Monday, May 2, 2011

A Rookie's Retrospect - Josh LeClair

You might remember a story when this site was first starting out, about Josh LeClair, a bowler who had tried several times to qualify for the Ontario Open without much luck.  This season saw LeClair finally get over the hump and make the mixed team, and a chance to compete for a provincial title.  If you haven't read the story, it can be read HERE.  After trying to anticipate how he might feel once the day came, and told us all how he thought he would feel, we find this story as a follow up to Josh's memorable rookie year.

A Rookie's Retrospect

Well my first time bowling at the open has come and gone and it confirmed at least one thing: I sure as heck would rather be competing against these bowlers I see every year than watching or coaching (with all due respect to Katie Jacques my first time coach who did a fantastic job in less than ideal situations at times; sorry coach!).

I can now reflect on all those things that people have told me they have gone through at the open; the first ball jitters, the tension in a tight match and the dynamics of the bench situation. Through my years as a spectator I knew about the noise levels, but it was a little different as a bowler, although it didn’t bother me at all.
Thursday morning I was pretty excited as I had my upbeat music on my mp3 player going feeling a lot of energy just at the hotel. This continued when I arrived at Sherwood as I watched my fellow Westerner Erica Bortolin put on a show qualifying first in Ladies Singles. I was virtually on cloud nine bouncing around the bowling alley in anticipation of the start. For anyone not aware, it’s taken me twelve attempts to qualify for the open, so this was a long day coming for me. As singles wrapped up and I made my way to my lane, the great Connie Ward saw me waiting and asked if it was really my first time (to which many people asked this question throughout the weekend). I confirmed that it was indeed true, and that I wasn’t least not at that moment.

Warm up started and I felt pretty good. I like to throw a lot of warm up to get comfortable with a line that works, but I didn’t get as much as I wanted, with twelve bowlers on a set warming up, so I wasn’t quite as comfortable as I would have liked to be. Once announcements got going and they started the scoring machines and the line-ups popped up on the screen, I couldn’t stop myself from having the biggest smile on my face seeing my name in that leadoff spot. I’ve wanted to see that for so long.

Getting to the task at hand, now it was time for the dreaded first shot. I think if it wasn’t built up by everyone to me I wouldn’t have been nervous at all....but I was a little shaky....and I ended up picking. Hitting the middle was good and now I could try and settle in. I was a little nervous for the first five frames or so, but I felt so good up there I relaxed and finished big, throwing the last four strikes for 298. Not too shabby for a seasoned rookie! I took my match point over Dallas Bentien, a darn good bowler and even better man (kudos to Dallas for his military service). Unfortunately for my team, we lost 6-2.

For the next three games I continued to feel really good, scoring just ok but nothing special, as the team as a whole struggled to get going. We went into the break losing four straight, with only 6 points to show for ourselves. After the break we got on the board with our first two wins to close out day one with a disappointing 18 points, although it was looking like it was going to be worse. I averaged 230 for the day, with a couple of rough games at the end (ironically when I started to struggle, the team came alive).
I didn’t feel as good throwing the ball Friday as I did Thursday, but scored better (this game is funny like that!). To make a long story short, the team finished strong, as we garnered the 4th most points from the 5th game on, but it was just too much to recover from after our slow start. I was proud to be a part of this team, with fellow rookie Jason Forsyth (himself no spring chicken either as his 20’s have passed him by), Central Ontario import Matt Walker who had a hell of a second day averaging 258 for 7 games, and ladies Tammy O’Neil, who was full of energy after being away from the Open for several years, Patty Dierckens with some great experience from last year’s ladies team and the baby of the team Stephanie Oldridge, almost 10 years younger than the next youngest on the team! Kudos once again to our coach Katie Jacques, herself a rookie in that role.

I faced some excellent bowlers in matches, such as Brian Pye from the winning Tri-County team, Jeff England, Meghan Blewitt, Gord Cluff, Jay Berryman, Larry Murphy, Bucky Faulkner and fellow rookie Tyler Wendel out of Niagara region, who was a mirror image of me, bowling 130 frames, winning 8 match points and having a total pinfall of 3,160, exactly one pin more than myself. He takes bragging rights with a 304 to my 259 in our match. Great showing Tyler.

I had three goals heading into the tournament: win the tournament and go to Nationals, average 250 and win the rookie award. Although I didn’t accomplish any of those goals, I am still proud of how I did. By no means did I let my team down or embarrass myself competing at the highest level. Turns out I could have averaged 250 (I finished at 243), and I still would have come up short for the rookie award, as Brian Sillett averaged an incredible 262 (winning nine match points), leading his Tri-County men’s team to a 2nd place finish. Great bowling Brian.

I’d like to thank all the people who wished me well and also asked how I did (as well as everyone who wondered how the heck a guy like me can be a rookie when I’ve always been in Hamilton Easter weekend!). It was a humbling and rewarding experience. I’m looking forward to using the confidence I’ve obtained this year to accomplish even more next year.

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