In the past five years or so, Hernando County has thrived with its youth bowling program. The area has produced youth competitors who continue to break records and challenge seasoned veterans immediately after leaving the youth leagues. Shay Weeks, 16, looks primed to be the next in a long line of young bowlers to do just that. A couple of years younger than Chris Polizzi, Brandon Curley and some of the other standout bowlers of the past couple years, Shay has bided his time in the background, mounting higher and higher scores as time went by.
"It never really bothered me that Chris and Brandon got so much attention because they are great bowlers and deserve it," Shay said. "Chris is a good friend of mine, and he helps me a lot with my game."
While Polizzi tossed the second-ever 800 series in Hernando youth history, Shay plugged away with seven 700 series, a usually-impressive feat for any bowler, let alone a 16-year-old. With Polizzi and Curley now in the adult leagues, Shay is focused on becoming the best youth bowler in the county and catching the attention of both his peers and the bowling community.
Those close to him saw his production and potential far earlier though. Since he started bowling at 12, Shay has shown a natural ability on the lanes. With the help of coaches such as Clint Bullock, that ability has developed into high scores.
"I would say that people have always seen his potential," Lisa Weeks, Shay's mother, said. "He's always thrown a good ball, and with Clint's help, he has really started to pick it up in the last couple years."
Shay's mother also is a bowler. So, as she says, Shay has been around the sport for most of his life. Lisa used to compete in the Gator High Rollers League on Monday nights at Spring Hill Lanes until a couple of years ago. Now, she is a member of the Hammer Classic League on Thursday nights at Hudson Bowl. Her love of the sport translated into the same kind of interest in her son.
"I think I really got serious about bowling when my mom bought me my first ball with fingertips," Shay said. "The ball was a Columbia Shock, and I loved it."
Now Shay works with Polizzi and Hall-of-Famer Jason Mahr on a regular basis, improving his consistency and form.
Bowling has become a major part of his life. During the week, he anchors the River Ridge High travel team that bowls all around Pasco County and is also a member of three different leagues: the Youth Elite League at Spring Hill Lanes, the Young Adults League at Mariner Lanes and the Pasco County High School Travel League. While he has yet to record a U.S. Bowling Congress honors score, there is little doubt such an accomplishment is in his future.
As Shay progressed and noticed the way his peers were attacking the lanes, he became motivated to put up his own big numbers. Since 2005, his average shot up nearly 70 pins from a 139 in the Youth/Adult League at Spring Hill Lanes. Although he has started a little slow this season, Weeks says pressure really isn't the problem.
"I wouldn't call it pressure," Shay said. "I just really want to earn my place as the best youth bowler, and I know the high scores will start to come soon."
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