Nationals, here we come! Youth bowlers bound by familial love for the game
May 03, 2017 09:58AM
By Travis Barton
Craig Briggs unleashes a ball down the lane at Fat Cats in April. Briggs will be heading to nationals in July. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
Tyler Pullman’s grandparents had a dream to open their own bowling alley. As they built the center, the first lane to open was number 16.
Pullman was 6 at the time and the first person to bowl that lane.
“As I let go of the ball, something just clicked that’s what I wanted to do. Been bowling ever since, about 13 years now,” Pullman said.
Pullman, a Holladay native, is one of 13 bowlers from the Salt Lake Youth Travel League that will be lacing up their multi-colored bowling shoes at nationals in Cleveland, Ohio.
Many of the bowlers have similar beginnings to Pullman. Craig Briggs’s uncle used to co-own Fat Cats, Alexis Lake mother owns Orchard Lanes in North Salt Lake, Duncan Kesler and Emily Pelzer went bowling with their families at a young age and have played ever since.
Now, all of them are headed to the Junior Gold and Open Championships this July.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Pullman said of going to nationals. “I’ve been trying for years to go, honestly. I finally have my spot this year and it’s just amazing.”
Many of the 13 bowlers qualified at various city tournaments. Pelzer won the Pepsi Championship in American Fork. They’re now raising the necessary $15,000 for all 13 bowlers.
A fundraiser night is being held at Fat Cats on May 17 with all proceeds going towards the trip to nationals. Sherry Harding, Fat Cats employee and Pelzer’s mother, said they’re also selling Arctic Circle cards and $500 sponsorships to have a company name placed on the bowlers’ shirts for the nationally televised event.
“They’ve worked hard and if there’s anybody willing to help out, [the kids] are very talented,” Harding said.
For many of them, this will be their first nationals chance and they plan to soak up the event.
“I see it more as an experience. A way to kind of grow,” said Kesler, a member of the Weber State varsity team. “It’s just a great opportunity to just learn to take my game to the next level…and be able to shoot some of these high scores that I need to win these competitions.”
Pullman and Briggs both echoed those sentiments. They’re not expecting to win, but they plan on enjoying every falling pin.
“There’s 4,500 boys in my division,” Briggs said. “The chances of me winning are very slim, but I’m taking it as an experience, going out there to have some fun.”
Lake heads back to nationals for her second time with a little redemption in mind after missing the semifinals by two pins.
“[Last year] was just for the experience. This year, I’m more familiar with the set up so I’m going down to hopefully make semifinals,” Lake said.
The experience, joy and hopes for this summer is what the bowlers said they intend to cherish, but it all started with their families introducing them to the sport.
For Kesler, it makes sense that bowling be family oriented.
“When you hear a bowling alley, it usually involves ‘family fun center.’ That’s naturally gonna be a family sport,” said Kesler.
“Bowling is such an easy sport,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve bowled before and it’s just easy to pick up, it’s a fun sport. It’s everywhere, there’s not one state that doesn’t have a bowling alley.”
For Pullman, bowling has been an essential family dynamic. “It’s brought us together,” he said.
Pullman is planning to become a professional bowler, and he can thank his grandfather, who died two years ago, for instilling that aspiration.
“He was a really big inspiration in my life about bowling. He would always keep me coming back and making it fun,” Pullman said. “So I can make him proud I’m sticking with it and doing my best as possible.”
While family introduced Briggs, he said it’s everything about the sport that he loves, whether the social aspect or the game’s individuality.
“If you mess up, it’s kinda on yourself. You do what you can by yourself or with coaching to fix that. You can’t blame it on nobody else… If I shoot really well, hey, look that’s what I did. I did it,” Briggs said.
Now these bowlers will take their unified passion together to Cleveland, and they couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s just gonna be a ball of joy going with my friends,” Pullman said.