Ouch, here comes Shawn Bevenour’s bowling ball
Shawn Bevenour of Bealeton has rolled a 300 game 17 times, including back-to-back.--Photo By Doug Stroud
In the heyday of the Fauquier Times-Democrat in the 1990s when the sports page was 16 pages deep, the paper used to run a bowling column called "Total Pins," written by Doug Saunders.
It ran for some 20 years, and chronicled the exploits of league bowlers at now-defunct Warrenton Lanes. Later Pam Glascock picked up the column and called it “Pam on Pins.”
They’d certainly be gushing about Shawn Bevenour these days.
Bevenour, who lives in Bealeton, once averaged 246 in league play. He has 17 career 300 games (or 12 straight strikes), and even rolled 300 twice in a row. He has had an 800 series (or 266 average) 12 times.
“Yes, I am in my prime,” says Bevenour, a left-hander like the legendary Earl Anthony, arguably the greatest bowler ever.
Just like a golfer who dreams of making it to the PGA Tour, Bevenour is gifted, dedicated and experienced enough to harbor dreams of being a pro bowler on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour.
He’s still looking for his big break, though.
Arguably the best bowler in Fauquier County is trapped — “pinned” in, so to speak, by a glass ceiling.
Bevenour, 36, who works as a mechanic at Bull Run Bowl America in Manassas, doesn’t have the financial resources to compete in regional tournaments, which would be his stepping stone to bigger tournaments.
“My dream overall of PBA TV is still there. I know a lot of guys in the same boat. What happens is the funds for lower tier bowlers like me is slim," he said. "A lot of guys are falling off and quitting because they can’t get to where they want to be. Guys can’t stick with it."
Bevenour says the opportunities to be sponsored by small or medium-sized businesses aren't common.
Living in the Marsh Run mobile park, this blue collar dad has mouths to feed. He has three kids and a stepdaughter to help support. Still, Bevenour keeps dreaming and bowling.
He competes in two weekly leagues — carrying averages of 227 at Bull Run Bowl America in Manasass and 236 at Woodbridge Bowl America — and bowls with his kids on weekends. He also gets together with friends on Sunday night for an intense practice.
Bevenour began bowling when he was 12, he said, and became enamored with the sport. “From the get-go I wanted to do it all the time. I haven’t lost my passion in 24 years,” he says.
As a young teenager he walked an hour to the bowling alley in Dale City lugging his 12-pound ball in a bag with him. “Those were the days when there were no rollers,” said Bevenour, describing the airline-style carry-on bags with wheels most serious bowlers now use to lug up to six balls to the lanes.
Bevenour attended Gar-Field High in Woodbridge, then moved to West Virginia, where he attended Fairmont High.
He works four days a week as a mechanic at the Bull Run Bowl America in Manassas, and coaches youth bowlers Saturday at Woodbridge Bowl America.
His day job is mostly a night job during peak commercial bowling hours. He stays out of sight in the back fixing and tinkering with the workhorse machines that keep Bowl America ticking.
“Each of those has about 4,000 parts, including nuts and bolts,” he says. “Many were made in the 1950s and 60s.”
He’ll often pick up dead wood on the lanes, help people keyboard their names into the computer scoring system and work customer service.
“I enjoy it. I’ve been off and on as a mechanic since 1998. I enjoy watching people bowl, the expressions on their faces when kids get strike. I enjoy it all the way around,” he said.
A PH.D IN BOWLING
Bevenour could probably teach a college course in bowling, considering how well he understands the science and mechanics.
He uses a four-step approach to accurately and powerfully direct his ball into the pocket from a number of different angles. He can employ a curve or hook. "The curve is more half moon shape. The hook is like an L-shape. The hook is sharper," says Bevenour.
Being a lefthander is another variable. Bevenour says that due to oil breakdown patterns, he has heard lefties like him might be at a scoring advantage at the league level, but lefties supposedly find it tougher than righties at the tournament level which he aspires to.
He carries four different balls he uses for various lane conditions. He has one ball, a plastic ball, he uses only for the No. 7 pin on the extreme left, when he needs to pick it up for a spare. “That’s my straight ball,” he said.
He says most high level bowlers even have left-handed or right-handed shoes depending on which side they bowl from. “That’s for sliding on one foot. The other foot is to create power or grip on the approach,” he explains.
Every bowler, no matter what level, exudes a certain aura. Although he probably throws a strike 65 percent of the time, Bevenour says people tease him for not looking happier.
“Everybody says I look serious, like, ‘Come on, have more fun.' But my mind is racing on what I need to do next,” he said.
One key to his success might be his demanding attitude.
“One of my buddies said to me, ‘I don’t understand, you’re way past where I’m at.’ His average sort of leveled out. The difference I told him was that I have a different mindset. What you have to do is think you can average 300. Your mindset says it’s impossible, but it’s really only improbable. You think it’s impossible, but your mindset has to go for it. In the late 1970s and 80s they said it would be impossible to average 220 or 230, but now you see it done by a handful of guys,” Bevenour said.
Bevenour, who is 6-0 and 195 pounds, says 24 years of bowling have not been hard on his body, but his hands reveal his craft. Bevenour's left hand has a variety of callouses his right doesn't courtesy of all that bowling.
PRO DREAMS, REAL LIFE OBSTACLES
Bevenour describes several tiers of bowlers. He says there are league bowlers who can shine in one specific “house” on lanes they know like the back of their hand.
At a higher level are league bowlers who can excel at different leagues, a category Bevenour puts himself in.
He aspires to ascend to a third tier and become a tournament bowler who competes in money tournaments, and eventually at the PBA-televised level. Bevenour has the PBA-required average of 200 to enter PBA regional tournaments. Those events cost $285 each for non-members like Bevenour.
"Right now, I'd like to start off local, get practice and experience on lane conditions. Then go to PBA regional meets, then hopefully on TV," he said.
Bevenour said his best finish was third in a tournament in 2007, when he earned $300 or $400.
Tournament bowlers need the resources to pay for entry fees, transportation costs and hotels. They also need the money to practice at the tournament facilities before the tournament. Sometimes they need many more bowling balls, balanced an weighted differently.
“I do have the skills. I got to get out tournament-wise,” he said. “If I had the resources and made the time to practice on those conditions in those tournaments. I believe I could succeed.”
Bevenour is open to trying to take on sponsors, or perhaps investors he would share his winnings with.
When asked what an infusion of $5,000 would do, Bevenour said he could compete in over 35 local tournaments from Richmond to Baltimore. “I know other guys in my situation. Maybe someone will give me a call or something. Maybe people that respond can help other guys,” he said.
Bevenour said he worked two full-time jobs for a while, which created extra time but did not give him time with his family or bowling.
He thought about an offer with a local bowling ball company that involved some compensation in exchange for Bevenour selling balls, but he could not afford it.
But in the meantime he will continue bowling, and yearning for greatness.
“I’ve tried all kinds of ways, I’m almost ready to stop trying, but my mom said it’s not over yet,” he said.
Get Headlines Every Tuesday and Thursday By Email