It’s Only A Number

by Dave Williams

A recent news release by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) announced the national high averages for men, women and youth bowlers for the 2021-2022 season. To say that the numbers are staggering would be an understatement to anyone that’s over the age of 35. You see, that’s the year (1988) when scoring forever changed in the game of bowling.

Prior to 1988, bowler’s were subject to the whim of local USBC representatives when it came time for approval of honor scores. It was a no win situation for the bowler, the proprietor, and even the USBC representative. Sure, personalities had to come into play, and I can honestly say that I sweated out some of the decisions.

Interestingly enough, my first encounter with an honor score violation did not involve lane conditions. It happened at Greenbrae Lanes in Greenbrae, Calif., and the infraction was the fault of the league secretary for not submitting the league sanctioning material within the 21 day grace period.

The local USBC association secretary informed me at the time that the infraction would probably be overturned since the lanes and pins both met with approval. The suggestion was made for both the league secretary and myself to send letters of concern to the bowling headquarters in Greendale, Wis., about the league sanctioning material that had been completed but not mailed in a timely manner.

The three game score of 811, an all time record at the time for Greenbrae Lanes, was eventually approved by the USBC, then known as the American Bowling Congress (ABC). I went on to average 252 in the Adult-Junior summer league — a total that was unheard of in 1974, even for a short season summer league. It was also the beginning of a lifelong friendship  with Al Matzelle, who was then in charge of the sanctioning department at ABC. Mr. Matzelle passed away in 2017, at the age of 100.

Another humorous incident (although it wasn’t at the time) took place at the high scoring Golden Gate Lanes in El Cerrito, Calif., home to future Hall of Fame keglers Mike McGrath and Pat Costello. Just prior to the start of a regional tournament, the western field rep for the ABC made an appearance with a relatively new device that measured the amount of oil on every couple of boards, and then applied those readings onto a chart.

The field representative said that the lanes did not conform to ABC specifications and would have to be cross wiped (from gutter to gutter) before competition could begin. That process took a fair amount of time. Once completed, the field rep measured the lanes again and said that they now met with approval and that competition could begin. The first game out of the box, there were two 300’s and two 299’s! Needless to say, the field representative left the building.

During the fourth, fifth and sixth games of that regional event, I rolled games of 235, 300, and 279, for an 814 series, including 26 consecutive strikes. I knew that I had done something special when veteran Ed Bourdase came from a few lanes away to shake my hand after leaving a 10 pin in the tenth frame of the sixth game. Another intriguing coincidence is that the event took place on December 23, 1976, exactly 46 years ago from the date that I’m penning this article.

The scores by the bowlers in the USBC news release are somewhat overwhelming when compared to the standard of almost 50 years ago. Aaron Smith writes that Jesse Hawkins of Pikeville, Ky., posted a 257 average for 90 games at the Hatfield and McCoy Rec Center in Williamson, West Virginia. For the women, an equally impressive average of 247 for 124 games was achieved by professional bowler Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, N.Y., while competing at Schenectady’s Towne Bowling Academy.

Mike Durbin

According to Smith, the youth top averages for the 2021-2022 season went to Wyatt Honecker of Rochester, Minn., with a 242 average for 66 games at Rochester’s Bowl-O-City; while Melia Mitskavich of DuBois, Pa., daughter of three time PWBA Tour champion Jackie Mitskavich, led the girls with a 237 standard for 75 games at DuBois Lanes.

Skang Mercurio

As a youngster I used to dream of one day having my name in the The World Almanac, as well as the ABC Yearbook. I would study for hours the list of bowlers with six or more 300 games in The World Almanac, along with the record scores in league and tournament competition from the ABC Yearbook. I remember in 1972 how impressed I was when Mike Durbin broke the all time individual league average of 238 that had been established by Skang Mercurio of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1935.

Another fascinating statistic that I noticed while reviewing old ABC Yearbooks were three perfect 900 series tallied in the 1930’s by individuals from the National Bowling Congress, reportedly a rival to the ABC in those years. And although my attempts at professional bowling fell short, I was able to accomplish my childhood dreams to be a part of the all time list of 300 games for many years, as well as establishing state record averages in both California and New York.

Glenn Allison

As someone once said, records are made to be broken. In the end it’s only a number. The conditions, equipment and circumstance may change, but eventually the best will rise to the top. Oh, by the way, another three 900 series were recorded during the 2021-22 season, bringing the lifetime certified total to 40. That’s not counting the three perfect series from the 1930’s… or the most famous of all 900’s that was rolled by professional bowler Glenn Allison while competing in the Anchor Girl Trio league at California’s La Habra 300 Bowl on July 1st, 1982.

Glenn was using a plastic bowling ball with a conventional grip, on a wooden lane surface with an oil pattern that would most likely be compliant today. It’s only a number, so shouldn’t Mr. Allison’s accomplishment be recognized like all the rest?


Mike Durbin photo provided by PBA, LLC

Skang Mercurio photo provided by

Glenn Allison photo provided by