Bowling can bite you at strange times. It hit Mike Henry 37 years ago and hasn’t let go.
Because of it, the Brunswick resident has made the game quite an interesting adventure as a member of the Pro Bowlers Association Senior Tour.
Like most, Henry, 64, played the game as a kid, but gave it up for the likes of football and baseball.
“I was working with a friend of mine and he asked me if I bowled and I told him no,” Henry said. “He said, ‘Well, I need somebody, you want to bowl?’ That’s how I got back into it.”
That was 1977. Now, he’s having a good time whenever he laces up his shoes. He started making money — albeit nothing to write home about — in the mid ’90s, but was still working as a supervisor for Ford Motor Company.
Retired after 31 years with Ford, bowling is now the focus for the 1968 Brunswick graduate, who estimates he rolls 500 competitive games a year and another 500 at his practice house, Yorktown Lanes in Parma Heights.
But make no mistake, Henry isn’t in it to fatten the wallet.
“If you’re lucky, you break even for the week,” he said. “If you have a good week and you finish in the top four, there’s a profit for the week. Otherwise, you’re barely breaking even.
“It’s for the love of the sport. I’ve been competitive all my life. I would like to be recognized as an accomplished bowler.”
Henry owns two national wins — one on the Generations Bowling Tour and one in 2010 at the Senior Lake County Indiana Open. He also owns three PBA50 regional titles and has finished in the top 25 in points the last five years.
Since 2005, he’s pocketed $112,752, but really loves the fact he gets to bowl against some of the greats.
“It’s the competition part of it,” Henry said. “I feel that I can compete with the elite individuals. The Walter Rays (Williams), the Tom Bakers, the Pete Webers and whoever else there is. I’ve made some good friends out here. Some friendships will be lifelong.”
Henry has rolled 21 perfect games. His first came in 1982 at Brookgate Lanes in Brook Park. His last came two weeks ago at the Fort Wayne Classic.
This season, he’s reached match play seven times in the 11 events he’s entered and cashed eight times. He finished eighth at the Grants Pass (Oregon) in June and then logged a fifth-place finish at the aforementioned Fort Wayne Classic in Indiana. He has a 215 average and at one point had it as high as 246.
But for Henry bowling is more than just going pin for pin against the best.
“It’s like playing golf. You would like to achieve a hole-in-one,” Henry said. “That’s everyone’s dream. In the game of bowling it’s perfection.
“That’s the enjoyment. It’s you vs. the lane. It’s like shooting par in golf. You’ve conquered the course. You’ve played the best you can. You placed the ball, you’ve chipped well, you’ve putted well. It’s the same thing. I had the right ball in my hand. I hit the right spot, had the right carry. It’s outside the competition, outside the camaraderie, outside money. You want to beat the game like anything else.”
As for when Henry will give up the game, that will come in time. For now, he’s enjoying the success and riding the wave.
“Obviously, it’s like any other sport,” he said. “I think I’ll know the time when I can’t be competitive. I don’t know when that’s going to be.
“I’ll be 65 in December, and traveling the way I do has taken its toll. It’s not as interesting as it once was. In back-to-back weeks I was eighth and fifth. As long as the success comes, that’s the best way to put it, as long it’s still reachable, I’ll still keep going.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.