 20 years, first working at the two lanes for his father, Sam, who is now retired.

Goellner developed his chemistry expertise over 18 years with FBC Chemical Corp., where he is a senior sales representative. Metzgar owns his own company, Payroll Processing Inc., and handles Ball Bite's administrative work.

"At the golf tournament we were talking about some ideas (for a ball cleaner) and Mark said he could mix something up," Sears said. "But we didn't do anything right away.

"A while later a guy came into one of our pro shops with a mark on his ball. The cleaner I was selling at the time wasn't very good and I was embarrassed that it didn't do anything to remove the mark.

"I remembered what Mark had said and I called him. In a couple of months he brought me some samples. Of the four or five, one stuck with me immediately and I said 'Let's see if we can market it.' "

Ball Bite has become a second front for the three partners, who have added a full-timer in head salesman Paul Zagorski.

"It's strictly a grass-roots effort," Sears said. "This is our second full season and we've gone from 35 customers to about 100 accounts. I'd guess about 30 of them are local."

Rather than look for outside investors, the three partners "anted up." They fill the bottles themselves at a warehouse.

Along the way Sears has learned a thing or two. "I never knew it would take so long to fill a bottle by hand," he said.

Some of their marketing is done at conventions and trade shows and through national distributors Ace Mitchell of Ohio and Lo-Mar in Kansas.

For the upcoming holidays they've put together a gift pack that includes a ball buffer, a chamois and polishing mix for ball, bag or shoes for a suggested price of $19.95.

Ball Bite also sponsors a few teams locally in addition to the Ball Bite Classic league at Ideal. "I bowled in the league (under previous sponsors) and know a lot of the guys," Sears said. "I wanted a league where the scores were up there. When they needed a new sponsor, I said I'd do it."

While Zagorski covers the Northeast, Ball Bite is sold as far away as Italy.

"I don't know how far this can go," Sears said. "As long as it grows, we'll stay with it. We got a late start (two seasons ago). This is just our second full season and for the first three months I'm very pleased. I haven't heard one negative thing about it."

Good seats still available

Ticket arrangements ($30 per person) can still be made through the Buffalo Bowling Association (842-6610) for the 14th Hall of Fame induction dinner Nov. 28 at Samuel's Grande Manor in Clarence.

The Class of '98 includes touring pro Tom Baker, Leo Casarsa and Nick Vertalino in the ability-living section, and Joe Vastola in the meritorious service-living section. A cocktail hour precedes the 7:30 p.m. dinner.

High qualifier takes Lilac prize

Nick Miseno of Amsterdam, who won a PBA East Region tournament at Tonawanda a couple of years ago, returned to Western New York, averaged 260 to lead the qualifying, and went on to win the 24th Lilac Scratch Challenge and the $12,000 top prize. Miseno is the first high qualifier to win the main event.

The tournament, a former Rochester fixture, is under new management and was held last weekend at Beverly Lanes in Niagara Falls. Challenge 25 will be held at Strike N Spare Lanes in Syracuse on Feb. 26-27.

Top local results included Mike Faliero, a semifinalist who earned $2,220; Kevin Iwaniak, a top-eight finisher for $1,100, and Chuck Jagodzinski, Scott Koker, Adam Collura and Pat Brick, who were in the top 16 for $700. Brick also tied for first in the Friday Sweeper and won $1,150, while Pat Stefanik was second in the Early Bird prize list, winning $800.

Around the lanes

Steve Jarosch averaged 220.6 with a 14-10 record to win the Honey Brown-Genny Lite BPA All Star season's first bowler of the quarter award. Jarosch edged Rich Sunday by one point in balloting of first, second and third place votes. The league bowls today at Manor at 2 p.m. . . . The ABA has a $1,000 first place handicap tournament this weekend at Transit. Today's squads are at 2 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday's times are 10 and 11:30 a.m., 1 and 2:30 p.m. with finals at 4. . . . Bowl Inn's Odd-Even doubles tournament ends Sunday with squads hourly from 5 p.m. to midnight. Entry is $10 per person with $300 for first place. Call 824-9074. . . . Lancaster Lanes will hold a $500 first place handicap singles tournament on Thanksgiving Day with squads at 10 and 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. with finals at 2. . . . Betty Scheib won the Buffalo 600 Club's members-only tournament at Mil-Sher with 591-72-663. Melanie Warden finished second and Valerie Dlugosz was third. Twenty-year member awards went to Scheib, Terri Litz, Mary Goetz, Dee Souter, Loretta Bopst, Sue LaVere, Sandra Multerer and Betty Reinheimer.

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