To my knowledge, Gary Beck is the strongest advocate of limiting bowling ball technology who is running significant tournaments.
Beck’s Teen Masters provides a challenging venue for youth bowlers and offers significant scholarship prizes — in the past couple of years a life-changing $64,000 top prize.
In 2007, the Teen Masters first required competitors to all use the same ball and he's extended that philosophy through this year.
Last Friday, Beck’s Killer ‘B’ Promotions (KBP) and the PBA announced an exclusive licensing deal under which KBP will create and market a line of PBA-branded low-tech bowling balls (made by Ebonite) for use in the Teen Masters.
“This journey began during a meeting in the Dexter Den at the 2007 Teen Masters when the top teen bowlers were offered a special tournament in which they could each choose one ball to use,” Beck said in his news release. “Their collective and emphatic response was, ‘Make us all throw the same ball. That way we will know who bowled the best.’ The following year we introduced our first Ebonite Bowl To Win Showdown in which all competitors were given identical balls to compete with. The overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response from the kids who participated has kept us moving diligently toward this day.”
There will be two PBA-branded balls — one urethane and one polyester (plastic) — featuring non-flaring, symmetrical cores with weight holes banned. The balls will be available for purchase on TeenMastersBowling.com.
"The balls will be available to whomever wants to buy and use them," Beck said on the PBA message board. "As I see it, my primary challenge with this initiative is giving those who purchase the 2 balls as many frequent opportunities to use them as possible. This cannot be something that happens only once a year. . . . I have committed that these same two balls will be utilized for at least 2013, 2014 and 2015."
In addition, Beck announced that Kegel, a Teen Masters partner since 2003, will design two low-volume oil patterns — one long and one short — for use with the PBA-branded balls. The patterns will use 65 to 80 percent less oil than current patterns.
“The combination of the new PBA bowling balls and Kegel patterns will stabilize the scoring environment by significantly reducing oil transition,” the release states.
Back said on the PBA message board that "we don’t plan to use the location/shape of the oil pattern to make getting to the pocket easier or more difficult. As much as lane surface and topography will allow, I want the oil to be neutral."
The PBA-branded balls and low-volume Kegel patterns will first be used in a select number of Teen Masters leagues and qualifying events next spring and then the 2013 Teen Masters National Championships scheduled for June 29–July 4 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“The PBA balls and low-volume Kegel patterns will allow us to create a playing environment in which the skill of the participants will be the dominant factor influencing the outcome of our competition,” Beck said in the release. “Shot making will be critical. We intend to put the credit for good shots and responsibility for poor ones back in the hands of our bowlers.”
“Kids are the future of the sport and the PBA is excited to play a role in this initiative,” PBA Commissioner Tom Clark said in the release. “It will make the sport easier to coach and easier to learn, and both are key ingredients in the retention of youth participants at the competitive level.”
There is no argument that the limited balls will mean less financial cost for Teen Masters participants, at least in shipping balls to the tournament. (If they want to compete outside Teen Masters, they’d still need “regular” balls so it won’t lessen that cost.)
But Beck said on the PBA message board that economics is not the only important factor.
“I believe that under this scenario, how much time and effort a bowler has invested in deliberate practice will significantly increase in importance,” he said.
Beck and other advocates of limiting/turning back ball technology believe the balls have become too important and have taken too much away from the physical skills required to be a successful bowler.
You've likely heard it before many times: “All you have to do is change balls — you never have to adjust.” (Note: this is not anything Beck said — it's a general statement I've heard from many people many times.)
That one always cracks me up because it’s so far from the truth at the higher levels of bowling — and I consider Teen Masters at the higher levels of bowling — that it makes those who utter such a statement look utterly foolish.
If you want to succeed at the higher levels of bowling you absolutely must know how to make intelligent equipment choices AND change releases, speeds, angles, loft, etc. If all you know how to do is grab another ball, those of us that have all those other tricks are going to bury you.
And you sure as heck can't practice less than you did in the polyester and urethane eras — there is far MORE to learn about adjusting than there was then. In other words, you need to practice a lot more to master today's more complex game if you want to win at the highest levels.
In addition, I believe that knowing how to juggle equipment successfully is a skill that should be rewarded, just as selecting the correct club in golf is a skill that should be rewarded.
I came of age and won my first significant tournaments using polyester balls in the late 1970s before urethane had even been invented. I won my first USBC Eagle with a Yellow Dot — although some of my teammates used urethane — in the pre-resin era.
I know exactly what bowling was like before ball tech made the great advances of the past couple of decades. And it was nowhere near as complex as it is now. I think everyone would agree with that statement, although some may hate it. Others like me enjoy the complexity that makes it more of an intellectual challenge than it was in the polyester and urethane eras.
I also argue that bowling then was less democratic than now because if you walked into a tournament and had the right match-up, you pretty much had it all day, unless it was a very long format. Conversely, if you didn’t have it, you were screwed.
Yes, you could change releases, speed, etc. and make your B or C game work to an extent. But if a roughly equal skill level bowler could play their A game because their Yellow Dot or LT-48 matched up that day, you were not going to beat them with your B or C game.
I can remember a tournament in the early 1980s where I ran away from the field using a Yellow Dot with a strike binge that included 28 straight strikes across three pairs. I moved my feet just a couple of boards all day!
That could not happen today. And I think that’s a good thing.
Today, if you have an event with several games, you know you will be making big moves, perhaps changing balls, and often changing how you throw the balls you select.
Given challenging conditions, it’s a much more challenging sport at the upper levels, even if scores are higher.
The extreme lane transitions that the low-ball tech lovers hate are what separate the men from the boys, so to speak.
If you don't have a bag of tricks and a bag or two of equipment options, you aren't going to win.
Beck’s motives are admirable, but to me it’s dumbing down the game and putting it back to the era when if you had it, you were golden for the day and barely had to adjust (depending on the number of games).
I’ll compete on whatever is put in front of me — one of my favorite events is an annual Plastic Classic at Badger Bowl in Madison that I have won — but I prefer today’s more complex game because it’s more challenging and interesting.
For those who hang their hats on the economic argument, there are two easy ways to lessen ball costs without turning back the clock on ball tech: strict limits on the number of balls per player in a tournament (such as four per player) and allowing ball surface changes during competition, which effectively allows a player to turn one ball into perhaps four balls using polish and roughing pads.
And please don't whine about ball death. If you care for your bowling balls properly, they will last hundreds of games. I have many balls that prove that by staying in my arsenal for years. It just takes proper care. And I'd be happy to share my simple, inexpensive and quick techniques.
I'll be very interested to see how Beck's efforts turn out, and I'd love to bowl in a tournament under those rules, but it would bore me to tears if all bowling was that way.
The balls apparently will not be used during the Teen Masters World Series being held Nov. 9-11 (during the World Series of Bowling in Las Vegas) and open to World Tenpin Bowling Association member countries.
The teen event will be held at the Red Rock Bowling Center and will be open to bowlers born after Nov. 11, 1993 and before Nov. 9, 2002.
For details, go to TeenMastersbowling.com.
Beck also posted the following on the PBA message board:
The Teen Masters is expensive, but it is a great value. That said, several changes are being implemented that will make it more affordable, such as: