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Bowling: Bellanti shows he can go to his left

When you’ve bowled 19 300 games in your career it wouldn’t seem that hitting the 200 mark in average would be a big deal.

Not if you’re Joey Bellanti and not if you are bowling for only the second full season – as a left-hander. The 57-year-old Town of Tonawanda native simply refused to give up the game two years ago when the pain in his right hand and wrist became too much to handle.

“The day after I bowled, I could hardly make a fist,” said Bellanti, an operations manager for Shields Security in Bowmansville.

The wear and tear of bowling had led to Bellanti having wrist surgery 12 years ago. Two years ago, the pain in his wrist and hand got so bad that he went back to his hand specialist.

“He told me that I would have to live with the pain or quit,” Bellanti said. “After doing something for 50 years it wasn’t in my brain to quit. My mother worked at Suburban Lanes so I started bowling there when I was 5 years old.”

Bellanti chose to go lefty instead of putting his ball away for good. He finished the 2012-13 season bowling from the portside, averaging 176 for 27 games in the Tuesday Men’s League at Tonawanda Bowling Center after a 215 in 15 games as a right-hander.

The former Kenmore West and Erie Community College bowler had once averaged in the high 220s.

Bellanti used to toy with bowling left-handed for fun. “I always had coordination doing it. That’s what gave me the thought about doing it,” he said.

Two years into the transformation, Bellanti is feeling more comfortable. This season, bowling in the Boulevard Produce League at Tonawanda, he shot a 764 series that included a pair of 279 games. His high game this season is 290, and he is determined to get his first 300 as a left-hander before it’s over.

Beside the Produce League, Bellanti subs in the Kenmore Renting League on Thursdays at Kenmore Lanes.

The adjustment to the left side has turned out to be easier than Bellanti imagined.

“A lot of people tell me it’s almost like looking at a mirror,” he said. “I must have the same form left-handed as I did right-handed, which I’ve been told is pretty smooth.”

Bellanti throws the same kind of ball he used to. “I never really cranked the ball. It’s a straight up the boards between the first and second arrows.

“My biggest transition is making spares consistently. The 7-pin has been very difficult for me when it used to be pretty routine. Now I have to think about it a little more.

“I’m still a work in progress. When I started out as a left-hander my goal was to average 200. Being a competitor, my goals have changed. I’m hoping to average 210 this year.”

Bellanti bowled for the late Kerm Helmer on a National Junior College championship team at ECC. After bowling there for two years he moved on to Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla., and bowled a third season there. Under rules in place now, that would not be possible because Bellanti used up his two years of eligibility at ECC.

The Hillsborough team, which included another former ECC bowler, Dan Eberl, finished third in a field that included four-year colleges in the national tournament. The next year the eligibility rules were changed to close the loophole.

“That year of school was like a bowling vacation,” Bellanti says with a laugh. “Bowling, golf and the beach.”

Now the fun is just being able to bowl pain free – from the left side.

Pin chasers

• Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga qualified third on the stepladder for last weekend’s DHC PBA Japan Invitational at Tokyo Port Bowl with a 21-11 match-play record for 7,612 pins. Johnson was eliminated, 245-222, by Stuart Williams of England, the No. 4 qualifier. Chris Barnes shot 300 to eliminate Williams (225) in the next match, then defeated top qualifier Mike Fagan, 206-196, for his 18th career title and the $43,032 top prize. Johnson’s fourth place was worth $9,467.

• The Western New York Queens tournament will be Sunday at Allie Brandt Lanes in Lockport. Julie Selk of Lancaster is the defending champion in the top division and is entered again.

• Brad Angelo of Lockport was a semifinalist at last weekend’s 37th annual Mount Morris Pepsi Open, earning $300. Kevin Donovan of Painted Post defeated Steve Meyer of Rochester in the 37th edition of the Mount Morris. Frank Bellavia of Niagara Falls, runner-up in last year’s Obenauer Masters, shot a 299.

• Sunday’s televised bowling will be on ESPN2, not ESPN, showing the GEICO World Series of Bowling VI World Bowling Tour final at 1 p.m.