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Bowling: Inman’s has three 300s in two weeks in same league

Inman's league bowlers (from left) Mark Werno Robert Beilfuss Chad Wiesjahn each have shot 300 games Wanatah Boosters league last

Inman's league bowlers (from left) Mark Werno, Robert Beilfuss and Chad Wiesjahn each have shot 300 games in the Wanatah Boosters league in the last two weeks. | Steve T. Gorches~Post-Tribune

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Updated: April 14, 2013 6:49AM



The new highest-scoring bowling center in the area? Would you believe it’s Inman’s Fun & Party Center?

OK, that’s a little over the top, but the 32-lane house in Valparaiso has gone through a dramatic turnaround in the last month from its less-than-stellar reputation among region league bowlers.

The scoring boost started on Feb. 5 in the Tuesday Spratley 2-Man doubles league in which two 299 games were shot in the same game by teammates Jay Washington and Craig Butler. Not a bad two-man series at 598, huh?

But that was nothing compared to the Thursday Wanatah Boosters men’s league in the last two weeks.

On Feb. 28, Chad Wiesjahn — who had a 299 earlier this season — had a 300 game from the right side, while Mark Werno had a 300 from the left side.

So last week, on March 7, Inman’s presented the duo with clocks to honor their perfect games. It was a very nice gesture from a center trying to change its image. So what happens after those two bowlers were honored? Robert Beilfuss shoots a 300 from the left side in the second game.

Only a handful of leagues every season boast having three 300 games in two weeks. But it’s a minor miracle that Inman’s has landed in that category, especially since it had been at least four years since the last 300 there.

So what’s the secret? How about Frank Kotlarz, who was hired as the mechanic almost four years ago, and has gradually added more duties at the center in working hard to change the reputation and bring league bowlers back.

Kotlarz is a traveling man when it comes to region bowling. He’s worked at the Whiting Community Center’s 12-lane center in the basement, Olympia Lanes in Hammond, Habetler Bowl in Chicago and Munster Lanes before it closed.

His first order of business — and it took nearly two years to figure it out and reverse the effects — was fixing an oil machine that’s 20 years past its prime. It’s a pad machine instead of the modern spray jets used to condition lanes.

“The biggest thing was getting the right oil,” Kotlarz said. “They were using a thin water-based oil. By the middle of the second game the shot had collapsed.”

But using thicker oil to get some hold was just a start. He also figured out that the machine wasn’t spraying enough cleaner to strip the lanes, leading to no back-ends. Also, the gutters were too low, leading to a lack of carry.

Bowlers can tell the difference.

“The shot’s much better and that will get bowlers back,” said Werno, who has been the Valparaiso High School bowling coach for three years. “Frank is an asset here. He’s really trying to change bowling here.”

Beilfuss also added that Kotlarz has been the key. Wiesjahn says things have really improved recently.

“At the beginning of the season it was a little rough, but since Christmas it’s been so much better,” said Wiesjahn, a Valparaiso resident who has been bowling at Inman’s for 16 years. “I always support local businesses. That’s how I was raised.”

Not everyone feels that way in bowling circles, which is why it’s so important Kotlarz keeps the improvement coming. And there’s no shortage of work to do. The 65th annual Inman’s Individual Tournament that began this week has dipped in participation from as much as 3,000 entries to about 400 last season, and the Lakeshore Bowling Association hasn’t held its annual tourney at Inman’s since the first year the center moved to the group.

Having 300 and 299 games is a baby step back to getting bowlers back. Having more dedicated bowling guys like Kotlarz in-house would be another step.

Lakeshore St. Pat’s Tournament: The Lakeshore Association has one more squad in its annual St. Pat’s Open Tournament at noon (sign-ups at 11 a.m.) on Sunday at Cressmoor Lanes in Hobart. The event is open to all sanctioned men’s and women’s bowlers and handicap is based on 100 percent of a 215 average. The cost is $30 per bowler with $5 of each entry going toward the association’s scholarship fund. Each bowler also gets a “mulligan” with which they can re-do a frame. For more details, contact Ken Laviolette at 741-4915 or kdlcsl89@hotmail.com.

Post-Tribune Tournaments: The annual P-T youth and adult invitational tournaments are coming soon. The 11th annual youth scholarship event will be Saturday, May 11 at Stardust Bowl II in Hobart (girls and boys in separate tourneys), while the adult events will be on May 25 and 26 at Stardust Bowl III in Dyer — women on Saturday and men on Sunday. The qualifier lists have been posted at www.post-trib.com/sports and will be updated each week through the end of the season. Entry fees have changed with all youth entrants costing $10, while the highest adult entry will be $15, based on qualification (women who roll 600 series or higher in league play, men who have rolled 780 or higher, 300 game or won local sport shot tournament).



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