Thursday, April 28, 2011

Steve Barker's 23 Questions: Wade Thompson

We wait four months for it to arrive and "bam", it's all over. For those of us who didn't win our Provincial Open, it's a long summer and fall until qualifying finally begins again. For those who took home Gold and will be representing their Province in B.C., the quest for a National title is still ongoing.

Here in the southern part of Ontario, our week in Hamilton started on Wednesday with the first shift of Senior teams, followed by the "Hall of Fame Game". And wasn't it awesome to see some of our Legends out there, including Al Snow who, now into his eighties, shot a 229. Also putting on a great performance was Donny Betts, who's always been one of my personal idols. He won the "Hall of Fame" Game, and then went on to average 255 for the week while playing for the Niagara Mixed Team.

In the 1st five games of Singles on Wednesday, both defending champs started out well as Connie Ward shot 1339 and Terry Little put a bad first game aside to shoot 1418. Connie would have an even-better second day to finish with 2747 for 10, good enough to qualify second. Terry went on to shoot 2649, and finished 12th.

There were other fireworks on Wednesday as well, including Wade Thompson who started with a 249, then shot 399 and 418 before struggling a bit the last 2 games. Wade would go on to have another great day on Thursday, putting him in top spot for the men with a 10-game total of 2859. Leading the list for the women was Erica Bortolin, who put together a 10-game score of 2831. We will get back to the Singles competition later.

In the ever-popular Senior Mixed division, the crew from Ottawa Valley qualified 1st, and went on to beat Tri-County in the final. Congratulations to Rejean Menard, Bernie Menard, Dave Anderson, Rose Graves and Michelle Balcombe, as well as their coach George Chrulenko.

The first ever Senior Singles stepladder final was also very exciting.

In the Women's final, Diane Martin from Western Ontario defeated the great Diane MacLeod of York-Simcoe 248-237.

On the Men's side, Peter Pettinger of Tri-County averaged 269 to win his first 3 games, climbing the ladder to meet Ottawa Valley's Rejean Menard in the final. In a tremendous match, Rejean's 305 bested Peter's 287 to give Rejean the title.

In the Mixed Team division, Grand River defeated Middlesex Elgin and Central Ontario on the way to playing Tri-County in the Final. Tri-County would take the Gold, led by Sean Westhaver's 322 in the final match. Joining Westhaver on the Gold Medal squad from Tri-County are Brian Pye, Will Daniel, Shasta Smith, Megan Flannigan, Cheryl Campbell and their coach Jim Muir. Kudos also go out to Kevin Joseph of Grand River, who shot 939 for his 3 games in the stepladder.

In the Ladies competition, the gals from Tri-County were once again dominant as they finished the round robin with 83 points, losing only once in the 13 games. Second after the round robin was Hamilton with 75. Finishing 3rd and 4th were Niagara and Ottawa Valley, having 65.5 and 63 points respectively. In the stepladder, Ottawa beat Niagara and Hamilton to play Tri-County in the final. In the final match, 300 games by Casey Ramey and Kayla Anderson were the difference as Tri-County was victorious once again, winning 5-3. Along with Casey and Kayla, the team includes Christine Mair, Kristi Lampman, Karole McDonnell, Kyla Smith and their coach Andrew Lampman.

In the Men's event, the round robin results were up in the air until the final game. The #1 seed went to Tri-County, which meant that all of their teams lead the round robin competition! Tri-County finished with 67.5 points, just 1 ahead of Hamilton. In third spot was Central Ontario followed by Grand River. In the first stepladder match, Central shot a solid 1333 to win 7-1. In the second match against Hamilton, they got even hotter, firing a 1453 to reach the finals. In the finals, Central would have to win twice to knock of the top seeded Tri-County. Central stayed on a nice roll and won both games to take the title. Their team, coached by Kevin Jepson includes Doug Brock, Mike Doherty, Jim Head, Wade Thompson, Ian Gawel and Dan Pike.

The Ladies portion of the Singles stepladder was an awesome display of talent. In the opening match, Lindsay Laporte defeated her Central Ontario teammate Melissa Llewellyn 290-252. Lindsay's job would get incredibly tougher as she would have to play against two Legends and one current Superstar to have a shot at the crown. In her next game, Lindsay shot a 269 to beat Brenda Pankoff. That meant that she'd have to play Connie Ward next. In a great semi-final game, Lindsay prevailed 304-261 to reach the final against top seed Erica Bortolin. The game was tight all the way, and Erica threw a strike in 9 and a double in the tenth to force Lindsay to have an amazing finish herself. Lindsay came up just short, as Erica won 299-290 in a superb match. Lindsay shot an impressive 1153 for her 4 games, and Erica added "Ontario Open Singles Champion" to her already awesome (and still growing) record. And true to her "23 Questions" interview previously, Erica claimed to have "no idea what the score was or what she needed going into the last two frames".

On the Mens side, Bobby Torraville defeated Huronia's Andrew Wilkie 297-234 in the first match. Bobby then lost to fellow Metro Toronto teammate Jeff Mawhinney 267-243. In the semi-final, Jeff threw a 336 at former champ Kris Babuik to reach the final. The final match saw an interesting scenario, as top seed Wade Thompson had already won with the Central Men, and with the new Nationals rule stating you could only play one event, a victory would mean that Wade would have a difficult decision to make. Wade would go on to win the final match for his 2nd Open Singles title. Wade has decided to bowl with his team at the Nationals in B.C., so Jeff Mawhinney will represent the O5 in Singles play. I had a chance to speak to Wade shortly after the Open, and you can read that interview at the end of this segment.

I'd like to offer my congratulations to our two "Rookie of the Year" winners. They were Brian Sillett of Tri-County, and Michele Boulter of Niagara who each averaged 262. Other fine performances from first-time Open participants included Katlyn Saar of Ottawa Valley (258 avg.), Mike Torraville of Huronia (242 avg., 408 single) and Tyler Wendel of Niagara (243 avg.).

Ah yes, and some of you may be wondering how our friend, Josh LeClair made out in his first Open, after many pain-staking years of coming close. (If you haven't read Josh's earlier article here: you should!) Well he did just fine, averaging 243 for the Western Mixed team, while playing most games in the leadoff or anchor spots.. And now that the gorilla's off his back, he can't wait to come back next year.

Kudos also to Brad Rowland of York-Simcoe, who averaged over 280 to set the new 13-game record.
The High-Single winners were Ian Gavel (425) of Central, and Kim Utley (395) from Grand River.

As always, thanks to Sid Morris, Nith Valley Construction all of the sponsors and the O5 staff and volunteers who made these championships possible!

A special thank-you once again to outgoing President Dave Post and also to long-time Executive Director Al Hong, who will be retiring this summer. Both men have dedicated their life to our sport and we greatly appreciate it!!

As Jeff Young mentioned in Monday's blog, many positive things came from our Ontario Open. One of these is the staggering number of "hits" to the O5 website during the competition. Traffic on peaked on Saturday, with over 130,000 hits!!

The Open is huge in all provinces and we encourage everyone to post and look at results from across the land.

I am continuing to attempt to take "23 Questions" nationwide, and have some correspondence in the works with bowlers from around the country. I hope to get to your favourite player soon.

Following his amazing week in Hamilton, this week's "23 Questions" features a quick chat with Wade Thompson.

Wade, it'd be silly to ask how you're feeling after such an emotional high, so I won't ask the obvious. Having two reserved seats for the "Head Table" at the banquet must be an awesome feeling. Can you reflect back and tell us how this whole bowling journey began?
I've been bowling for as long as I can remember. My grandfather bowled, and my dad bowled, and he got my mom into it. I don't know how old I was the first time I threw a ball down a lane, but I do know my first recorded game was when I was 2 years old. (My mom still keeps the score sheet in her bowling bag). I started YBC at Queensway bowl in Toronto when I was 5.

Your first Nationals appearance was about 10 years ago in Winnipeg. Is that when your adult career really took off?
2002 was a good year. It was the first time I won the Zone Qualifier, so that was a milestone for sure, and our men's team went to Nationals for the first time in a while, but I think if I had to pick one period of time it would have to be 2005-2006. I gained a lot of confidence from winning the singles at the 2005 Ontario Open. I gained more from playing well at the Nationals, but I think the biggest factor was making the stepladder again at the 2006 Provincials.

This is your 11th Open, and 6 of those years you made Singles, which is impressive qualifying out of Central Ontario. And in those years, you've made the Singles stepladder 4 times and won with teams 4 times! To what do you attribute your Open success?
I think the fact that my entire season is focused on the Open plays a big part. September to November is for getting ready for qualifying. From mid December to Easter I'm preparing for the Open. I read Jeff's blog a couple of weeks back about the Open, and he spoke about how some people base the success of their year on how well they do at the Open. I'm one of those guys. If the Open's a failure, the year has been wasted.

The other big factor is the quality of the teammates I have had. You don't have a chance in teams without having 6 really good bowlers, and coming out of a strong zone like Central, I've been fortunate to have been on some great teams. The teams I've won with have included players like Liz Nicoll, Jason Procher, Bill Schwemlein, Jim Head, John Mattioli, Ian Gawel, Brian Kaye, all of whom have won multiple times in the Open, in Masters, and various other tournaments.

What players and coaches have helped to influence your career at each level?
My dad was the biggest influence on me through YBC. He was there every week, and for a long time he was the only person I would listen to. I met Joe Zammit when I was first starting out at Queensway Bowl, and he has also been a big influence, much more so as an adult.

As far as players go, that's a much tougher question. My dad was always a 250 – 260 average bowler, but he wasn't a tournament bowler, so I had very limited exposure to the great players that were around as I grew up in the 80s. I played a couple of Master Bantams with guys like Basil Gasdia, John Renouf, and I think I played one with Connie D'Alessandro. At the adult level, just playing against so many great players has pushed me to get better.

To put it mildly, you are "ultra" intense on the lanes. How do you think this helps you, and can it also be detrimental at times?
I'll start with how it can be detrimental, because that to me is the more obvious side of it. I think it has hurt my team in the past, more so early on than now, but I've seen it happen. If I'm not playing well, what people see is negative, and that vibe can affect a team negatively, just like the same intensity level can have a lifting affect when the vibe is positive.

For me personally, I feel like that intensity is essential for me to be playing well. Even if I'm struggling, and it looks like I'm about to explode, my mind is working in overdrive trying to figure out what's wrong. I never throw shots away out of anger, it's not like that. I just can't contain the emotion. I tried once, for a few months, and it didn't work out very well. I played horrible, I felt terrible, and I was stressed out like you wouldn't believe. I'm better off letting out the frustration, because it allows me to focus on the next shot.
When I'm playing well, the intensity keeps me focused. The one thing that hurts me there is that if I get on a run I can get moving too fast, and that's a hard thing to control.

Did your past experience help you in the Singles finals, with the confidence that you've won before?
I think it helped. I definitely wasn't as nervous as I was the first time I played in the stepladder. I've gotten more and more comfortable every time I've been out there. The first time I made it, I remember looking back at the crowd when I walked out and thinking “Wow, that's a LOT of people”. The “butterflies” that that look back caused were intense enough that I didn't look back again until the game was over.
Your team went on a great run during the Stepladder, beating Grand River, Hamilton and then Tri County twice. In addition to your own previous Stepladder experience in Teams and Singles, how much of a factor was it that 3 members of your team had won previously? Or were you simply on a roll?
It was a little of both I think. We got off to a great start against Grand River, and carried that through the match against Hamilton. Once we reached Tri County, we slowed down a little, and I think that's where some of the past experience really took over. The early part of the game was a struggle, but everyone fought through it in the middle and we got a good lead going into the last third of the game. The 4th game was the same. A bit of a slow start and then Mike and Jim took off and we took over through the middle of the game.

After your great stepladder run to win the Men's Team event, you were the top Singles seed but knew you'd have to decide which event to play at Nationals if you were to win the Singles. Was this on your mind in the final match or had you already made your decision?
I had already made the decision. I pretty much knew what I was going to do, but I spoke to Al Hong right after we had finished the Team stepladder to clarify the rule, and what would happen depending on what my choice was. Once that conversation was over, I spoke to a couple of the guys on my team and told them that regardless of the outcome of the Singles, I'd be playing Teams at Nationals.

There was a really nice moment at the Open banquet when the announcement was made that you'd chosen to play Teams at Nationals. What went into that decision and might it have been different if you hadn't previously had a chance to play Singles at the Nationals?
My previous Singles appearance, to be honest, actually had the reverse affect. It made it that much harder to let it go. I came so close to winning the Nationals in 2005, and I've wanted nothing more than to get another shot at it ever since. I can't say for sure how much different it would have been if I had never played Singles at Nationals, but I don't think it would have changed my decision.

At the end of the day, the decision didn't just affect me, it affected 5 other guys. For me to leave the team for my own personal goal would be selfish, and unfair to them. We set a goal as a team to win the Provincials, and then to win the Nationals. We were fortunate to be successful with the first step, and there is no way I could abandon the team halfway through.

Well Said!! Congratulations again and good luck in B.C.!

As I mentioned above, keep the comments and feedback coming in. Many results from around the country are posted on the respective provincial associations' websites, so check them out. Also, Jeff has posted his contact info on the top corner of the page, so feel free to send any stories or info his way.


  1. Once again congrats on a great Open Wade. Best of luck to you and the Central, now Ontario team at Nationals. Best of Luck to our other deserving Champions

  2. Thanks for the mention Steve, I'm flattered. I think I'm really at a place now where i am confident I can compete at this level. With the good performance at the open and a strong finish at the best ball with my buddy Anderw Pike, my beliefe in my abilities is pretty strong now.

  3. Wade, congrats once again on the double win! I have many close friends at Central, and if we (hamilton) had to lose to anyone, it was going to be the best team at the Open. Best of luck to our Singles and Teams representing Ontario!