Derek Pawlowski probably seemed the least excited or nervous soul in the house at Transit Lanes last Monday night.
"I was excited inside, but I'm not a guy that shows a lot of emotion," Pawlowski said of his feelings as he was bowling an 878 series in the Monday Doubles League at the Transit Road facility.
The 39-year-old right-hander's big series tied for the third highest in the annals of the Greater Buffalo USBC Association, according to association manager Bill Palumbo.
Left-hander Bob Rudnick's 888 at Spare Time Lanes in 2006 still sits on the top of the list and is the highest series ever bowled in Western New York. Next on the GBUSBC list comes an 880 by Fran Kuras at Eden Lanes on Oct. 5, 2009. Pawlowski's 878 is right next to the series by Jim McClellan at Abbott Lanes on April 7, 2014.
The 878 raised Pawlowski's league average to 243.8. Interestingly, unlike a majority of the area's best scratch bowlers, Pawlowski bowls in only the one league.
"It the only thing we have time for," said Pawlowski, who bowls with his wife, Jennifer, in the league at Transit which boasts some of the best bowlers in the area, male or female. League rosters include names such as Matt Zasowski, Henry Poole, Dan Melidona, Brian Cline, Bill Truman, Marion Singleton, Jessica Mamon and Julie Selk.
The Pawlowskis like to stay close to home to tend to their family of three, sons 16 and 9 and a 3-year-old daughter. Also, Derek has to deal with his work schedule as a gate agent for Southwest Airlines, which requires some early morning and weekend shifts.
Pawlowski, who lives in Depew but grew up in Marilla, started his big night with a 299 game, leaving a 10-pin. He bowled 300 in his middle game. After a double to start the third game, he converted a 4-pin then struck out for a 279. That moved him into Allie Brandt territory. Brandt, of course, bowled an 886 series in 1939 that stood as an American Bowling Congress record for 49 years. Terry Bennetti broke Brandt's Lockport USBC Association record.
Pawlowski said he had no inkling, no premonition, that something special such as a career high and his 14th 800 series was in store.
"I've been feeling good and bowling well, but there was nothing special," he said.
According to Pawlowski, there were no flukes. He was consistently in the pocket, no crossovers or light hits although he admits he was a little slow in his 4-pin leave in his third game.
Despite the 878 series, the Pawlowskis, who call their team Whatever P & P, were outscored by their opponents Dennis and Todd Cummings in the league match that night.
"My wife bowled about her average and the other team bowled well. They were good bowlers and the bowled above their averages," Pawlowski said.
Pawlowski bowled from seventh grade on for the varsity bowling team at Iroquois. He comes from a family of bowlers but essentially is self-taught.
"It's just pretty much my own style," he said. There was no special coaching from his parents, but lots of encouragement. "They always kept me into it," he said.
When he was younger, Pawlowski tried to develop a cranking style, but gave it up on the advice of his high school coach.
"It's just pretty much a lot of revolution, a heavy forward roller," he said of his style. "I don't crank it, but there is a little bend through the shot."
Although he's a once-a-week league bowler, Pawlowski bowled in the City Tournament and Obenauer Masters each year – he qualified for match play each of the last three Obies – and makes the annual trip to the USBC Open, which will be in Syracuse this year.
Derek and Jennifer also are regular competitors in the GBUSBC Me & Mine Tournament, which gets under way Saturday at AMF Lancaster Lanes.
* Today's squads are sold out for the Greater Buffalo USBC Association's Me & Mine Tournament, but walk-in spots are available for Sunday's squads at 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m, especially the two later shifts. The Me & Mine continues next Saturday and Sunday as well.
* None of the local bowlers made it to match play in the PBA Tournament of Champions, which will wrap up Sunday at Riviera Lanes, in Fairlawn, Ohio.
Ronnie Russell of Marion, Ind., led the 18-games of qualifying with 4,166 and went 6-2 in the first round of match play on Thursday to keep he lead. Ryan Ciminelli, now a Clarence resident, finished 30th with 3,883 for 18 games. Brad Angelo was 33rd with 3,880. Liz Johnson was 75th at 3,531. For the record, Johnny Petraglia was 79th with 3,262 in his final T of C. Some big names that did not get to match play: Dom Barrett, Rhino Page, Osku Palermaa, Walter Ray Williams, Norm Duke, Pete Weber and Parker Bohn III.
* Maddie Jensen (Orchard Park), who averaged a 213.2 including a 269 high single, led Villa Maria to fourth place in the Boulevard Bowl Classic in Schenectady last weekend. It's the first bowling season for the Vikings team coached by PBA pro Jack Jurek. Sara Snyder of Depew shot 191.2 for Saint Francis (Pa.) in the Boulevard. ECC was eighth.
In the men's competition, ECC was third as Alex Leader (223.6 average), Joshua Large (222.2) and Dominic Germano (221.4) led the way. Large averaged 216.2 to lead ECC to fifth place in the Schenectady County CC Invitational last Sunday. Britney Grey's 197.4 led Saint Francis (Pa.) to second place in the SCCC women's division. ECC was fifth.