Looking back on the bowling scene for 2011, there was no shortage of accomplishments by Western New York bowlers, young and old, professional or amateur.
Again, PBA Tour pro Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga and Team USA member Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga made most of the major news on the national and international scene.
Ciminelli claimed his first PBA Tour title when he defeated Patrick Allen to win the Earl Anthony Memorial in Dublin, Calif. Ciminelli also was the top qualifier.
After his triumph in California, Ciminelli came home and won his second straight Greater Buffalo USBC Association George A. Obenauer Masters at Strikers Lanes in West Seneca. Ciminelli was undefeated in the preliminary rounds, then defeated Tom Sorce of Blasdell, 617-550, in the championship final.
He was the first repeat winner in the Obie since Mike Neumann in 1995-96.
Another young bowler, 23-year-old John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda, led the Obenauer qualifying and was sixth in singles with a 290-805 in the USBC Open Championships. He also teamed with Jeff Walsh to win scratch doubles in the GBUSBC Open Championships.
PBA Tour pro Jack Jurek of Lackawanna earned his second Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award, as voted by PBA Tour members. On the lanes, Jurek earned the top seed for the stepladder finals in the USBC Masters. In his quest for his first career major title as a pro, Jurek was denied by Tom Hess of Urbandale, Iowa, in the championship match.
In another year of great accomplishment, including posting the high average nationally in a Sport Bowling league, Johnson capped it by winning gold medals in singles and doubles in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
There appears to be no shortage of up-and-coming young stars in Western New York. The two Section VI high school individual champions are underclassmen.
On the girls side, Melanie Hannon, a junior at Maryvale, won a major national title when she won the North Point High School Singles Championship at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas, Nev.
Then, Hannon advanced to the semifinals of the Teen Masters Tournament which were bowled on special lanes set up in Vanderbilt Hall of New York City's Grand Central Terminal.
Hannon won the last two Section VI girls individual championship titles and led Maryvale to the sectional championship and a place in the state school team competition. She finished third individually in the state high school championships.
Eric Michalski of Amherst won the sectional title as a junior and, early in his senior campaign, had his second career 300 game in ECIC.
Michelle Sterner of Niagara Falls won the Western New York Regional Queens Division 1 title.
Sue Jeziorski of Tonawanda walked away with the scratch titles in singles, six-game combined and all-events at the GBUSBC Women's Championship.
Nowak's big night
Among individual feats in league bowling was the impressive 876 series (286, 290, 300) shot last month by Dan Nowak of Clarence in the Berghold Electric League at Clarence Bowling Academy.
It was a personal high for Nowak, who averaged 229 in the league last year. Just as important for Dan, it broke the family record of 857 achieved twice by his brother, Chris. Nowak's father, John, also was a well-known bowler who captained the Ideal Lanes team in the All-Star Travel League for 20 years before a stroke forced him to give it up.
"My previous high was an 828 at Clarence, which was a house record," Nowak said. "I've been bowling at Clarence since I was 6 years old so everyone there is kind of like family. I've been bowling in that league since I was 18. I'm 33 now."
Until recent years, Clarence was not known as a house where a lot of high scores were bowled.
"Jim Gsell Jr. and his sister took over the place from their dad and they take a lot of pride in the way the place looks," said Nowak, who is secretary of the Clarence Fire Company.
"It's nice for a small [eight lanes] house. I always liked a small place. You get to know everyone a lot better."
Nowak's 875 came on one of those rare nights when his dad was present to watch him bowl. In the first game, Nowak drew a split on his 11th ball and finished with his 286. In the second, he left a 10-pin on his first ball then went off the sheet for 290. In the 300, he knew he was on pace to break his brother's family record if he kept striking. That goal kept him focused and a little card game between frames kept him relaxed until the end of his 10th career 300.
"I had a pretty decent night," Nowak said in a bit of understatement.