There is no bigger thrill than being the first to accomplish something.
Chris Polizzi experienced that feeling a couple of weeks ago at Spring Hill Lanes when he became the first youth bowler in Hernando County history to toss an 800 series. The feat shot a jolt throughout the youth bowling community.
"It's pretty sweet to be the first," Polizzi said. "I knew I had a shot at it in the last game, and my teammates really helped me along."
Competing in the Spring Hill Youth Elite League, Polizzi, 18, dropped a pin total of 802 behind games of 238, 299 and 265.
Although no youth bowler had previously thrown an 800-series, many believed it was only a matter of time before Polizzi or one of his teammates accomplished the feat. Teaming with Brandon Curley, Ryan Clowar and Eric Millican, Polizzi and his squad make up one of the most talented youth teams in the country.
The foursome owns the highest scratch series in the nation for 2007-08, according to Hernando County Youth Bowling director Sue Winnegar. Polizzi anchors the team and thrives in the support system of those peers.
"If we had to pick, all of us would have chosen Chris as the most likely to do it," Millican said. "Just watching him was awesome."
Polizzi also anchored the state champion Nature Coast bowling team this past season. Because he has competed on such a large stage, he is no stranger to pressure or accolades. Prior to this, he had already thrown three perfect games in his short career.
"It was a little different scenario between throwing the 800 and winning the high school title," Polizzi said, "but those would be my two biggest memories as far as bowling goes though."
Curley, who is also Polizzi's best friend, has a healthy rivalry with his teammate. Even though he won't be the first to hit the 800-mark now, no one was more proud of the effort.
"I think I was more nervous on those last couple shots than Chris was," Curley said. "When he threw the last ball, I ran up on the approach without even thinking to congratulate him."
Most agree that Polizzi is the county's most promising young competitor, but the future is still uncertain in the Nature Coast senior's eyes.
After high school, he plans on going to Pasco-Hernando Community College and hopes someday he can get a scholarship to a major college bowling program.
When asked about his meteoric rise through the youth ranks, Polizzi brings up a very familiar name to those familiar with the local bowling scene.
"Jason Mahr is probably my biggest influence on the lanes," said Polizzi, referring to the fact that most Hernando youth bowlers strive to be like Mahr, who is now a PBA bowler and holds just about every bowling record in the county. "As far as the mental part of the game, he helps me a lot."
Polizzi bends Mahr's ear every chance he gets, believing Mahr's advice has improved his focus and helped tweak his game once in a while.
The experience has the young competitor setting his goals high. With his consistency and astounding track record, anything is possible. He even is looking forward to his next 800-series — a feat that might not be too far off.
"I think it could get a little easier to do it now," he said. "The first time is always the hardest, and now I should be able to handle the pressure better."
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