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NICHOLAS MERCER: Grand Falls-Windsor bowlers prepare to represent province at national competition

Ryan Stockley, left, and Paul Brake will be representing Newfoundland and Labrador at the upcoming 2019 Master Bowlers Association of Canada nationals being held in Gatineau, Que., from June 28  to July 4.
Ryan Stockley, left, and Paul Brake will be representing Newfoundland and Labrador at the upcoming 2019 Master Bowlers Association of Canada nationals being held in Gatineau, Que., from June 28 to July 4. - Nicholas Mercer

Bowlers look at the lanes in a bowling alley a little differently than the rest of us. 


Where the uneducated see a sheet of glossy material that resembles plywood, they see grooves, spots and possible angles. 
Where the bowling inept do their best to only see the pins at the end of that lane, bowlers break it down into areas that best fit their game. 
Take 32-year-old Ryan Stockley, for instance. 
He plays the game 15 feet from where the pins are. The Grand Falls-Windsor resident calls it being a spot bowler. Stockley aims for the arrow lines at the start of the lanes. They help him focus on his target and align himself with the pin he wants to hit. 
Paul Brake, on the other hand, looks beyond the arrow lines and towards the pins. In a way, he plays like an inexperienced player in that he sees the pins and throws the ball to the pin he aims for. 
There is a difference though. You can see it when you watch Brake play the game. 
The 44-year-old attacks the lane with sheer force and artistry reserved for a man who has been involved in the sport for decades. The bowling ball splits the lane and ignores any imperfections it finds along the way. 
He is hunting strikes with every ball, and for good reason. Everyone else is too. 
The pair are two of the bowlers selected to represent the province at the upcoming 2019 Master Bowlers Association of Canada nationals in Gatineau, Que., June 28 to July 4. Andrew Cater is another bowler from Grand Falls-Windsor slated to represent the province at the event. 
They won the right to compete at the tournament after winning their respective divisions at the provincial qualifier held in Corner Brook in late May. Brake is also scheduled to head to Toronto in July for the Canada Cup. 
I had the opportunity to bowl a few ends with Stockley and Brake at the Exploits Lanes in Grand Falls-Windsor. 
Watching them go through their routines, you can appreciate the technique and mental acumen that goes into performing at the highest level of bowling. 
“Tempo is the biggest thing,” said Stockley. “I’ve been working with Paul on the mental aspect of things.” 
Brake, who takes four steps before releasing a bomb of a bowling ball, sees it as ensuring you’re doing everything the exact same way each time. 
In that way, it is like being a baseball pitcher. When they perfect their windup and find a release point, their next task is to repeat that every time. If one thing is off, like an open front shoulder for example, the whole procedure will suffer. 
Its relatively easy – hard – to do that at the beginning of the game and it only gets harder as you get tired. 
Stockley likes to take three steps before releasing the ball. Each one helps him focus on his target and how his body should look when he releases. 
If he goes too quick, he knows it and the ball tails to his left. 
That aspect of the game isn’t something the Friday night glow bowler necessarily thinks about. They don’t see it as anything more than trying to hit the pins. 
The experienced bowlers and those bound for higher competition know their mental game and playing the game how it helps them is everything. 
So, how did those couple of frames go? 
Well, I hit a strike in my first attempt and then failed to do much of anything for the rest. 
Stockely improved with each ball thrown and Brake, well, he found nothing but strikes. 

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