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.