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Zak proves age is just a number

Perhaps John Zak has found the Fountain of Youth because he is turning in scores bowlers half his age would envy.

Consider this: The West Seneca resident has recorded two of his eight career 300 games and one of his four 800 series this season. He turned 78 in February.

Zak is averaging a remarkable 226 in the Friday Morning Eagles League at AMF Lancaster Lanes, 221 in the Bowlers' Choice Senior Shootout at Transit and 213 in the AMF Trio League at Thruway.

"I'm lucky," Zak said. "At my age, I should be averaging 180."

Getting Zak to talk about his accomplishments isn't easy. "John doesn't like to brag," his wife, Patricia warned.

His many friends in the Western New York bowling community, though, are quick to pass on his accomplishments. More than one has said: "You ought to do something on John Zak, he's turning in some amazing scores lately."

Zak has no simple answer for his success this season. No equipment change, no change in technique.

"I feel way better," is his only explanation. "My knees and back used to be sore. All of a sudden everything is fine now. I'm feeling great."

Actually, he is just living up to his reputation as a strong bowler. According to to the USBC online database, which goes back to the 1999-2000 season, Zak has averaged well over 200 in nearly every league he's bowled in the last 12 seasons.

He got this season off to a good start with a 300 game in a 728 series at Transit last Oct. 20. Another 300 at Transit followed on Dec. 22. In February, he put games of 278, 258 and 265 together for an 801 series at Lancaster. Two weeks ago, March 4, he strung 11 strikes in a 279 game at Lancaster.

Zak got into bowling as a pinboy at Corpus Christi Lanes on the East Side as a youngster.

"Saturday they let the pinboys bowl for free. That's where I first started bowling," Zak remembers. "After that we moved from house to house -- the London Arcade on Fillmore Avenue, the Sloan Bowling Lanes. "

Since then Zak has bowled in some of the top leagues in Buffalo such as the Black Velvet Traveling league and the Sheridan Classic.

"I bowled in the old Black Velvet League for 25 years," he said. "That was the ultimate bowling in the area. Some of the best bowlers in Western New York bowled in it."

Zak says that at first he didn't enjoy the pressure that goes with bowling in such a competitive league, but was encouraged by others.

He credits the late Gene Rutkowski for prodding him along.

"Gene was my friend for over 60 years. He sort of encouraged me from team to team," Zak said.

Zak, who attended Corpus Christi School, Emerson High and graduated from Canisius College, retired 16 years ago from the Buffalo Police Department. He served 33 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant and working in the detective bureau. He was a medic in the Air Force during the Korean War years.

Bowling seems to have a therapeutic effect on Zak.

"There's nothing better than walking into a bowling lanes and everyone there knows you," he said. "It makes you feel great."

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Pin chasers

*Ted Chojecki of Erie Community College finished third with a total pinfall of 1,322 in the Allentown, Pa., sectional last weekend to earn one of the six berths available for the USBC Intercollegiate Singles Championship next month in Columbus, Ga. Chojecki was only nine pins in back of top qualifier Brian Moore of Saginaw Valley (Mich.) state.

*Kenmore Lanes will hold a Scratch Tournament on Sunday with qualifying times of 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. for eliminator-style finals. First-place prize will be $1,200 with $100 guaranteed for making the finals. Entry fee is $60 with a $50 re-entry. The qualifier will be three games, skipping one pair every game. Call Joe Mercurio at 875-5340.

*Allie Brandt Lanes in Lockport will host a Women's US Open qualifier at 10 a.m. on Sunday. The winner will receive a paid entry to the US Open in Arlington, Texas, and expenses donated by the New York State Women's USBC and the New York State Bowling Proprietors Association. Bowlers will be competing on the US Open oil pattern.

*Entries will close April 6 for the Greater Buffalo USBC Open and Women's Championships. Closing date is April 8 for the Stan Kowalski Senior Championships and May 2 for the GBUSBC's George A. Obenauer Masters Championship.

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com

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