RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
The cream of the Air Force bowling crop with hopes of making the All-Air Force Bowling team will showcase their skills at the Randolph Bowling Center Dec. 1-4.
Steve Barinque, 12th Services Division Bowling Center manager, said he and Chuck Hall, both former All-Air Force Bowling Team coaches, need just four men and four women for the team. They received about 60 resumes from hopefuls and trimmed that number to 40 tournament participants, 10 of whom are from the local area.
Tournament participants will each bowl six games a day.
"It's a morale-builder for the Air Force and a good recruiting tool," he said of the tournament. "It helps the Air Force bring in people who want to compete in the sport at that level and see it's a possibility to do so."
Barinque said hopefuls in the bowl-off tournament will bowl under simulated "sport" conditions, not like in a typical bowling league where one bowls at a local bowling alley with lanes that are minimally lubricated.
"The 'league' standard is three units of conditioning oil on a lane, minimum," Barinque said. Those standards are set by the United States Bowling Congress.
"But in a tournament, it could be ten times that much oil per lane," he added.
So to ensure challenging conditions, Barinque will use a "custodian lane walker," a computerized machine that lays down coats of bowling lane conditioning oil in various patterns. Those patterns will provide pockets of varying slickness.
From there, as bowlers throw and roll balls down their lanes, they'll have to judge the conditions and adjust their stances, approaches, ball grip, arm placement and throwing style. They'll have to adapt.
"There will be four different, challenging lane conditions for the bowlers," Barinque added. "The lane conditions aren't as easy as they are in a regular bowling league scenario. So their mental game will take them to the top."
Master Sgts. Michael Makina and Cilbiano Rivera, both of Headquarters Air Force Services Agency, and Cheryl St. Louis, 12th Mission Support Squadron, are three of the four Team Randolph Airmen who will bowl in the tournament.
St. Louis, who has made the All- Air Force squad several times, most recently in 2006, and who will retire soon, said the tournament will give her what might be a final chance to meet with friends she hasn't seen in a long time -- friends who are competing against each other.
"And I'm not looking forward to those lane conditions," she laughed when asked what she felt would be the most difficult hurdle she'll have to overcome during the tournament.
Rivera, who has bowled since he was 10 years old, said his biggest tournament challenge will be overcoming what he feels is his own inexperience competing against Air Force bowlers, who he said are good enough to play professionally.
"They just happen to be serving in the military," he added.
Makina, like Rivera, is looking forward to bowling against the Air Force's best.
"It's an opportunity to participate against skilled individuals from around the world," he said.
Barinque said, indeed, the skills showcased in the tournament will be at a higher level than those shown by the average bowler. For example, a tournament participant who bowls consistent 200 scores in a league -- a 300 is perfect -- and gets a shot at making the All-Air Force team will face a tougher time than when he was king of his base bowling league. So he might see his average go down during the tourney.
"The averages will be about 20 pins lower than typical league averages," Barinque noted. "You'll see some frustrated bowlers."
The fortunate eight who make the cut have a chance to bowl against the best from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps during the upcoming All-Services Bowling Tournament at Fort Bliss, Texas. Barinque added the Air Force has consistently fielded about 50 percent of the winners of that tournament, who comprise the All-Services Bowling squad.