Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Sarge Easter Grip Story

I get more questions about my grip than anything else. I wanted to give a full explanation on why I use it, how it became to be the grip I use and what it has done for my game.

For any of you who aren't familiar with the Sarge Easter grip. It is basically a full fingertip middle finger and a conventional ring finger. I have made some slight variations on that but I will get into that later.

I first experimented with the Sarge Easter grip in March of 2004. I had been using finger tip with no grips for as long as I could remember. I liked to use the finger holes extremely tight and dig my fingers in as hard as I could. Eventually it took a tole on my hand. I was putting so much strain on my fingers that at the last event of the 03-04 season, The PBA World Championship, I ended up cracking my finger nail at the base of my ring finger. This was extremely painful, any pressure on my finger nail would send me through the roof. Normally I would just take a few weeks off to heal and continue doing what I was doing but there was a regional at Patchogue Bowl the following weekend that I wanted to bowl. Long Island doesn't get many regionals so I was determined to compete. This also wasn't the first time I had sustained this injury and it was definitely time for a change.

I ended up taking a visit to the pro shop on that wednesday and started quick-plugging a couple balls. I had been using the discontinued Fuze Eliminator most of the season. I knew I wasn't going to be able to easily find anymore of that ball so I wanted to hold on to it. I plugged the ring finger on that and a few other balls and started to figure out how I was going to do this. I had seen Mike Devaney and Robert Smith use the grip and they seemed to like it. I had this idea as soon as I hurt my finger so I spoke to Mike at the last event in Detriot and picked his brain a little.

I kept it very simple at first. Measured it as I would measure a normal conventional hole for a youth bowler. Crease of my finger in the center of the hole and I put a half inch of reverse pitch in the finger. I was pleased right away. I felt like I had a more secure grip on the ball and I was surprised how quick and clean the ball came off my hand. Most importantly it moved all the pressure off my finger nail and down past the first crease of my ring finger.

I didn't have enough time to change over all of my equipment by Friday's practice session. I only had 3 balls for the regional, but I didn't care I just wanted to make sure I could bowl without being in pain. In 2004 Patchogue Bowl still had some of the most beat up wood lanes you could ever find. Which suited my game perfectly! I could throw it hard and since we were bowling on cheetah, you really could not throw the ball too hard. The Fuze Eliminator was rolling great and I could feel my hand staying under the ball longer which also is essential on the cheetah. I ended up qualifying second into Sunday's match play round.

Due to all the circumstances around this tournament and how it finished, I will remember this tournament as long as I live. I advanced to the top 4 to face Brian Ziesig. Brian is obviously one of the top players on Long Island and the entire East Region. I bowled a horrible game against him in Game 1. But lucky for me it was best 2-of-3. I found a better shot, executed, and ended up coming back to win the match. In the title match I was up against Ray Edwards. A PBA National title holder, one of the great bowlers from Long Island, and also happened to OWN Patchogue Bowl. He didn't literally have the deed, but his name was plastered all over the walls with all of his honor scores from leagues and tournaments.

I was going to have my work cut out but I also had a good look and was confident I could pull it off. The title was also best 2-of-3 and I was hoping this would come in handy. I had not won the first game in any of my matches that day and sure enough Ray came out of the gate with a 250 game and really put the pressure on me. The lanes started to transition slightly and my reaction was getting better. I peeled off a 230 game in game 2 and evened the match. The final game we both started striking. Going into the tenth frame I could strike out for 263 (nasty split in the middle of the game) and he could strike out for 256. I was up in the tenth first and could shut him out if I doubled. I threw the first shot pure, ten in the pit. The next shot I got nervous and didn't make a very good shot. The shot was left of target and I left a four pin. I knew I had left the door open and Ray was very good in these situations. I sat about 10 lanes away to watch my fate unfold and see if he could double to win the title. First shot was ten back, no doubt as soon as he threw it. Next shot looked a little wide off his hand and he started running it out as to get it to hook. It came back but not as flush as the first. He had the 7-10 standing for a brief moment and as the 7 fell the messenger rolled over and toppled the 10. The crowd couldn't help but cheer. It was a very exciting moment and he had a lot of friends and family there to share it with.

I was disappointed briefly but knew after that performance that I had made the right decision to change my grip. It was an amazing transformation and although I have doubted the grip from time to time, slight alterations have kept me with it and I will continue with this grip until I am done bowling.

I will post my specs on my website and explain some of the changes I have made since that first experiment in March of 2004.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

World Series of Bowling Recap - Part 2

Qualifying day for Scorpion started like any other. I bowled the 7 games of qualifying, bowled poorly. So I bowled through lunch, bowled the 2nd set of 7, and wasn’t close to making the cut. I made Bill & Jason wait for me as I practiced for an hour afterwards. I knew practicing would certainly help but I would also have to drill as many balls as I could.

I was having a very hard time controlling my ball reaction during these events. As well as the new Ebonite equipment looked while I was at home, the tour conditions are a whole different animal. I would have to experiment with different drillings and surface to see what worked well for me. Although I didn't finish as the leader, at one point I was leading the tour in balls drilled. I finished the month with somewhere around 20. After all my experimentation I realized what I needed were symmetric core balls (Black Vibe, Raw Hammer Acid, Lane Breaker, Bash) as well as extremely weak pins (5 1/2-6 inches from my axis). The symmetric balls along with the drillings tamed down my reaction and created something that was smoother at the break point and more predictable. With the lanes being as difficult as they were my strategy was to have equipment that would control the pocket. The lanes were not allowing the players to create any type of great ball reaction.

Ok so enough technical jargon.

The shark championship was the last event before the World Championship. I felt like I had made a lot of progress during the numerous practice sessions and I have had some success on Shark in the past. The first block started off well and I was able to get off to a lead on the cut number. The 2nd block was a grind but I was able to start the block with six 200 games and not stress about making the match play.

I took on Robert Smith first in the morning. Robert bowled very well but was not able to put me away when he had the chance. I was able to hang around long enough and as the lanes got extremely dry my reaction got good as his faded. I pulled out the match in seven after being down 3-1.

Tommy Jones was my next match up. I have had some problems against Tommy the last few times and he is always a very tough match. He didn’t put up a fight the first game but came back with 750 for the next 3 and I found myself down 3-1 again. Lucky for me the lanes went through transition and the scoring pace slowed down a little. As we started lofting the left gutter his reaction started to diminish. I bowled a couple good games to win games 5 & 6. Game 7 was almost a disaster when I started split, spare, split. I didn’t like my chances staring at 34 in the 3rd. With my back against the wall I threw some great shots and managed a 5-bagger. I finished with 223 and it was enough to get it done. It was a huge win for me.

After two matches like that my confidence was really at a high. I was matched up against my good friend Chris Loschetter in the round of 8. I felt very good going into the match and was able to come out to a quick 3-0 lead. My reaction started to fade as his got better, and if there is one thing I have learned is that a match is never over until you win four games. I never let up and I was fortunate that he went through transition in game 6. I was able to close out the match in 6 games and advance to my first show of the new season.

It was such a relief to bounce back after the stretch of bad tournaments. All the hours of practice and drilling really paid off and things came together all at the right time.

The final tournament of the World Series was the World Championship. I took the confidence from the Shark into this event and bowled well in qualifying. I was short of receiving a bye and it ended up costing me. I was matched up with Sweden’s Martin Larsen. Martin is very accomplished and one of Europe’s best. He bowled very well and I never really felt comfortable in the match. I had the lanes very different and I wasn’t able to make the speed adjustments from lane to lane. I lost the match in 5, but I still had the Shark finals to look forward to.

It felt like an eternity to wait for the finals of the Shark to tape. We were the last show on Sunday night and everything was running about 2 hours behind schedule. I tried to relax during the day and not use too much energy. I felt fresh when the show started around 9pm. I don’t want to give away too much about the television finals but I will say that it was an entertaining show. I got to sport my new jerseys for the 09-10 season. Full Tilt Poker and Ebonite are my marquee sponsors and I hope to make them proud. Make sure you check it out the ESPN Finals on December 6th at 1pm Eastern.

Thanks for reading and check back for more updates soon!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

World Series of Bowling Recap - Part 1

My original goal when starting this blog was to update it after every single event of the World Series of Bowling (WSOB). Unfortunately, when you have only 1 day away from the bowling center every other week, the last thing you want to do is write about bowling. Especially when it is going as poorly as the WSOB was going for me. It was important to get away, if only for a day, to clear my head and get my mind right before the next tournament. Six events in a matter of 25 days doesn't leave much time for reflection. Once a tournament was finished there was nothing to do but look forward to the next oil pattern. I am home now and have had plenty of time, including an 11-hour drive home, to reflect about my month in Detroit.

The first event held at Thunderbowl Lanes was the Cheetah Championship. A revolutionary event where there would be no "Made for TV" finals. The event played out like any other single elimination match play event but instead the best 4 out of 7 format remained all the way to the title match. The event was filmed from ball 1 on a series of hand-held and mounted cameras. The event will play out with more of a reality show feel and try to show the event in a whole new light. I personally can not wait to see the finished product of this event. If done properly, I believe this could be the future production of our events. This event airs on November 8th at 1pm on ESPN.

Personally, I bowled well in the Cheetah Championship. I was able to play near the gutter the entire qualifying. I have been working hard on my straight game and it felt good to use it and bowl well. I was lucky to advance in my match against Jeffery Roche in the Round of 32, but I wasn't as lucky in the round of 16. Brian Voss had 4 games over 270 and added a 266 just for good measure. I was holding my own with him early but he made it very difficult to keep up. I learned a lot from the match but It would feel like an eternity before I could use any of it.

The next couple weeks were some of the most trying times I have had since the beginning of my career with the PBA. When things start to go bad it can be a very slippery slope. Many questions were going through my head. Is it me? Is it the equipment? What am I doing wrong? What do I need to do differently? How can I think about winning when I can't even make the cut?

How bad was it? 46th, 58th, & 51st in the Viper, Chameleon, & Scorpion respectively. I really had no chance of making the cut in any off the tournaments going into the last couple games. In fact after a +27 block in the morning of the Viper, I had 5 consecutive blocks under par. Needless to say I realized I needed to get to work if I was going to turn it around.

Check back soon for Part 2 and how the final two events went down.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Preparation & Week 1 @ The World Series of Bowling

The PBA Tour has begun for the 2009-10 season. Yes, already! The only type of summer bowling I am used to lately happens in Europe or theme parks. The break this year seems extra short. I have been trying to balance a very packed summer schedule of my first FaganBowling clinic & a 2-week trip to Europe along with my normal preparation for the PBA Tour. To add on another twist, I also have to throw all new equipment that I haven't throw before. Needless to say, this transition from offseason to "on" season may not be as smooth as years past.

The story begins as I'm driving home from Newark airport where I just got back from the EBT (European Bowling Tour) in Barcelona. I received a call from Chad Murphy at Columbia 300 telling me about a new "4-Brand" staff he is putting together. This peaked my interest because it allows me some leeway to throw every brand that Ebonite International produces. I called Chad back the following day and said I would do it. I then headed to a local distributor and went shopping for new balls. I picked out 8 to get me started. Ebonite has dedicated itself to the players for the new season and I believe it is going to be the best way to help their company.

So my next responsibility was to finalize plans for my first FaganBowling Clinic. I was very lucky to have Jason Belmonte & Diandra Asbaty fly in to help me with the clinic. My good friends Steve Evans & Norm Ginsberg also took a lot of weight off my shoulders by lending a hand. The day went really well and we had a great time running it.

So now that Belmo was in town I had somebody to practice with for the week. We drilled a few balls, played golf, tennis, ping pong, pool, and practiced a bunch to pass the week. We also went out for Belmo's B-day. Belmo refrains from alcohol about 99% of the time, but I was witness to the other 1%. It didn't take him many to get drunk but Belmo was quite entertaining as he made friends with every single person (employee & client) in the bar. He remembered the next morning why he doesn't drink.

Before we knew it we were off to Detroit. The drive took us all day Saturday and the Prius was riding low with all of our luggage and bowling balls. We made it in one piece to Canton, MI, where we will call home for the next 5 weeks. Our third roomie Bill O'Neill had already checked in the apartment so we were all set when we got there. Michigan must have a different definition of luxury than we do in NY, but this "luxury" apartment looks pretty plain to me. We will make it work we have cable & internet to keep us entertained. The one thing I will miss about home is the BBQ, it's always nice to have a summer cookout.

Did I mention we were here for a few bowling tournaments? Oh yeah so Taylor Lanes, which I really am not a big fan of, is holding the first event. I have never really had much luck at Taylor and this week was no exception! I started slow tuesday morning, I really had a few chances to post some good games but never took advantage. Tuesday night was a total debacle. The air conditioning was not working too well, 78F to be exact was the temperature in the bowling center. This had quite an effect on the lanes, they got extremely dry. I bowled fairly well on not so good conditions and found myself in 67th place at the end of the day.

Wednesday was a new day and I was determined to turn things around. I tried a bunch of different things in practice but I wasn't too thrilled about anything I had. So after 15 minutes of practice I decided to throw the Ebonite Magic Touch from the night before that I threw a total of zero times in practice. I made a nice guess and started with the front 8. I ended with 262 and I was on my way. My ball reaction was pretty solid the entire block, I was able to get a good run going the last 2 games. I shot 503 the final two games and missed the finals by 4 pins, finishing in 26th place. Most people go back to the last frame (which I left a 10-pin) to place the blame. I made so many mistakes over the past 15 games that I cant blame it on a pretty good shot in the final frame. It was disappointing, but I can't be too upset, we have 6 more tournaments and I certainly ended this one on an up note (I was 4th high for the final 5 games).