There is no doubt the 33rd annual Pinellas County High School League season will open Sept. 16 at Seminole Lanes, but can the league repeat its state tournament performance of last January?
"I have a great group of second-team bowlers coming back, so it'll be interesting to see how we progress," said Seminole High girls coach Dean Rosko at the league's preseason coaches meeting last week.
Dixie Hollins, Largo and Seminole high schools captured boys and girls titles in six of the eight scratch and handicap divisions, the most dominant performance by any county in the 50-year history of the state tournament. Even though the state tournament will be at Seminole Lanes this December, such a repeat would border on historic.
Schools competing in the Pinellas league this season will be Admiral Farragut Academy, Dixie Hollins, Northeast, Boca Ciega, Seminole, St. Petersburg, Osceola, Pinellas Park, Gibbs, Lakewood and Largo.
Dunedin, Countryside, Clearwater and Clearwater Central Catholic, which formed their own league in upper Pinellas County early last season and later joined the Pinellas County league, may do so again this season. St. Petersburg Catholic also may rejoin the competition. Schools may field as many as four teams, boys and/or girls, for the 13-week season. Each squad can carry as many as six bowlers.
Tryouts are scheduled Aug. 30 through Sept. 10. The fee is $70 per bowler, and a dress code is enforced.
Coaches said some parents complained last season that their youngsters spent most of the season on the bench, not a good return on their $70 investment. League coordinator Matt Stevenson and the coaches revised bylaws so that each team member must bowl at least 21 games by the end of the season.
The Pinellas league will continue its scratch/handicap format this season, and coaches said they would condition their players for the scratch-only state championships.
HIGDONS TO MIAMI: St. Petersburg's husband-wife team of Jim and Gerri Higdon will compete in the senior division of the 37th annual Lee Evans Tournament of the Americas starting Tuesday at Miami's Cloverleaf Lanes.
More than 150 amateur bowlers were invited from 20 Western Hemisphere nations to compete in youth (ages 15-20), adult (21-49), and senior (50-plus) divisions over seven days. Included on the Team USA adult squad are Jeremy Sonnenfeld of Sioux Falls, S.D., holder of the first ABC-sanctioned 900 series; three-time Team USA competitor Vernon Peterson of Dearborn Heights, Mich., and the Hyman sisters, Kassy and Diandra, past junior division champions in this event.
The Higdons compete at Sunshine Bowl, Sunrise and Seminole lanes and were selected as senior team members by center owner Jerry Krauss. Jim, 67, averages 210 and Gerri, 64, carries a 166 average. "We're very excited to be going because we've heard so much about this tournament, but never bowled it," Jim said.
MATCH PLAY NEAR: Qualifying for the Florida Men's and Ladies All-Star Match-Play Championships is being held today at Sunshine Bowl. Entry fee is $45 for both men and women, with a $35 re-entry fee. The tournament is open to all ABC/WIBC-sanctioned bowlers. Qualifying begins at 1 p.m. and other qualifying sessions are Aug. 14-15. Double-elimination matches begin at 7 p.m. Aug. 20, with the finals at 1 p.m. Aug. 22.
The men's champion earns $1,200 and the women's winner takes home $750. The men's prize fund is based on 130 entries, with first through third place guaranteed. Sponsors are Callahan Bail Bonds and Southeast Amusement & Vending Corp.
Defending champions are Largo's Stephanie See and Dunedin's Bob Belmont.
DICK BAKER DIES: Dick Baker, 66, a St. Petersburg wheelchair bowler born in DeKalb, Ill., died last week in St. Petersburg. Mr. Baker was past president of the American Wheelchair Bowling Association (AWBA), the Florida Wheelchair Association, and the Suncoast Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans Association of America. He won the 1983 AWBA national A Division title.
Mr. Baker also served on the board of the St. Petersburg Men's Bowling Association and was elected to its Hall of Fame for meritorious service in 1991. He competed at Seminole and Largo lanes.
AROUND THE LANES: St. Petersburg's Dana Dutro won the scratch title in the state Coca-Cola youth tournament. She competes this month for the national title in Utah. Bob Willard nailed a 300-683 and Kevin Gareau fired a 300-710 at Seminole Lanes. Kent Fecke rolled a 300-740 and John Honey recorded a 299-716 at Tarpon Lanes. Judy Allen just missed her fourth 300 game, rolling a 299-722 at Ten Pin Lanes. St. Petersburg's Matt Mayhugh rolled a 300-816 in the YABA league at AMF Kenneth City Lanes, but the league is not sanctioned. Cliff Hoover rolled a 300-822 at Countryside Lanes.
Phil Gulick can be reached at Xerxes6aol.com or Xerxesjuno.com