The final bowling column of 2021. It seems appropriate to look back at the year locally and in the state.
We can’t review everything but there have been moments that can’t be forgotten that we have written about in this space. In no particular order:
Bowling lane closings
Two of the state’s most iconic bowling centers were closed in 2021 by the Malco Theaters chain, including Circle Bowl in Baton Rouge at the beginning of April. It’s funny that a closing was something that would get mainstream TV media in this city to do something about the sport, but when a building closes after 62 years it’s a pretty big deal.
At the end of August, Lafayette Lanes also closed as the pandemic and the current economic conditions made it also impossible to keep open.
In Baton Rouge, All-Star Lanes, the lone remaining house in the city, did a great job helping to move bowlers into their center and many Circle leagues continued on at a new spot, helping the 64-lane house to now be near capacity on most weeknights. All-Star also brought the long-running Sue Braud BR Singles to the center and has hosted events in August and December.
A hugh loss
One of those who helped coordinate things after the closing of Circle was All-Star manager Mike LaCroix. Unfortunately, Mike lost his long battle with cancer on Sept. 3. In a column the following week we wrote: “LaCroix had been at All-Star for some 15-plus years and really found the balance between taking care of his league bowlers while also making the space for the open play bowlers, the birthday parties and those that just wanted to gather as a group to have a fun evening at the lanes.”
One of the great moments of 2021 came in May when he was able to accept his induction into the Greater Baton Rouge Bowling Hall of Fame. As we wrote, “the city’s bowling community is a better place because of Mike LaCroix.” May he also represent all those bowlers and friends that departed us in 2021.
The good news was that a redone Petro Bowl finally opened late in the year, over a year after Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles.
The bad news is Hurricane Ida delivered a gut punch to bowling in the Houma area, destroying much of venerable Bowl South and causing considerable issue for Creole Lanes which has yet to reopen.
But there is a good side to the Bowl South story as many of the synthetic lane panels from 12 lanes were salvaged and they have been installed at believe it or not, Hurricane Lanes in Worland, Wyoming. I have a feeling someday soon a group from Bowl South may head that way to check out those lanes.
There were good things that happened this year and most importantly as 2021 ends, leagues are continuing to bowl at centers across the state.
Here are a few special moments from this year that have to be highlighted:
high school bowling
This continues to be one of the most important thing in the state and for the third straight high school season playoffs were swept by boys’ and girls’ teams from New Orleans. Academy of Our Lady won the girls title in 2018 and 2019 and Archbishop Chapelle captured the 2021 title (in a title battle with Central High School).
On the boys’ side, it has been Brother Martin again and again and their win in 2021 was its third straight. They became the first school to win five state championships (2015, 16, 18, 19, 21). Remember the 2020 season was canceled right before the playoffs so it will be in 2022 when the Crusaders will attempt to tie the record of four straight championships set by the Denham Springs girls (2005-08). And the 2022 prep season gets underway on Jan. 10.
The new owners of Alexandria’s Four Season Lanes put on the Deep South Shootout in late November. That they held a tournament wasn’t the big news, but they guaranteed a $50,000 payoff with $10,000 guaranteed on top. Some 190-plus tried their luck in the biggest scratch stand alone event outside a PBA or PWBA event in this state and Jacob Garretson of Baton Rouge advanced through the final 32 bracket to win.
A New Orleans bowler took what was the best shot in 2021 at the state record score of 889 by Tyler Wright in 2018. Sedric Withrow at AMF All-Star earlier this month posted games of 290, 288, 299 for an 877 series.
There were many more events and tournaments in 2021 and congrats to all the winners and those that were close. We look forward to 2022 and a January city championship for the first time since November 2019 and a college event next month hosted by the Southern women’s bowling team. We’ll be back with you on Jan. 11 and as always, good luck and good bowling.