Father-daughter duo win national duckpin championship
Ashley Shaw bowled a high game of 116 on the way to her team’s recent win at the National Duckpin Youth Championships. The road to the 38th annual national tournament in Linthicum, Md., went through Meadowbrook Lanes in Warwick.
It was there, at the state tournament, that the team established themselves as the best bantam division bowlers in Rhode Island and earned an invitation to represent the state at the national championships.
The successful Wickford Lanes team included Shaw, Riley Beard, Chelsea Oleson, Preston Simpkins and Michael Ferris.
Tom Shaw, Ashley’s father and the team’s coach, was pleased with his team’s effort. The coach said that because Maryland is the birthplace of duckpin, he knew that the competition would be fierce. He added that he was both pleased – if not a bit surprised – at the outstanding result.
Shaw is a professional duckpin bowler who has been bowling for 30 years. He said that as far as he knows, he and Ashley, a seventhgrader at Lawn Avenue School, are the only competitive duckpin bowlers on the island.
Prior to the national championship, Ashley’s personal best was 115, which she scored at the state tournament in Warwick.
Ashley started bowling in a duckpin league about three years ago at the age of 10. She said that she loves the sport because “it’s fun, it’s competition, it’s challenging, and it runs in the family.”
Ashley described what she thinks when she approaches the lane. “I always look at the pins and when I bowl everything goes blank and all I can see are the pins. And when it rolls down, that’s all I hear. I don’t hear anything else but that.”
She paused and added, “It’s like the whole rest of the world goes blank.”
Ashley described her father’s coaching style as helpful. She said that the most helpful thing that he did at nationals was to tell the team that by taking the state championship they had already won. It relieved some of the pressure, she said.
Shaw’s bantam team, ages 9 to 12, bowls weekly at Wickford Lanes under the watchful eye of Kathy Lischio, who is both a bowling coach and co-proprietor of the bowling alley with her husband. It was the first time since 2004 that Wickford Lanes sponsored a team and the first winning team since 1993.
The National Duckpin Youth Association hosts five divisions: pee-wee, preps, bantam, junior and major. Shaw added that until bowlers are competing in adult leagues, the teams are co-ed. Adult amateurs and adult professional bowlers are divided into divisions by gender.
Shaw explained that a professional is anyone who belongs to a sanctioned league as recognized by the National Duckpin Bowling Congress, is over the age of 21, and has a scoring average of 130 or above for two consecutive years. Shaw has been a professional since 2004 and has posted a seventh-place national finish as his best so far. In state tournaments he has collected 10 championships; his hardware shares the wall over the fireplace with his daughter’s.
The road to duckpin bowling was a natural one for Ashley. After spending several years watching her father compete, Ashley decided to say “yes” when Tom asked her if she would like to join the winter league at Wickford Lanes.
She said that she intends to bowl as an amateur for 10 more years before turning pro.
A third-generation bowler – and a longtime Jamestowner – Shaw pointed out that McQuade’s Marketplace used to be the home to 10 duckpin lanes. He said that his family was part of a league that bowled there. He recounted the location of other now defunct bowling centers and then added, “Duckpin is a dying sport.” In spite of the shrinking numbers, the NDPC sanctions duckpin bowling in four states: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia.
Proud to be one of a disappearing breed but without boasting, Shaw took out his duckpin ring, explaining that he earned the ring by throwing a game 100 points above his average. His average at the time was 135 so the ring was earned when he bowled a 235. He said that approximately 38 of the NDPC rings have been awarded in Rhode Island in the nearly 100 years that the sport has been around. “Of 100 percent of the people that pick up a duckpin ball, less than 1 percent will ever bowl that high,” he said.
To get some perspective on scores, Shaw said the highest duckpin average in history is a 150. “The holy grail of duckpin,” as Shaw put it, is a game score of 200 and a 500 series. A series is three games, and 500 is the ideal score in a series.
Although it doesn’t happen often, Shaw is proud to list among his achievements 28 200-or-better games and 34 500-or-better series.
His ability is well earned, he said. He said as a youth he went bowling as many as six days a week, adding that he used to “eat, sleep, drink and dream bowling.”
Ashley is looking forward to the next winter season, which will begin in the middle of September and run into May. She said that the summer league season is short – about five weeks long – and has already ended. She added that they didn’t win.
Shaw interjected. “It’s not about winning at your age,” he told his daughter. “It’s about getting better.”