School will be out for the summer soon, but on the first weekend in July, more than a hundred young bowlers will be in class at the Tonawanda Bowling Center.
They will be there for the 19th edition of the Western New York State Junior Bowling Camp, one of oldest and best training grounds for bowlers from ages 8 to 22 to learn or improve their game.
The camp is directed by Mike Westfield, a retired medical technician who got into bowling because of his two sons, now grown.
"My sons were good in junior bowling, but they needed a place to practice," Westfield said.
Westfield took a job in the pro shop at the Broadway Sports Center when it was owned by the late Don Greiner. That allowed Cody and Erik Westfield free practice time and they went on to bowl for a state public schools championship team at Maryvale. That led to Westfield taking over as manager at Broadway and at Town Edge Lanes.
Now retired, Westfield concentrates on organizing and planning the bowling camp.
The camp's alumni includes bowlers such as Ryan Ciminelli, John Szczerbinski, Melanie Hannon, Lindsay Baker-Bommersheim, Mike Weber, Haley Carroll, Sarah Germano, Matt McNeil, Marion Singleton, Brittni Hamilton and Canadian Dakota Faichnie, who bowled for the Stephen F. Austin State team that won the NCAA women's championship earlier this month.
This year, young bowlers will come from as far away as Florida and Vermont, and there will be a large contingent of Canadians to learn basics, or advanced techniques of the game from camp faculty.
Again this year, Westfield has lined up a cadre of teachers that would be hard to beat, including Greater Buffalo USBC Hall of Famers and champions such as Jack Jurek, Cindy Coburn Carroll, Dave Guindon, Joe Ciccone and Jocelyn Stutz-Krempa, and accomplished PBA Tour winners Doug Kent, Ryan Shafer and EJ Tackett.
In the past, stars such as Shannon O'Keefe, Mike Fagan and Bill O'Neill have taught at the camp.
In addition to coaching from qualified instructors who are paid, campers get breakfast and lunch daily at the camp for the $169 registration feel, which Westfield insists is half of what some similar camps charge.
Westfield says there's a reason to explain the heavy influx of Canadian campers.
"Word is out about about the camp in Canada," Westfield said. "It costs so much to bowl there. Kids can't practice because they can't afford it so they're starving for instruction."
Overall enrollment has ranged from 60 to as many as 125 with a heavy concentration of teenagers.
"At the end of camp they each get a report card outlining their natural strengths and things to work on when they leave camp and go home to their home bowling center," Westfield said. "It doesn't matter what their skill level is. My one guarantee is that they will be better bowlers than they were when they arrived."
The young bowlers are broken down to small groups under one coach according to average, which is an indication of skill level.
"For example, Doug Kent will work with kids who average 190-220 and work on things they may not have in their repertoire such as reading the lanes and dealing with Sport patterns," Westfield said.
Westfield likes to start the beginners off under the tutelage of Stutz-Krempa, the former Erie Community College All-American and Hall of Famer.
"Jocelyn is absolutely phenomenal with kids," Westfield said. "She starts off with fundamentals, where to stand, the ball fit, see if the shoe fits."
By popular demand, parents often request Stutz-Krempa as coach of their young bowlers.
Guindon, the two-time Obenauer Masters winner, has been with the camp since the beginning. The late Jim Wangler was another from the founding year.
"Jim Wangler was as good as any coach," Westfield said. "He was so committed to junior bowlers. He reached a child and when he was done that child wanted to be better.
"He could see the smallest thing a child was doing wrong and fix it. He was more than a coach; he was a friend."
Greater Buffalo USBC Hall of Famer Ray Bellet has added a 70-and-over division to his Ray Bellet Senior Masters Tournament May 4-5 at Kenmore Lanes.
Qualifying rounds will be at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4 and noon Sunday, May 5. The finals will follow Sunday's qualifying shift.
The 70-and-over division has been added to the 50-and-over and 60-and-over divisions held in the past.
Phil Keiser of Rochester was last year's winner.
On the docket
The Greater Buffalo USBC Association City and Women's Championships will begin their two-week run at AMF Airport Lanes with traditional opening ceremonies Tuesday. The tournaments run through Saturday, May 11.
The GBUSBCA Stan Kowalski Senior Singles Championship will be Saturday and Sunday at Kenmore Lanes.
The Tonawandas USBC 77th City Tournament will be May 1-11 at Mallwitz's Island Lanes.