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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2002

Mike Williams bowling

High Series, times two
Mike Williams was in a zone
by John Grones | February 5, 2002

Some consider it being ‘in zone’ — for others, it’s ‘in a groove’. For Mike Williams, early in January of 2002, it was a pocket that was a foot wide. “Some nights you carry, some nights you don’t,” he said. “That week, if I hit the head pin, it was a strike.”

Mike Williams was most definitely in a zone, or a groove, on back-to-back league bowling nights at McGregor Lanes. He bowled the two highest series of his life; a 774 on Thur., Jan 3, the highest three-game series this year, and followed it up with a 768 on Mon., Jan 7.

Thursdays three-game performance included scores of 257, 262 and 255. Out of 36 frames, Mike had 30 strikes. If it wasn’t for two open frames, the series might have been higher, but who’s complaining? What was unique about this night was Mike’s team was defeated. However, that may have had something to do with the fact that Terry Hensel also bowled a big series — a 726.

Mike’s Monday night follow-up series occured on the NORTHSTAR league, where he is a member of the Bann’s team. His three games included a 235, 245, and this year’s high game of 288. This time, Mike only had 26 strikes out of a possible 36 — and Mike’s still not complaining.

For most bowlers at McGregor Lanes, the year consists of chasing lane’s owner, Don Reich, for high game, series and average. “So far this year, I’ve got him in high series, but he can beat it,” Mike said. “A few years ago, Donny had a 799. That stands as the highest series in the house.” Donny also shares the high game with Mike Burr. Both had games of 299.

The most ironic part of this whole story has to do with sports superstitions, and apparently Mike doesn’thave any. The day after he bowled the games of his life, he bought a new ball and hasn’t bowled with the old one since. His rational? “It was worn out.”

Despite struggling a bit, at first, Mike’s sticking with the new ball. “I bought the new ball (a TI Messanger) and I want to get used to it. I already know what my Hammer can do – now I want to see what the TI will do.”

So what is the secret to Mike’s success? Many years of bowling ... and working with kids. “I think working with the kids has helped me the most,” he said without hesitation. “The constant reminders I give kids has carried over to my game.”

As for bowling style, or emulating anyone, Mike feels his style is unique. Sally Phillips, who has watched Mike bowl for 18 years, has a definite opinion about his style. “Mike is similar to Donny. They both use a lot of upper body strength,” she said. “The difference in the two would be their pace. Donny is much quicker to the line.”

“He more upright then I am. I’m a lot lower,” added Donny.

This isn’t Mike’s major accomplishment in bowling. He would have to put his 1989, Alexandria [tournament] experience up there. The fact that his team came home with $4,000 a-piece might have something to do with it. Not only did his team take first place at the annual tournament, but Mike took 4th place in the all-events category.The Alexandria tournament, at that time, was the biggest in Minnesota in terms of prize money and participation.

The winning team that year consisted of Mike, Donny Reich, Clyde Rich, Tom Nistler, and Bruce Miller. Mike also teamed up with Mike Wayrynen in the doubles competition and scored well.

Mike was first introduced to bowling when he was eight years old. He recalls his first experience at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. “My mom dragged me down to the lanes and said, ‘Let’s try this.’ I’ve been bowling ever since, except for the three years I was in the Army.”

Mike has actually spent 18 of those years at McGregor Lanes and is currently employed by Don Reich. When asked about his position, Mike hesitated, then said jokingly, “The other day I said I was going to complain to the management and Donny told me to go talk in the mirror.” Basically, Mike’s position is to do whatever is necessary at the lanes, from working behind the desk to fixing the machines when there’s a malfunction or pin jam.

For Mike, a 700 series is not uncommon; but for the average bowler it could be a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment. That’s what made these two games so special. Not only did Mike bowl two in one week, but he had two, incredibly high, 700s. Congratulations Mike — with any luck, they will stand as the best in the house for 2001-2002.

This article first appeared in the February 5, 2002 issue of the Voyageur Press.