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WNYers Patrick Healey, Jim Zebehazy to be inducted into bowling hall of fame

Usually a young bowler's interest in the game stems from a father or mother. It was the other way around for Patrick Healey Jr. His dad took up the game so he could play along with his young phenom at Bowl-o-Drome Lanes in Niagara Falls.

"My parents were not bowlers. They started bowling only after I showed interest," Healey said. That was when he was 8 years old.

"My father was my first teacher/coach," Healey added. "I would pester him to take me all the time, especially Sundays. He never said no. It was because of his willingness to take me bowling and his desire to see me get better that I was able to learn and rapidly improve at a young age."

For his outstanding ability, Healey is one of two bowlers with deep Western New York roots among the four inductees to the USBC Hall of Fame. The other is Cheektowaga native Jim Zebehazy, retired executive president of the now-defunct Young America Bowling Alliance, who will be honored for meritorious service. Another inductee, in the veterans category, is Bob Learn Jr., of Erie, Pa., who bowled here often and is a popular figure in this region. Andrew Cain, of Phoenix, also will be honored for meritorious service for his role with the USBC board of directors beyond his success as a bowler.

Healey, 51, won three PBA Tour events, including the 2003 Tournament of Champions, one of the sport's four majors. However, he is better known for his success as an amateur in the collegiate, national and international competition.

Healey was a standout bowler at Niagara Falls High School, where he posted the top average in the Niagara Frontier League. He then bowled for four seasons at collegiate powerhouse Wichita State. He was Intercollegiate Bowling Championships MVP in 1988, when the Shockers finished as the runner-up to Erie Community College. Healey also was a first-team All-America selection. In his first year at Wichita State, he received the Chuck Hall Star of Tomorrow Award. It proved to be prophetic.

Before turning pro in 1998, when he made two television finals as a rookie, Healey had an outstanding run as an amateur. He was a member of Team USA three times (1991-92 and '95). He won gold medals in the team and Masters competition in the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana and won gold in doubles, team and Masters in the 1995 games in Buenos Aires.

He won gold in doubles and trios at the 1991 World Championships in Singapore; gold in Masters at the 1991 United States Sports Festival; and won the 1995 QubicaAMF World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He also earned six gold medals at the 1995 Tournament of the Americas.

He was the winner of the 1994 U.S. National Amateur Championship. Competing as an amateur against mostly professionals, he finished third in the 1995 Brunswick World Tournament of Champions in Lake Zurich, Ill. He defeated Dennis Horan of San Diego in one stepladder match before losing to eventual champion Mike Aulby of Indianapolis, 265-177.

In the 2003 Dexter Tournament of Champions at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., he beat Chris Barnes, 210-192, in the semifinals before his 222-198 triumph over Randy Pedersen in the championship match to win the $100,000 top prize.

He was two-time World Amateur Bowler of the Year (1995, 1996) and was named to the Bowlers Journal All-Century team for the American Zone in 1999. Twice, in 1991 and 1995, the United States Olympic Committee selected him its Athlete of the Year for Bowling. Healey also bowled twice on the winner of Team All-Events at the American Bowling Congress.

Healey won his first PBA Tour title in 2002 at the Greater Kansas City Open. He had lifetime earnings of $734,752 on the tour before he retired after missing the 2007-2008 season due to injury.

Since then, he's been a full-time bowling instructor and coach. Now living in Denton, Texas, Healey has been the head coach of five bowling federations (Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Guatemala and India).

"Since my retirement from the PBA and from competitive bowling in general in 2008 due to illness and injury, I have dedicated myself to teaching, instructing and coaching," Healey said. "I basically started giving private classes, clinics and seminars around 1997 as time permitted around my bowling schedule.

"I estimate that I have given around 3,000 private classes and around 30 clinics, seminars in my coaching career. I liked coaching a lot so it seemed like the next logical step. ... It doesn’t matter what level the player is beginner, intermediate or advanced. I help whoever I can."

Zebehazy, 66, is one of the most respected administrators, organizers and boosters of bowling, especially on a junior or youth level. He was inducted into the Greater Buffalo USBC Association Hall of Fame in 2008 for Meritorous Service.

Now living in Leesburg, Fla., Zebehazy started as a pinsetter mechanic and pro shop rep at the Airport Bowling Center in Cheektowaga. Eventually, he became executive director of the Young American Bowling Alliance and was instrumental in the start of the Junior Gold Program and what was to become the USBC Youth Open Championships.

With YABA, he was leader in the merger of the ABC, Women's International Bowling Congress and YABA into what is now the United States Bowling Congress. His job with the YABA ended with the merger in 2005, but he became a field representative of the USBC until his retirement in 2015.

Others in the 2020 Hall of Fame class will be determined by a vote of the USBC Hall of Fame members, board members and veteran bowling writers.

The nominees include six men (Patrick Allen, Bryan Goebel, Wes Malott, Randy Pederson, Mike Scroggins and Mark Williams) and two women (Marianne DiRuppo and Tammy Turner).

The 2020 USBC Hall of Fame Class will be inducted April 29 during the USBC Convention at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

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