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The game will cut you down to size

Use of heavier pins for special Mariner event has been "a lot of fun and a humiliating experience."

By FRANK PASTOR
Published July 3, 2003

SPRING HILL - The first difference you notice is the sound the ball makes when it hits the pins: Clunk, instead of the familiar, Bam! Then, there's the pin action. What there is of it.

Finally, there are the scores.

Think you've got bowling licked? You might want to reconsider after trying the Lumberjack Tournament at Mariner Lanes.

"It's been a lot of fun and a humiliating experience for some of our good bowlers in the county," proprietor Edie Jo Norman said.

In an effort to spur business in the typically sluggish summer months and to add fun to a sport battling an ever-expanding menu of entertainment options, Mariner introduced its Lumberjack Tournament, which continues through Aug. 11.

Mariner is believed to be the only center on the east coast of Florida offering lumberjack play.

"It's really a breath of fresh air for bowling," Norman said.

Mariner drilled holes into the bottoms of regulation-sized pins (3 pounds, 6 ounces to 3 pounds, 8 ounces) and added lead, bringing the total weight to 5 pounds.

A pound and a half might not seem like much of a difference, but wait until you see what it does to the scores.

"I've never hit pins like that," said Brooksville's Lou Angello, 67. Angello first encountered lumberjack bowling in a tournament in Orlando. After trying it, he convinced Mariner to give it a whirl.

It took three weeks to set up.

Mariner had to find pins and purchase lead, a melting pot, special drill bit and a ladle to pour the lead into the pins.

The pin-racking machines had to be adjusted. And when lead spilled out of the pins, more changes had to be made.

"It's been an adventure from beginning to end," Norman said.

For bowlers, too. A 180 game with lumberjack pins is akin to a 200 with regulation pins, general manager John Leverock said. A 600 series is highly unusual.

"The trick is to hit the head pin and make your spares and pray for strikes," Leverock said, "because it doesn't happen very often."

As of June 26, Angello had the high score of 212, which included five consecutive strikes.

"I got lucky," said Angello, who averages over 200 and rolled 300 for the first time this year.

More important than ball speed, Angello said, is the angle of entry when the ball hits the pocket.

"If you hit with medium speed and try to stay away from splits, making your spares is the biggest thing," Angello said.

Through June 26, the tourney had 81 entries. Since Mariner guaranteed $3,000 in total prize money, including $1,000 to the winner, it needs 150 entrants to break even, Leverock said.

But making money wasn't the purpose. "We wanted only to offer something different," Norman said, "and I think we found it with this."

- Frank Pastor can be reached at 800 333-7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to pastor@sptimes.com

[Last modified July 3, 2003, 02:17:40]


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