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Plan is in works to turn more juniors into elite bowlers

Today's young bowlers are intensely competitive and so in-your-face about winning that parents and coaches often struggle to provide competition tough enough to satisfy them.

Enter the Young American Bowling Alliance, which is about to do something about that.

YABA president Bob Colburn announced this week that his organization and USA Bowling have formed a partnership to establish a Junior Olympic TEAM USA for the 1998-99 season.

"We see other sports, especially gymnastics, baseball and the martial arts, grooming their athletes for higher levels of competition and we should do the same for our junior bowlers," Colburn said.

He outlined five main goals of the new program:

Develop more elite bowlers at the grass-roots level so scratch competition can flourish for YABA members.

Emphasize advanced training, coaching and team bowling.

Act as a feeder for intercollegiate bowling, TEAM USA and the pro organizations, PBA and LPBT.

Retain and attract new YABA members.

Strengthen ties with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

To kick off the program, Colburn said, the first Junior Olympic Gold National Tournament is planned for June 1998.

The Junior Olympic TEAM USA will include six males and six females who will compete in Federation Internationale des Quilleurs juvenile events, such as the Tournament of the Americas in Miami. The FIQ is the international governing body of the sport.

The junior squad would train with TEAM USA at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The program is aimed at YABA members up to 22 years old. FIQ age requirements for youth competition rule that participants cannot turn 23 before to Jan. 1 of the year of competition.

In order to attain Junior Olympic TEAM USA status, a youngster would advance through several levels of qualifying. These could include current and future YABA programs and intercollegiate events. Guidelines for the new program will be finalized by November, Coburn said.

Another aspect of the program is providing qualified coaches. Colburn said a Junior Olympic head coach would be established at each site designated as a Junior Olympic Gold Training Center. USA Bowling and the YABA would work with these centers to ensure they have the most qualified coaches and strong training programs. How, why and when a center would be designated as a training center has yet to be determined.

What this means, in a nutshell, is that YABA members who qualify would take a huge step into the highly competitive world of collegiate and international bowling. Currently, the highest status YABA bowlers can achieve is in state competition, the Coca-Cola Youth Bowling Championships or the parent-child Mendes-BPAA National Family Tournament, set for next month.

MATCH PLAY SET: Qualifying for the 14th annual Pinellas County Match-Play Championships is going on this weekend and continues next weekend with a final session on Aug. 4. Finals are scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 9. Entry fees are $40 and re-entries are $35 and $25.

New sponsor Southeast Amusement and Vending has increased the prize fund, especially in the lower brackets of the men's division. The winners' and high-qualifiers' payoffs are based on a 130-man field and 50 women entries.

Jack Runkle of Tarpon Springs won the inaugural event in 1974. Dunedin's Bob Belmont won five titles and St. Petersburg's Ray Ott won four. The women's division started with Mary Romano's victory in 1983. Darlene Milton, Linda Woods and Deb Landry were two-time winners. Defending champions are Clearwater's Rob Hart and St. Petersburg's Christina Taylor.

TWIN 300s: Clearwater's Chris Mesagno already had decided to enroll at the University of Florida this fall, but his longtime friend, Brian Korcak, was undecided.

Bowling against each other in the youth-adult league at AMF Clearwater Lanes on July 1, each rolled a 300 game on the same pair of lanes at the same time. It was Mesagno's second perfect game and Korcak's first.

"It was really weird," Mesagno said. "We were just trying to beat each other, rolling our best shots, and the strikes just kept coming."

After the feat, Korcak decided on UF; the two hope to make the Gators' squad as walk-ons.

Korcak was leading the youth side of the Monday Mixed Nuts youth-adult league with a 209 average. Mesagno had a high game of 246 in the league _ before he rolled his 300.

Although records are not kept, such a feat has been accomplished before, but is considered rare. No one in Pinellas County can recall this happening before.

FACELIFT DUE: Southland Lanes owner Rocco Sarley said his 24-lane center in Pinellas Park soon will undergo major renovations.

"We will install new Brunswick equipment, everything except pinsetters," Sarley revealed. "Eventually, our entire center will look like new." The center now has AMF equipment.

Renovations will start in September, working around league play. No expansion beyond 24 lanes is planned.

Southland has hosted four PBA southern regionals, the latest last weekend, won by Clermont's Jason Couch.

HETTINGER PLACES: Largo's Judy Hettinger tied for sixth with a 635 series in the WIBC Tournament's official results released this week. Hettinger's series was rolled in Division I (160-179 averages). Jacqueline Pawlak of Auburn, N.Y., won with a 660 series.

Other Florida placers were April Costa of West Palm Beach, Mary Ellen Handley of Winter Park and Barbara Batt and Gerry Little of Jacksonville.

SHARKEY A WINNER: Clearwater's Stacey Sharkey won the NABI tournament and $500 Saturday at Liberty Lanes. Palm Harbor's Paul Micallef finished second and Riverview's Milt Fassett was third. Micallef rolled 11 straight strikes and was 100 pins over his average.

AROUND THE LANES: Glenn Jeffers rolled a 300-758 at Ten Pin Lanes. Bill Zuben, Pat Trudeau, Mariann Russo and Darlene Milton, among others, will represent Pinellas County in the National Classic Bowlers Association state finals next weekend at Riviera Lanes in Titusville.

_ Phil Gulick can be reached by e-mail at Xerxes6aol.com, Xerxes6 msn.com and Xerxesworldnet.com.

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