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Bowling: Where there's a lane, there's a Pohlman

Bowling in Western New York has a lot to do with families. The Coburns, Wanglers, Zmozynskis, Kinyons, Jeziorskis and the Schroeders are just a few of the sport’s first families in our area.

Then you have the Pohlman clan. Three generations of that family are active in local bowling. The Pohlmans, all 11 of them, take up a quarter of a page in the average book the Greater Buffalo USBC Association publishes before each new season. You need a genealogical chart to keep track of them all.

The patriarch of the family, Joe Pohlman, is in his 70s, and creaky knees caused him to retire from the sport. However, he still works as a plumber, his second career after retiring from General Motors. As a bowler, though, Joe defers to his wife, Sandy, the matriarch of the family. She still averages around 180 in a competitive league, the Wednesday Night Bowlers Choice 4-Man League at Transit Lanes in Williamsville.

Five Pohlmans bowl on the family team, SLP Tax Services, on Wednesday at Transit. Sandy, her sons Joseph, Jeffrey and Kevin, daughter-in-law Katrina and granddaughter Claire make up the roster. Watching it all proudly, is their biggest fan, Joe Sr. Joe II and Jeff carry averages close to 230 and Kevin, who is currently sidelined after breaking his leg last week, also averages over 200.

Sandy Pohlman was director of the youth bowling program for 13 or 14 years at Sheridan Lanes. In her bowling prime, she was a good enough to appear several times on the old Strikes, Spares and Misses television show, hosted by Van Miller.

But there’s more.

Joe Pohlman II bowled in the first show in the reincarnation of the Beat the Champ series on WBBZ-TV. Joe and Jeff Pohlman have appeared on the show several times since.

Joe II’s son, Elliott, and Jeff’s son, Brady, bowl on the Clarence boys team that swept through the ECIC North Large Schools league with a 12-0 record this season. Brady, a sophomore, usually bowls in the No. 3 slot for coach Ken Duke and led the league with a 208.44 average. Elliott, usually the Red Devils’ anchor, was second in the league with 204.80. Brady bowled a league-high 766 series and Elliott a 709 in the same match this season.

There was a lot of split loyalty when Clarence faced league rival Williamsville North. Brady and Elliott’s cousin, Koen, bowled as a seventh-grader on the North varsity team. Koen’s sister, Katelyn, a sophomore, bowls for the Williamsville North girls varsity.

And coming along is 10-year-old Karli, Kevin’s and Katrina’s daughter and younger sister of Katelyn and Koen. She bowls in the junior program at Transit Lanes.

“She’s already got great form,” Joe Pohlman Sr. said.

To complicate the family loyalties even more, Joe Pohlman II coaches the girls varsity team at Clarence.

“It was amazing,” Joe II says via email, “to be coaching against my niece while only a few lanes away my son and nephews were all bowling together.”

Jeff’s daughter, Claire, bowled anchor when her father coached the Clarence girls varsity. She’s now a nursing student at Trocaire College.

All the Pohlman’s are right-handers but Brady has adopted a different style.

“In an effort to improve, he decided to try something different,” Joe Sr. says. Two years ago, Brady took up the two-handed delivery that has been popularized by Australia’s Jason Belmonte and other international stars with great success on the PBA Tour and some league bowlers on the local level. The results? His average climbed from the 150s to the 180s last year to over 200 this year.

Although Joe and Sandy Pohlman have several to chose from, they have no favorites among all the bowlers in the family.

“I’m super proud of all my grandchildren,” Joe Sr. says. “We’ve always supported them in anything they do whether its music, baseball, bowling or whatever. It’s what you do when you’re family.”

And it will be a while before they run out of Pohlmans to enjoy.

Johnson wins Tri-City

Mike Johnson, who led the qualifying for the Obenauer Masters three years ago, is the new Tri-City Masters champion. Johnson, representing the Tonawandas USBC Association, defeated Tom Brady, Jr., 392-350, at Allie Brandt Lanes in Lockport in the two-games total pinfall championship match to gain the title for the first time.

Johnson had qualified fourth with 1,191 in 12 games. Pete Zmozynski, bowling as a nonmember of the Tonawandas, Lockport or Niagara Falls associations, led the qualifying with 1,213, including a high of 262 in his final game.

Johnson defeated Mike Demartinis (Niagara Falls), 369-355, and Brady edged Peter Maduri (Tonawandas), 342-333, in the semifinals. Johnson, who drew a bye through the first two rounds of match play, defeated Aaron Migliazzo, 432-286, in the quarterfinals.

Johnson’s victory was worth $1,000 as overall champion and $300 as the top finisher from the Tonawandas Association. Jason Ciliberto was the top finisher among the Lockport entries and earned $300. Brady received $600 as the overall runner-up and $300 as the top finisher from the Niagara Falls association.

Next year’s Tri-City will be hosted by the Tonawandas Association on Feb. 9-10. Manor Lanes is tentatively listed as the venue.

Pin chasers

• The 10th annual Tonawandas USBC Strike Out Breast Cancer Tournament will be held at Classic Lanes at 10 a.m. on March 11. All bowlers are eligible for this non-sanctioned event.

Entry fee is $40. Paid reservations are due on March 10. Walk-ins will be accepted based on lane availability. Ten dollars of each entry fee will be allocated to the Bowl For the Cure. Cash prizes will be awards based on one out of eight entries. It will be a three-games, no-tap format with the handicap based on 90 percent of 220. Total score with handicap will determine final standings in each division. Applications are available at all Tonawandas bowling centers or by visiting

• Ryan Ciminelli of Clarence and Brad Angelo of Lockport did not qualify for match play in this weeks Go Bowling! PBA 60th Anniversary Classic at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Ariz., was the leader going into Friday’s match play. The finals will be shown live on ESPN at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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