Citrus Springs' Shelly McDonald, Crystal River's Mike Buchanan and Gainesville's Mike Nickel traveled different roads to reach a common destination, Colonial Lanes in Orlando.
The three will participate June 26-27 in the Team USA State Championships. Buchanan is automatically seeded into the tournament after finishing second there last year. McDonald, 28, gets an invitation because she had the highest average of any female bowler in the Citrus County Women's Bowling Association last season. Nickel, 18, makes the trip through an in-house qualifier in March at the University of Florida.
Bowlers at Colonial Lanes will be shooting for the right to make the trip to the Team USA National Championships in Akron, Ohio. Buchanan finished 57th overall when the tournament was held in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista, Calif., last summer.
"It'll be a very tough shot," Nickel said Friday. "Last year I think there were four people in the field that averaged 200."
Nickel works part time at Steve Neff Lanes in Homosassa Springs and is scheduled to begin a full-time summer job today at Pro-Line Boats in Crystal River. He averaged 191 last season in the Barnett Bank Scratch League at Neff Lanes.
McDonald sported a 185 average last season in the Monday Night Madness League at Manatee Lanes in Crystal River. She got her entry for the state tournament in the mail May 31, two days ahead of the deadline for postmarking it, after learning she had the top average in the county among women bowlers.
"I'm excited about going to the tournament," McDonald said Friday. "It's an honor to even try to get on that team.
"I've never bowled in Orlando in my life and I want to go over to try out the lanes and see what they're like. Mom said don't get it in your head the shot will be the same (as at Manatee Lanes), because some people do think that way."
McDonald said Ocala's Russ Housmann, who used to work at Manatee Lanes, is helping her.
"(Housmann) is helping me with my confidence and fine-tuning my game," she said. "I've gone from a 16-pound ball to 15 pounds. I'm getting more life and creating more rotation now."
Buchanan, owner of Excel Printing, couldn't be contacted for comment Friday.
Pine Ridge's Cathy Pearson said she plans to go to the Team USA State Championships as an alternate, meaning she could get into the tournament if someone in the field fails to show up. She will be in the Orlando area that weekend anyway (see below).
Contingent from state heading west: Area bowlers attending the 10th annual NABI Nationals at Las Vegas on June 17-25 are likely to find three times as many familiar faces as last year. That's because the number of participants from Florida has swelled from 170 a year ago to about 500 this year.
"Las Vegas is a very prestigious tournament," NABI of Florida state director Shirley Lockyer said. "The bowlers who went last year enjoyed it and made quite a bit of money. Word got around and others want to try it."
NABI has grown from six clubs in Florida last year to seven now. Members of the Gainesville-Ocala club who've signed up for Las Vegas are Frank DeGeorge, Theresa DeGeorge, Terry Zappia, Glenda Eldred, Rick Leach, Trisca Leach, James Jones, Jim Hunter, Dave Leisure, Phyllis Leisure, Lee Reeves and Lucy Reeves.
Floridians will be among some 9,000 amateur bowlers from around the country expected to compete. They'll vie for about $550,000 in prize money spread among nearly 20 sub-tournaments within the NABI National Championship, which itself offers $40,000 to the winner and $20,000 to the runner-up.
Rogelio Marquez of Tijuana, Mexico, is the defending national champion and winner of the $30,000 top prize last year. He beat Robert Brahs of Baldwin, N.Y., 229-203 in the title match last year.
Bradenton's Mary Lou Mullis was the top money winner from Florida at the NABI Nationals in 1992. She earned $1,875 for finishing 14th in the first round of qualifying.
48 bound for state: Manatee Lanes is sending 48 juniors to the 28th annual YABA State Championships, an on-going six-weekend event that will conclude June 26-27.
"Our kids raised the money to get there themselves," Manatee Lanes YABA director Cathy Pearson said. "They're all going to have nice-colored shirts with their names and the Manatee Lanes logo on them."
The Manatee juniors each raised the $19.50 entry fee and will compete in the team event at Aloma Bowling Center in Winter Park, and in singles and doubles competition at Brunswick Wekiva Lanes in Apopka.
Pearson said next year's state tournament will be held in Ocala at a house(s) still to be decided upon.
Youth league crowns co-champions: Just nine points separated the top five teams in the final standings when the Sportsmen's Strikers Youth League wrapped up its winter season June 9.
Nike Team (Alysha Hill, Matt Hill) tied Pinbusters (Edward Gromling, Billy Sheppard, Ryan Sweeney) for the title, with both teams amassing 133 points. N.A.C. Team (Nicole Parsons, Candy Johnson) were hard on the heels of the co-winners with 131 points in the final tabulation.
Strike Force (Michael Nelson, Jay Pridham, Vincent Lanzarone) was fourth with 126 points. Fifth-place honors with 124 points went to Just Do It (Tammy Hudson, Domenic Spinelli, Kevin Peters).
Winners in individual categories included: Jill Anderkin with 691 and Jeff Hickey with 697 for high handicap series; Johnson with 244 and Peters with 272 for high handicap game; Anderkin (20-pin increase in average) and Gromling (21-pin increase in average) for Most Improved Bowler; Hill for a 460 high scratch series; and Sweeney for a 201 high scratch game.
A few openings remain for the Summer Teaching Session that starts today. Those interested should register now.
Bozzo wins 500 tourney: Citrus' Shirley Bozzo rolled a 703 scratch series and led a field of 142 women bowlers June 6 at Manatee Lanes in Crystal River during a scratch no-tap tournament that brought together the Citrus, Hernando and Ocala 500 clubs.
Bowlers from the Ocala club took the next three spots. Debbie Whitten was second at 685, Dorothy Esposito came in third with 657, and Ethel Lorenz was fourth at 647.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Citrus' Bertha Podwys, fifth at 639; Citrus' Delores Desnoyer, sixth with 637; Ocala's Jeanne Vuillemot, seventh at 633; Citrus' Maryann Scruggs, eighth with 631; Ocala's Fran Miller, ninth at 628; and Ocala's June Goslin, 10th with 625.
The highest finish for a Hernando bowler was 14th place at 607 by Marlene Painter. She tied Citrus' Frances Riley.