by Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page
There was something ironic about the applause that Dana Voytovich received when he won the Obenauer Masters bowling tournament on Sunday. To cheer on the 21 year old’s victory over veteran Jack Jurek, the fans needed to use both hands.
Dana also used both hands in becoming the first two-handed bowler to win Buffalo’s most prestigious tournament. In 55 years of the tournament, Voytovich is the first bowler to win by throwing the ball a completely different way.
It may not sound like a big deal. But in the bowling world, the emergence of the two-handers has prompted both admiration and angst. Think about it. A sport that has existed for well over 100 years is now beginning to be dominated by athletes playing it a completely different way. That doesn’t happen in sports. No quarterback has won the Super Bowl by throwing the ball behind his back or bouncing it off his head.
The Future of Bowling
Jurek, the longtime Buffalo PBA bowler, admires Voytovich and is not surprised about the success of a two-hander.
“The number of two-handed bowlers has probably doubled since the first time we saw it in Buffalo. Having coached one season of college bowling at Villa Maria, there are as many two-handed players in college now as well. I think you will almost see this as the normal way of bowling soon for younger players.”
So how did this major shift happen to a traditional sport? It came from Down Under.
Thunder From Down Under
Most people point to Jason Belmonte as the man who changed the game. The Australian has brought the two-handed style to the PBA tour and dominated. He’s won 17 tour titles since joining the PBA in 2008. He started using the style when he was a kid and unable to pick up the ball.
Voytovich’s story is similar. As many kids do, he used both hands to pick up and throw the ball. In high school, maybe inspired by Belmonte’s success, Dana began to perfect the style. Sunday, in winning the Obenauer, he reached perfection.
Two-handers like Belmonte & Voytovich, once they refine the two-handed method, throw the ball harder and faster than traditional bowlers. That gives them an advantage in knocking down more pins. They don’t need to be as precise or educated in ball selection or lane conditions.
Hall of Fame bowler and Beat the Champ co-host Sue Nawojski has seen the change in her sport.
“Two-handers have exploded onto the scene since Belmonte’s success on tour,” she says, “A good two-hander can really open up the lane and create a better carry percentage because of the unique roll they create.”
She admires Voytovich for his ability, and sees him as an example of the change in the sport.
“Dana has honed his skills and now proven himself to be in that league. It’s a new world out there.
Give Dana A Hand (or Two)
Some longtime traditional bowlers don’t like the change. They also don’t like getting consistently beaten by younger bowlers playing the game in a completely different way. That wasn’t the sense at Airport Lanes on Sunday, when Dana was holding up the trophy. He comes from a bowling family, and he’s proven his skills by winning a national title at ECC. He is also the second staight 21 year old to win the Masters, following Kevin Bienko’s victory last year. Bienko is a traditional bowler, not a two-hander.
Jurek senses that this emerging younger generation is good for the sport, no matter how many hands they use to throw the ball.
He also knows that Voytovich won’t be the only two-hander to win the Obenauer.
“Too many advantages not to encourge young players to try it.”
Here’s why the Obenauer Masters is Buffalo’s biggest and most important bowling tournament.