News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 14, 2009

Valley bowler spinning high scores with two-handed approach

By Dennis Clark

TERRE HAUTE — Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”

That famous quote fits 25-year-old Australian bowler Jason Belmonte perfectly, proving there is an alternative way to knock down 10 pins. In March, he became the first two-handed player in Professional Bowler’s Association history to win a PBA Tour title.

Much closer to home, 20-year-old college student Austin Marsh, a native of Anderson, has been terrorizing local lanes with his version of the two-handed delivery for the past two seasons.

Marsh, an Ivy Tech student who plans to transfer to Indiana State in the near future, is averaging more than 230 in three different leagues at the Terre Haute Bowling Center and Imperial Lanes.

Is there an advantage by bowling with two hands?

This style creates more hook and power than the traditional one-handed delivery. Because two-handers use one hand to roll the ball and the other to support it, they can keep their bowling hand under the ball longer. That positioning lets them generate extra rotation, hook and power on the ball and more options to play the lanes, translating to more strikes and higher scores.

Belmonte developed this unusual style as a toddler growing up in his parents’ bowling center in New South Wales, Australia, bowling with bowling balls that were too heavy to throw with one hand.

He inserts just the middle two fingers of his right hand into the ball, and using his left hand to guide and spin the ball, he is able to generate hooking power very few one-handed players can match.

“I am pretty much a self-taught bowler,” Belmonte said.

On the other hand, or should we say on both hands? Whatever. The story is much the same for Marsh.

“My mom and dad started taking me bowling with them at about age 3,” Marsh said. “I was so little I had to use both hands. My dad taught me the angles, but I developed this style and figured out what I’m doing wrong by myself.”

Marsh also describes himself as a self-taught bowler.

“I use both my fingers and my thumb … Belmonte doesn’t use his thumb when he throws the ball,” Marsh noted. “I have a little different style than [Belmonte] has. My backswing is higher than his.”

Asked if he has followed Belmonte’s career, Marsh said, “I heard about him last year. It shows people you can actually bowl two-handed. It was pretty cool for him to win that tournament like that.”

Although Marsh uses both hands in his approach behind the foul line, at the point of release, he says, “It’s the same as everybody else. I use my left hand to guide the ball. When I release the ball [Marsh is right-handed] it all comes down to how you rotate your waist when you come through [the ball].”

Belmonte has been on a media blitz this season, even bowling in a special exhibition bowling on an outdoor set in downtown Manhattan. He’s been the subject of a cover story in the Wall Street Journal, several major newspapers, ESPN the Magazine, and appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” program.

Marsh hasn’t had to deal with type of media blitz yet, although he admits bowlers “ask me about bowling two-handed on occasion.”

A little more than a week ago, Marsh was averaging 238 in the Russ Fisher Truck Parts League and 234 in the Sunday Mixed League at THBC. He averaged 230 at Imperial Lanes in another league.

The emergence and growing popularity of the “two-handed” delivery in bowling has even caused the United States Bowling Congress — the sanctioning body for the sport of bowling — to consider its impact on the rules and application of the sport’s specifications.

Basically, it’s OK to bowl with two hands, according to the USBC.

Suffice to say in a matter of brevity, if bowlers want to learn more about the impact of two-handed bowling — technically or otherwise — log on to www.bowl.com and do a search of “two-handed bowling”. You’ll need two hands to lift all the material that mouse click will generate.

Marsh has recently started to compete in PBA Regional Tour events. While he hasn’t enjoyed great success in his first three outings, remember, he’s just 20 years old.

In his first outing on the PBA Central Region Tour, Marsh was 47th at Jasper (Feb. 27-Mar. 1), 55th at Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (Mar. 13-15) and was 48th at Hillsboro, Ohio last weekend.

The competition was especially tough at Hillsboro, as former PBA Tour exempt players Eugene McCune (winner) and Ronnie Russell faced off in the championship match on Easter Sunday.

Marsh plans to compete in the PBA Midwest-Central Region event at the Bowling Center on June 12-14.

“I want to bowl in as many PBA regionals as I possibly can,” Marsh said. “I would like to take a shot at getting on the PBA Tour. I want to stick with it and get as good as possible. I really enjoy bowling.”