Living at the lanesMike Harris has been one of the top bowlers in Jamestown for years. Recently he was recognized as the best in the state. Harris earned the North Dakota Bowling Proprietors Association’s Bowler of the Year Award for the 2009-10 season. The award is not done by voting, popularity or some other arbitrary technique. You have to knock down the most pins at the state’s premier tournaments.
Mike Harris has been one of the top bowlers in Jamestown for years.
Recently he was recognized as the best in the state.
Harris earned the North Dakota Bowling Proprietors Association’s Bowler of the Year Award for the 2009-10 season. The award is not done by voting, popularity or some other arbitrary technique. You have to knock down the most pins at the state’s premier tournaments.
The 31-year-old Harris accumulated the top pin fall in the state at the state scratch singles, state doubles, state team and Roughrider tournaments at alleys in Moorhead, Bismarck, Dickinson and Devils Lake.
Winning the award is not a primary goal, but it is an award the top bowlers are certainly aware of.
“It’s something that when the season starts is in the back of your mind,” said Harris. “There are a lot of really good bowlers in the state, so you don’t expect it to happen.”
Bowling has been a big part of the Jamestown native’s life since he was six years old.
He lived close enough to the Buffalo Lanes so that when school was over at Roosevelt Elementary he headed to the alley.
“I’ve always really enjoyed it,” Harris said. “I used to spend summers with my grandparents in Maddock, that’s kind of where I learned to play. They bowled in a league into their 70s, and it has always stuck with me.”
Harris truly backs up his love of the sport.
He’s a co-owner of Buffalo Lanes and bowls in leagues Tuesday and Wednesday nights. When time permits he also tries to find weekend tournaments. Although finding the time is not easy. He’s also co-owner of IDK Bar & Grill and spends much of the day cooking there.
The busy schedule has not done anything to limit or hamper his game.
Last season he averaged a whopping 236, which was a new house record at Buffalo Lanes.
He has eight 300 games and six 800 series, which is actually considered a bigger feat. Through the first month of the new season he has the best series (763), and his 279 game trails only Kevin Gebhardt’s 290.
“I’m a pretty mellow guy, but deep down I’m extremely competitive,” Harris said. “Bowling is meant to be fun and socialize and have a good time, and that is important, but deep down I don’t like to lose.”
Harris’s average is on par with the top pros in the country. Last season, the top average on the PBA tour belonged to Walter Ray Williams Jr., who knocked down 222 pins per game. But Harris does not find the life of living out of a suitcase much to his liking, and pro bowlers don’t net near the money other professional athletes do.
“You bowl 20, 30, 40 games in a week and you might win $25 grand in a tournament, but when you’re always traveling around the country that doesn’t stretch very far,” Harris said. “I’ve never even really thought about it, to be honest. I’m pretty planted here. This is home.”
Jamestown used to have three different bowling alleys in town. The Ditch was located where the Brass Rail used to be, and Safari Lanes occupied the spot R & B Motorsports now calls home.
Bowling remains popular in Jamestown, but the numbers have shrunk through the years. Still, Harris says it continues to be an affordable social event for a group or someone just looking for a night out.
“Bowling has turned into a fun family atmosphere for birthdays, parties and those types of things,” he said. “And leagues are still very affordable. There aren’t many activities where you can go out somewhere, spend $11 bucks and hang out with your friends for three hours.”
And you can do it for as long as you’re upright.
“It’s like golf. I’ve known people that bowl into their 90s,” Harris said. “I don’t know if I’ll make it that long, but I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org