For 21-year-old Earon Vollmar bowling is not just a recreational sport. It has the potential of growing a career.
The West Toledoan, who dreams of owning a pro shop someday, has already etched his name in national record books. On May 23, Vollmar bowled an 811 series at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships in Reno, Nev.
He rattled off a near-record 28 consecutive strikes on the way to games of 247, 300, and 264 at the prestigious national tournament. More than 60,000 bowlers participate annually in the event, which is celebrating its 107th anniversary this year.
Vollmar's 811 series is tied for second place in the regular singles competition. He also is now among a list of just 26 bowlers in the tournament's history who have recorded both a 300 game and an 800 series on the championship lanes.
"It was the most magical experience," Vollmar said. "That was the biggest accomplishment so far. It's just now starting to sink in a bit. It was a dream come true."
The USBC Open occurs from Feb. 20 through July 5. So Vollmar must wait to see how his score holds up.
Vollmar, who was home schooled and grew up in West Toledo, is a student at Owens Community College. He works at Shotmakers Pro Shop at New Glass Bowl Lanes on Telegraph Road in Toledo.
Vollmar's goal is to get a degree in business management so that one day he can own a pro shop.
He has been bowling since the age of 2, but it was only the second time he competed in the USBC Open tournament.
Vollmar's spectacular streak took place at 1:30 in the morning.
"We bowled in the late-night shift," Vollmar said. "It might have helped a little bit because not as many people were around."
He said the biggest key was keeping his mind calm.
"I kept my head out of it. I relaxed and threw the ball," he said.
But in his first game, Vollmar left open frames in two of the first three frames. He left a split in the first and the 10 pin in the third.
"That's when I switched balls and that was all she wrote," Vollmar said. "I didn't get frustrated. I just tried to salvage the first game. I ended up having really good luck."
He finished up with a respectable 247.
"The next game, I just hoped to keep it up," he said.
In fact, he then threw 28 strikes in a row.
"I didn't have a clue it was that many," he said. "I blocked everything out. I didn't know until after they posted it on the board.
"There was a good crowd behind me, so every shot I tried to keep my head low to keep my nerves calm," Vollmar said.
"Afterward we were celebrating and then I noticed about 30 people."
But he said he was keenly aware that he was in the midst of a 300 game. He said he just tried to repeat his shot.
"It just melded right with my game," he said. "After the 300 I stepped back and took a deep breath. Then I threw the front seven [for strikes] as well."
Vollmar's string of strikes began in the fourth frame of the first game and ended with a 10 pin in the eighth frame of his final game. In the end, his first-career 800 series included 32 strikes and no spares.
Vollmar said his love of bowling was born at an early age. He said he would watch the pro bowlers on television on the weekend with his father, Erich, and grandfather, Ernst.
"Every Sunday we would go bowl," Vollmar said. "I've been in a bowling alley all my life."
He said he didn't take his bowling seriously until he was 14 or 15. He said he joined a junior traveling league and started going to tournaments.
Vollmar is in his second year competing in the area's most prestigious league, the men's traveling classic. He has bowled nine 300 games.
Vollmar started working at Shotmakers Pro Shop when he was 16.
"Initially I was more of a cleanup guy," he said. "Gradually I learned how to drill balls and lay them out. Now I do the majority of everything."
He also said he would like to try a stab at the Professional Bowlers Association Tour.
"I'm getting close to that level," he said. "You have to average 210 over two seasons. I want to get my pro card. It will take a lot of work."
The USBC Championship tournament is the world's largest annual participatory sporting event, attracting between 12,000 to 16,000 five-player teams (60,000 to 80,000 participants), according to the organization's Web site.
Bowlers compete for an estimated prize fund between $4.5 million to $7.5 million.
The prize money for his efforts could be as much as $7,000, Vollmar said. But he said being one of only 26 bowlers to have both a 300 game and an 800 series at the century old tournament means the most.
Vollmar also competed in the doubles and singles competitions. He finished with a 697 in doubles and 666 in team for a 2,174 all-events total. He is currently in sixth place in all-events.
Vollmar's trip at the USBC tournament last year did not go as well. He averaged 193.
"It wasn't very spectacular. I had a lot of nerves. The scenery threw me a bit," Vollmar said. "It was nothing compared to what I did this year. I couldn't fathom doing this."
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