SPRING HILL — This season saw a changed landscape in the Hernando County bowling community.
The local chapter of the U.S. Bowling Congress won its bid to host the state tournament in 2009. The same chapter initiated the inaugural class of the Hernando County Bowling Hall of Fame. New ownership at Mariner Lanes brought an influx of league bowlers back to the center.
With all of these changes, the most significant might be a first-time adult league competitor, Ryan Erbe.
After graduating from Nature Coast Technical High in 2007, Erbe decided to attend Pasco-Hernando Community College and transition from the local youth leagues to Coca-Cola Classic League on Monday nights at Mariner. More nervous than anything else at first, Erbe didn't know what to expect this season.
"The thing about the adult leagues is that most kids think that they all take it so seriously, and when I first started, I didn't want to let anyone down," Erbe said. "You realize right away that everyone there just wants to have fun, and that helps you to relax and just do the best you can individually."
If anyone knows about that experience and transition, it's Jason Mahr. Now 27, Mahr was the only member of the initial Hall of Fame class inducted on merit. Mahr moved to adult leagues when he was 14 and had the same worries as Erbe. After some early ups and downs, Mahr has cemented his reputation as the best competitor on the lanes in the history of the county.
"Most of these younger kids don't understand that the adults just want to know that you have a clue what you're doing out there," Mahr said. "Moving up (to the adult leagues) early did nothing but help me in the long run, and I think it'll do the same for Ryan."
It didn't take long for Erbe to join the exclusive company of Mahr in one aspect. Of the 14 830 series that have been shot in county history, only two bowlers have cracked the list twice. Mahr, who owns the county record with an almost untouchable 878 series, is also tied for seventh all-time with 836. Erbe tossed two such series this season with 847 and 835 in the span of three months.
"This season, Ryan's honor scores put him in a class by himself," Mahr said. "A lot of people can talk about what it takes to do that sort of thing, but to actually do it is completely different."
Even with Erbe's USBC achievements this season, Mahr maintained his place at the top of local bowling mountain by leading the county in high average for the fourth consecutive season and seventh time overall. Shooting 242 over 112 games in the Kevin's Pro Shop League at Spring Hill Lanes was arguably the most impressive feat of the last campaign.
Each have admiration for the other's achievements this season, but the bowling community shouldn't forget the two for some time.
"I can't imagine what it would take to be that consistent," Erbe said. "With the way the shot can change week to week, (Mahr) being able to (average 242) is almost hard to believe."
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